Writing memoir is hard work and often messy. Some stories get stuck halfway out. Or they may not get out at all. We feel them stirring within, writhing and turning, kicking to get out, but the harder we try, the harder we push, the more tightly they stick in their spot. Sometimes we need help.
I’d be terminally discouraged if I kept track of all the stories I’ve begun and eventually deleted because they just didn’t work. More often I am able to finish them, but only with considerable rewriting, rephrasing, and perhaps a few days of fermentation.
Sometimes when I’m stuck, it’s enough to sit back, breath deeply and ask myself, Just what is it that I’m trying to say? What do I want people to understand when I’m done? What is my purpose in writing this? These questions usually serve to pop things into focus.
The next level of action involves calling or e-mailing a friend, or consulting my husband, who is my resident idea-bouncing partner. He’s especially good at extracting the kernel of meaning from my ramblings, and getting me back on track.
The most powerful tool of all is a writing group. My writing group will listen with great tenderness as I read awkward words, or struggle with a half-formed idea that just doesn’t want to emerge. They are patient and respectful, and they withhold suggestions until I’m ready to hear them. I’m never surprised to hear someone blurt out some seemingly unrelated nonsense that jolts everything into perfect focus and allows the story to flow unimpeded out of the darkness.
I collectively call these helpers Story Midwives. The story that emerges is still fully mine, but they help bring it into the world, robust, thriving and fully formed—though still needing polish.
You can find Story Midwives in writing groups, and you’ll also find them in classes and workshops. Many communities have lifestory and other creative writing classes available in libraries and continuing ed programs, and there lots more online, such as the NAMW writing workshops and roundtables. A quick web search will turn up other online classes and workshops.
Classes do way more than function as midwives. The exchange of ideas and viewpoints in a good class weaves the wisdom of the group into something larger than the sum of the parts, and everyone leaves richer for the experience.
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Memoirs Ink is looking for original, well-written personal essays, memoirs, or stories that are based on autobiographical experiences. The narrative must be in first person, other than that, the contest is open to any type, genre or style of story. Stories can be funny or sad, serious, artsy or fragmented. We are interested in pushing the boundaries of memoir and also in just regular memoir that doesn’t try too hard–so long as it moves us. This contest is open to any writer, any age, writing in English–that means Canadians, Brits, Australians, Ugandans and anyone else anywhere can enter.
1st Prize: $1,000
2nd Prize: $500
3rd Prize: $250
Entry Fee: $15
Late entry fees require an additional $5.
Deadline: August 15, 2012 (postmark)
Late Deadline: August 31, 2012 (postmark)
Be sure to mention that all winners receive publication on memoirsink.com
Link for more info: http://memoirsink.com/writingcontestguidelines/
Got questions? Contact jill at memoirsink.com
Send entries to:
Memoirs Ink Writing Contest
10866 Washington Blvd, Suite 518,
Culver City, CA 90232
Max word count: 3000 words