By the Wind Grieved

By the Wind Grieved
“O lost, And by the wind grieved, Ghost, Come back again.” Thomas Wolfe

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Memoir and Christmas: Finding Meaning in Family Memories

The Christmas season is upon us like snow on North Dakota. With it comes a sleighful of memories. But how to write meaningfully about this most evocative of holidays in a way that engages the reader?

In a first draft of my client's memoir, I mined a five-page document he had written about the Christmases he remembered from his childhood in Germany in the early 1950s and inserted it into the memoir in chronological order. I found the cultural details colorful and fascinating: the walk through the snow to the Gothic Stadkirche in the center of town; the candles on the tree; the Christmas Eve rolmoepse (rolled herring); the recitation of poems and the small tables of presents for each child. I researched Christmases of the 1950s and found a cache of wonderful photos on the Internet from which to draw for authentic descriptions of street scenes and interiors. My client loved it.

When it came to using the memory in the memoir, however, it was too much. It slowed everything down. It became a "travelogue" of a German Christmas.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Revision as Sculpture or Paring It Down to the Bone

On my fifth draft now and the revisions continue. The  journey has been illuminating and freeing. The metaphor that suggests itself for this process is sculpture, or shaving a shank of meat off a skewer till you finally hit bone. Here is the process I have followed: