MY STORY (A Short Version)
You may have discovered already the many blogs offering to teach you how to write your own memoir or family history. But my question to you is this: unless you want to become a writer, yourself, why would you want to learn how to do something that you will do only once?
If you do want to become a writer, then writing your own memoir is a very good way to start, but if you simply want to “get it all down” before the memories and voices, including yours, are lost forever, then for Pete’s sake, turn the job over to a professional.
Learning to write well is a lifetime proposition. It is one of the hardest, most labor-intensive kinds of work there is. What happens when people decide to write their own life stories? They find the work of gathering and organizing the content, not to mention crafting it into a coherent and compelling narrative, so exhausting and time-consuming that ultimately, the entire project is abandoned. I know. I tried for 20 years to write the story of my parents’ marriage and never was able to make a page-turner out of it. The exercise did, however, teach me something about the building blocks of good prose, about how to structure prose so that my readers are not reading about history, they are living it.
And isn’t this what you want? For people to understand you, or your family, by pulling them into the narrative so that they experience it? Because what’s the point of telling your story if is is a mere recitation of facts that will bore even your own descendants?
Here’s an example of what I mean. I could begin my history, “The Florida Colonies in 1776,” with a statement of fact—”The Declaration of Independence was first published on July 4, 1776″—or, I could bring you into the story like this:
“Our story begins on the night of July 4, 1776, in the colony of Pennsylvania. In his print shop in Philadelphia, John Dunlap is hurriedly setting the type for the Declaration of Independence, which he will run off as broadsides to be distributed throughout the city and to 13 of the 15 colonies the next day. He works late into the night because he’s nervous and excited and keeps making mistakes and having to correct them.”
I can do this, and keep you eagerly reading page after page, because I have been writing professionally for over twenty years, publishing fiction, creative non-fiction, and narrative history, including memoirs, biographies and family histories.
Since leaving corporate employment as senior editor and writer in communications at a Fortune 300 company, I have been a freelance professional, writing narrative histories of Fort Myers, Florida, where I grew up. Published in the Sunday “Tropicalia” magazine section of the Fort Myers News-Press, many of these histories are available on the following pages under “Samples-Creative Non-Fiction.”
I have also published Hidden History of Fort Myers (2017, The History Press), soon to be followed with a companion collection of other Fort Myers histories, titled Narratives of the Impossibly Romantic, Sometimes Comic, Often Improbable History Of Fort Myers, Florida.
In 2018, Random House (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers) published my children’s book, Me and the Sky, a picture book biography of the pioneering, first-female American Airlines captain, Beverley Bass, who is also the model for the lead character in the hit Broadway musical, “Come From Away.”
I am now back to work on my first novel, a three-part, psychological mystery, titled BANYAN, whose fictionalized setting is the historic Burroughs Home in downtown Fort Myers. Part I of BANYAN is available online at Amazon and other e- and paper book retailers.
Other samples of my creative non-fiction are available under “The Origins of our Holidays” (I had fun with these), and my more lyrical and moody, “The Stuff of Dreams.” The pages under both categories will give you an idea of my signature style, which reviewers have described as “lush,” “spell-binding,” and “drenched in atmosphere.”
Thanks for scanning my bio. I’m looking forward now to hearing your story.