Patchwork. A longtime quilter, as my decades passed, I grew to see my life as patchwork creation—happy and sad events that were part of one life. As I gathered my life stories from past years to stitch into chapters that ultimately became my memoir, I wanted patchwork to be a theme. At first, I titled chapters by years, content, and added a reflective epigraph. Then I read Mary Catherine Bateson’s book, Composing a Life. One of her sentences in particular riveted me:
Part of the task of composing a life is the artist’s need to find a way to take what is simply ugly and, instead of trying to deny it, to use it in the broader design.
I was so uncomfortable about including the “ugly” parts of my life until this sentence led me to think of a patchwork quilt. I thought of how arranging dark fabrics and light patchwork designs (representing dark and light stories), when assembled into a quilt, created a beautiful whole. Could I ever think of my life through that lens? I wondered as, energized, I created chapter titles that were the names of mostly 19th century quilt patterns, such as Altar Steps, Baby Blocks, Sunshine and Shadow, North Winds, Storm at Sea—thirty-one of them for that many chapters. Beneath each title is an illustration of the quilt block. That “aha” moment changed the way I saw my life. Now, more than a grouping of happy and sad events, I can see my life as a beautiful whole, like the quilt design on my cover.
What you will learn
- How to find a framework for your story
- The writing process: what I considered when writing my memoir – linear story at first, then rearranged some chapters to draw my reader in, with a complex story, I used simple language and straightforward writing
- How to get through the hard chapters of the story – I learned to go gently with myself with pieces of painful times and didn’t want to re-injure myself
- What I learned through the process of writing my memoir – I discovered many connecting threads with members of my family that I hadn’t seen before my deep exploration, with each revision I grew and healed more,
- The unexpected, powerful benefits of writing memoir
Mary Jo Doig is a new member of the Independent Book Publisher Association and a twenty-year member of the Story Circle Network. She has been an editor, book reviewer, women’s writing circle and Older Women’s Legacy facilitator, and life-writing enthusiast working extensively with women writing their life stories. Her stories have appeared in several anthologies, most recently “Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories.” Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, cooking, quilting, hiking, and sweet time with family, friends, and rescue pets—each of whom dream of being an only child—in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.
Patchwork is her first book.