Write it–Keeping the Memoir Respectful and Kind

DSCN5236After writing the fourth draft of my memoir, I reread my work without cringing. Since we are multidimensional beings who experience the past, present, and future while we write, bitter memories rear their heads. Yet, by the final draft, we can make peace with those dragons while still writing what’s true to our hearts.

Not all memoir writing revolves around painful topics. Anyone writing a food or travel memoir for instance, isn’t going to dredge up painful encounters from childhood or even recent years. However, if you find yourself writing about a time in your life you found insufferable, but ultimately cathartic, more likely than not, you’ll write several drafts before you remove the sting from your work. Believe it or not, when I wrote my first two drafts, I leaned towards vengeance and rants about my community. By the fourth draft, I turned the mirror towards myself and balanced others’ shortcomings with my own.

I chose to write my memoir soon after experiencing the events in it.  I did this because I wanted to write the scenarios while they were still fresh in my mind. The downside was that my raw emotions stood in the way of compassion and forgiveness. While I wrote about recent events, related childhood memories surfaced acting like vinegar to my wounds. No one would stick thorns or stinging nettles in a wound, but metaphorically, I tortured myself and wondered why I kept procrastinating with my writing. Granted, the first drafts were awful and as a critic, I would ask the author to stop complaining and write a universal story. However, I believe that writing a memoir is more therapeutic than writing in a private journal.

Here is a list of things to remember while writing a memoir:

  • No one is perfect and we’re all doing the best that we can.
  • Life challenges occur to give us new skills and understanding
  • With each life experience (pleasant or insufferable), we grow and expand
  • While our stories seem unique to us, other people have similar experiences
  • Ask yourself if you were a reader of your book, “Would I want to read this?”
  • Don’t barrage your readers with complaints, bitterness, hatred, and self-righteous prose
  • Balance truth with compassion (Does the text move the story forward or is it just a rant?)
  • Don’t write out of vengeance just because the pen is mightier than the sword
  • Don’t write anything that will severe relations or that you’ll regret later
  • Write several drafts then allow those closest to you to read your work (ask for honest opinions)
  • Read your work out loud or record it, then listen to the tone of your voice (is it scathing, hostile, bitter?)
  • Allow your writing to bring up old wounds to heal and release
  • Always keep in mind the people who will read your book
  • If writing the memoir feels self-indulgent, refrain from publishing it (rewrite it)

I once scoffed at most memoirs and I had no plans of ever writing one. In fact, my next project was my fifth novel and then when I went through an excruciating three months looking for a new home, I thought of writing a memoir about my experiences.  My mission for writing the memoir revolves around healing myself, my community, and teaching about the Law of Attraction used during dire circumstances. However, only after writing several drafts have I reached a peaceful place. I’m normally an impulsive and reactive person so I sat on my hands and practiced patience with myself. Besides, for me, this has acted as a learning experience.

I’m currently looking for beta readers to give my manuscript a read-through. I’m concerned about the voice and narrative flow. I also want to know if the story is engaging or if it requires more work. If you are an author with experience writing memoirs and have time in April to do a read-through, contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail also check out my critiquing gig for short fiction and essays on fiverr.com

Poetry–Invisible One

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Photograph by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

(Alternate title Invisible Child)

Creeping like a mouse through the rooms,

As silent as mahogany furniture,

The worn armchair in the corner

That comforted grief and worries.

 

Silent as an owl feather

dropping onto the stony ground

while emotions inside rolling like pebbles

on a desolate beach of the past, drifting…

 

The child seen, but unheard, feelings censored

and sanitized for adult sensibilities, anger frozen

in time, sent back to the womb

where she found no comfort, no condolences

 

Emotions abandoned on the side of the road

no markers left standing or signifying

not even white crosses where accidents

of fate occurred, leaving no scars.

 

Creeping like a spider hidden in an attic

felt but not experienced fully beyond the phantoms

We move furniture across the carpeted floors

a room parented by practicality and stories of regret

 

Set aside for others to later ponder and assess.

By Patricia Herlevi

All Rights Reserved

 

Mon Aime Pierre

(This is one of the first blog post for my Word Press blog, Bonjour Bellingham. I was going to delete it, but non).

towhee

I heard him scrambling in the bushes one morning so I opened my window.  I wouldn’t call his vocal skills impressive as he glissando from a low warbling note up an octave, like a child learning to play the violin, but not  a squawk.  He sang those two notes with determination and persistence so what girl wouldn’t fling open the window to discover the identity of the troubadour serenading her.

Okay, so you probably figured out by now, that Pierre is no Frenchman, though versed in the skills of a medieval troubadour minus the lute.  And it took a long while to identify Pierre among his species.  Certainly he was too small to qualify for an American robin and he lacked the musical skills and his black, orange and white markings confused me for months.

So I told the bus driver about Pierre and he said that the bird’s habits and coloring reminded him of a bird in his yard, a rufous sided towhee.  My sister had guessed the identity of the bird last fall when I described it to her–“You sure it’s not a towhee?”  See without my glasses on, I couldn’t tell if the bird was a varied thrush or a oriole, which would have real birders in stitches by this point.  Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention author (“Why Birds Sing”), David Rothenberg’s imitation of a towhee on a recording of a radio interview we did, should have clued me in.

So I told one of the librarians about the bird and she also mentioned a towhee that visited her yard, with similar habit, without the serenading underneath her window.  Then my dad said that he also has spotted  towhee coming into my parents’ yard.  So with so many sightings of this bird, why have I just discovered it now?

I’m not just a bored, barely employed writer falling in love with a bird, I named Pierre.  I’m excited about discovering a new species of the bird kingdom.  And this bird has some interesting habits like singing his two-note song while hanging out  in a willow tree or a honeysuckle bush (both good choices of vegetation), kicking up rocks while he searches for seeds underneath the bird feeder and hanging out with flocks of finches, chickadees and house sparrows without any views on diversity or ethnic identity.  Hey, Pierre seems to get on with everyone.  Though he doesn’t seem to have a mate, which leaves me feeling kind of sad for the bird.

I’m hoping this spring with his bright feathers and his voice that leaps up an octave he’ll attract a mate. (Think the two first words in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”–some where leap an octave.  I tried singing that octave and could see the vocal challenged faced by Pierre).  If he doesn’t find another rufous sided towhee to share his bird life with then he can serenade me all he likes.  I’ve never been serenaded by a songbird until I met Pierre.  And I’m not complaining.

Write it–Common Mistakes Independent Authors Make

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(Archival Article from Bonjour Bellingham blog)

Before I begin this post on the common mistakes emerging and veteran authors make in the world of self-publishing, I want you to know, I’ve made some of these mistakes myself.  Truth be known, we learn best from our own mistakes rather than a creative writing professor giving us a cautionary list.

The upside of self-publishing is it’s deceptively quick, easy, and with a few keystrokes voila, you become a published author.  However, while that might have seemed hip a decade ago, it’s become a cliche these days.  I encountered one woman at a bus station trying to fob off her self-published book on passerby. I cringed with embarrassment for her.  Okay, that was a worst case scenario, but it seems that most people these days are avoiding self-published authors who sell their books on Create Space and other similar sites.  It’s not that we won’t find excellent self-published titles, only that enough of the books contained typos and other errors.

Common mistakes include publishing a book to bring a stream of income when a person is unemployed. Writing a book takes months even years so self-publishing is not a quick-fix economic solution unless you want to upload a book to the world with typos and other errors, a plot missing in action and undeveloped characters.  For example, when I first published my books on Create Space (no longer with CS) and Kindle, I had a 25+ year writing career.  While I wasn’t a published novelist, I was a published journalist, I had experience working with editors, handling copy editing, and I spent two years work shopping my novels on websites such as Authonomy (Harper Collins) where I asked other authors to critique my work and I listened to their suggestions.

Another common mistake is posting ineffective photographs for biographies, profiles and updates. The worst photographs are of an author events with one or two attendees with the author sitting behind a pile of their books staring into space.  On one hand, this proves that an author is out marketing his or her book and getting book event gigs, but without attendees in the photographs having their books signed or sitting in an audience, it doesn’t show the author in the best light.  And yes, I made this mistake with my novel “Agnes and Yves”.

Another common mistake authors make is to complain about their lack of success in online groups and forums or say scathing remarks about agents, publishers or the book industry.  Why would an agent or publisher want to work with a bitter author with a sharp tongue? I wouldn’t.  We all have our bad days, but the trick is not to post the bad day online for the entire world to view.  If you want success, act like you already have it.

It’s better to give helpful advice to other authors in the groups rather than spread more bitterness and hopelessness.  Writing and getting published are not for the feint of heart.  Rejection waits around every corner, people leave nasty comments, bookstores fail to promote your book event (that’s your job), and your friends might decline purchasing your book because it’s simply not their thing.

On the other hand, creative inspiration for novels and non-fiction books creates a buzz.  Feeling heightened imagination and speaking to characters while digging for a story, has its fun challenges. Working with words has advantages too especially when those words create images and sensational images in readers’ hearts and minds.  Getting published and finding a helpful agent who knows his or her way around the book publishing biz feels like winning the lottery. Meeting other authors, not the kind that ply their books on you at public places, has its kicks too.

If you can remember these three rules, then you have a better chance finding success as a self-published author:

1. Build a platform by knowing your target audience and their buying as well as, daily habits.

2. Don’t rush the writing of a book because you’ll regret this later.  All books start with a rough draft, followed by a second draft, and then a few more drafts with revisions.  It’s also a good idea to have writing colleagues beta read your book and give you helpful feedback and suggestions.  Take what is useful and leave the rest.

3. Hire a copy editor who also has story writing skills, a professional photographer for a head shot, and if you have the funds, hire a professional book cover designer and web designer for an interactive website.  Open at least three social media accounts that work with your communication style.  Twitter doesn’t work for everyone, including me who feels baffled about Twitter’s effectiveness.

Also pick a publishing date ahead of time and plan an actual book launch in a bookstore or rented space. Then start your promotion for that event, a month ahead of time by sending out press releases to local press, posting updates on your social network and working your e-mail contacts.  It helps to offer some kind of food or freebies at the event or have a contest ahead of time with the prize being a signed copy of your book.  You can post the contest on Good Reads, Twitter or Face Book.  And make sure that all your material looks professional even if you create the cover, website, business cards, etc yourself.

Feel free to leave your self-publishing experiences (what works and what doesn’t work) in the comment section below.  Our collective wisdom could transform the book industry.

Write it–Mercury, Moon & The Muse

DSCN2331We have two quick moving planets at our disposal–the Moon and Mercury.  You see the Moon changes signs roughly ever two and a half days taking 28 days to make a trip through the Zodiac.  Mercury takes less than a year to fly around the Zodiac delivering messages, and that includes its three retrogrades per year.  And I’m certain that ancient people followed these two planets in their mundane and spiritual lives.

Sadly, these days it seems that only practicing witches and astrologers follow the Moon cycles and of course, menstruating women recognize the 28 day cycle.  We only pay attention to Mercury when it travels backwards towards the Sun and the superstitious nonsense regarding Mercury retrograde (RX) has reached cult status proportions.  All planets except the orbs (Moon and Sun) retrograde and this just reflects a time of slowing down and journeying inward.  All great inventions and art comes from those inward journeys so anyone who chooses to manifest a legacy in the world needs to embrace retrograde periods.

First let’s look at the Moon, who I love to call La Luna (Spanish for the Moon).  The Moon is ruled by Cancer and we are all familiar with New and Full Moons as well as, eclipses.  In fact, the Moon makes headlines in our lives during these phases.  But did you know that as the Moon travels through the Zodiac signs, it changes the mood and tone of our daily lives? Have you ever noticed that people go through a phase where they are more expansive and generous, followed by a more fearful and limiting or just conservative phase? These phases last roughly two days.

You just experienced the Moon traveling through expansive Sagittarius and then transiting into the the more limiting (contraction) Capricorn.  Or perhaps you noticed that people were chatty and curious about every topic for two days and then they retreated into their shells for the next two days, then they came out of their shells, appeared in the spotlight and treated the world as a stage. The Moon had traveled through Gemini, Cancer and Leo.

Now, you can easily track the Moon’s travels by purchasing a planetary or moon guide, usually in the form of a desk calendar.  This puts you at an advantage because you’ll be two steps or more ahead of everyone who doesn’t bother to track the Moon phases and signs.  You’ll know when people are more gregarious, generous or stingy.  You’ll know when to ask for a raise (waxing Moon in Sagittarius or Libra) and when to lay low (waning Moon in Scorpio or any of the water signs).  You’ll have the pulse on your emotions and the emotions of the populace.  Anyone who works in public relations or advertising would do well to have this knowledge on hand.

The other quick moving planet, Mercury represents communication, siblings, cousins, short distance travel, thinking, communication and learning styles as well as K-12 education.  As it travels through the Zodiac signs it also reflects the style and tone of each of the signs.  Mercury in Libra has a more civil feel that Mercury in Scorpio and seems more practical in Capricorn than Aquarius or Pisces.

Archangel Gabriel akin to Mercury

While I’m not going to give you descriptions of the 12 Zodiac signs (that’s your homework), I will say that learning the basics puts you ahead of other people who ignore astrology.  People who work in the communication field or in education would do well to befriend Mercury.  In the Tarot deck Mercury represents the Alchemist or Magician.  Mercury power can be used for good or trickery; comes off as knowledgeable or deceitful.

People who practice manifestation intentionally would do well to learn about Mercury as it passes through each sign and how to use the retrograde periods.  I like to think of the retrograde periods as a valve shutting off and the flow of information coming to a halt so all that brain chatter stops.  This is a good time to retreat, not just into a quiet home but into a forested area away from technology.  Mercury is most likely to trick us when we are too full our false selves or listen to the outer world rather than to our own internal guidance.

So there you have it, two fast moving planets that can assist you in manifesting the life you desire.  Read up on Moon cycles and manifestation as well as, the phases of Mercury.  Purchase a planetary guide and use it to your advantage.  You’ll feel less like you’re struggling against the tide and feel more secure as you traverse both the inner and outer worlds.

Finally, my tip for writers, get to know Mercury because this planet will assist you with research, interviews, and the writing process.

If you would like astrology advice or a coaching session with planetary transits in mind, contact me through Whole Astrology and find metaphysical articles at Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living