Memoir Writing is a Cathartic Activity
How I Did Mine
Writing the memoir of my son's life and triumph over SMA was an act of love. I wanted to honor the memory of my SMA warrior and the way he refused to be labeled as disabled. Although I could have written this book in any order, I felt that keeping the chapters in chronological order presented my son's life for others who are in the middle of their SMA battles. I used my journals and blogs from SMASPACE.COM to get started. I took a large loose-leaf notebook and made dividers for each section representing a year of Shane’s life. I scrapbooked in photos, clippings, ticket stubs, notes, and miscellaneous items to jog my memory. I made a spreadsheet with a row for each chapter and columns for the name of the chapter, year, Shane’s age, Shane’s school grade, chapter summary, insurance, our employers, teachers, and nurses. This gave me an outline to work from.
I used the spreadsheet to keep track of what I had written and what I still needed to write. I color coded them with a highlighter red for writing in process, yellow for editing, and green for completed. To write, I picked a chapter and imagined myself time travelling using the mementos and photos as port keys. (Port keys are used in the Harry Potter books to move from one place to another!). Some revived memories were so sharp, I had to save them to recall those painful memories later. Skipping them helped me keep good progress going. Filling in the spreadsheet with green highlighter, I printed each chapter after I wrote in on my computer. I placed them in a loose leaf notebook. I found having the printed pages helped encourage me to keep working. I had all our family videos moved from VHS and super 8 to computerized files. In watching the videos, I was able to write about events like the building of Shane's koi pond from the exact occurrences.
After I finished a set of chapters, I sent them to my friend, Kathy, who taught English for over twenty years. Kathy marked the edits I needed to polish the book, and she asked for clarification when I was not clear about some things. For publishing, I started researching all the possible methods to get the book out into the world. At my age, waiting for an agent and a publisher was too time consuming. SMA taught me that life is short, and it is best lived in action and not in waiting. An ebook can be published free of charge, so I published Shane's story as an ebook. I titled the book, “See You Now”, which was one of his favorite sayings. My cover was designed by a professional graphic designer for a resonable charge. To publish the book as a paperback, I used CREATESPACE. It was very exciting to hold a copy of the book, review it, and then approve it for print. This will keep Shane's life story alive.
You Can Do This Too
I encourage you to organize your memories, and work toward getting your story into print. There are helpful resources to get you started. I found these helpful web sites:
National Association of Memoir Writers - www.NAMW.org
Memory Writers Network - www.memorywritersnetwork.com.
Women’s Memoirs -
Spiritual Memoirs 101 - spiritualmemoirs101.blogspot.com
These web sites have invaluable information to help you write your book. Join NAMU and there is a class you can take called “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” Click here if you are interested.
Read memoirs and biographies at the public library or buy e-books and read them. While you read, notice they are typically written in ‘first person’ perspective. Read the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It is one of my favorite memoirs. Cheryl uses an interesting trick of telling the story with the memories woven into the fabric. You can read her book and see how she artfully accomplished this. Another popular memoir is “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It seems to be more chronologically written. On the topic of SMA, read “Miracle Boy Grows Up” by Ben Mattlin. Ben’s gives a real accounting of starting as an MDA poster child, going to Harvard, getting married, and living as though SMA is just an irritating feature of life. Refer to my resources for SMA page for additional memoirs to sample.
Now get busy! An ebook is forever!