Last week I wrote about my latest plans to finish off my manuscript and tomorrow I embark on 11 weeks of “Advanced Autobiographical Writing” at London’s CityLit with Sherri Matthews.

I am so looking forward to meeting her at last!

Of course this past week should have been about final preparations and only half way through did I wonder how I came to volunteer a guest post and fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch when I already wasn’t feeling too well! I’d convinced myself I was past the worse but that turned out not to be – I’ve given into paracetamol, aspirin, decongestants and pouring oblas oil all over my nighty to try and sleep.
And then other things cropped up not worth going into but time and energy sucking stuff that meant I’ve felt completely stretched. The memoir ‘preparations’ have come down to the wire – But one more week wasn’t really going to solve something I’d already decided I need help with, was it?
Or maybe it was in a way.

Stretching It

Having posted a little more lately about memoir and then hosting the flash prompt, I’ve been having conversations with different and new people.
An interesting thread came back about my use of language compared to some American readers. Terms like ‘lay-by’ don’t translate and I had to read one flash response written in a colloquial form of American English, several times to ‘get it’.
None of this might seem relevant to my necessary preparations this week, but the irony of being stretched all ways is that, that in turn stretches your thinking and can wake dormant creative pathways. It turned into a notebook-in-the-night week with ideas popping into my head at typically 3 and 4 in the morning.
I have clarified a couple of themes I’ve been missing and also some problems to resolve – one of them is the different perspectives I can take looking back on my story. There are so many positives about still being here and so many nightmares I still relive. How do I balance that for the reader? What language will convey what I was feeling or experiencing? Which bits do they want to know?

What is a Memoir for?

The absolute point of memoir for me, is to share experience such that the reader can relate to it and possibly walk in the writer’s shoes for a few paces. There’s a lot to be learned about human nature and experience that way – hopefully enough to stretch our thinking so that we grow our understanding of others.
And if you face a similar challenge to me, are you looking for some inspiration? What if I fail to get that or my perspective across?
To confound this, I am no longer the person who lived parts of my story. I look at some of it from the outside. For a few pieces, I am unable or unwilling to get inside the Lisa it happened to.

Not unrelated to all this is how do I present my work tomorrow?

Sample Work

I have to choose some samples of up to 1500 words for possible group discussion.
What passage do I choose out of 80,000 words? What represents what I’m saying?

What am I saying?!  I’m not clear about that which is why I’m doing this course anyway. So round and around my head it goes!
One piece does keep coming to mind and I’m going to share it with you. In a way it represents the bigger picture – a struggle to be normal when faced with fear and a foreshortened future. How all of that robs the joy from any moment.

In other ways it also questions the perspective that I should take after all this time. Shouldn’t I look back on some stuff with perhaps a different perspective? More joy, some relief? I can objectively, but day in day out, the horror and the fear doesn’t leave completely. Long term survival for many, continues like this and pretending I now live in a Disney world of ‘happily ever after’ would not only be a lie, but lead to other’s struggles feeling like failure, instead of the new kind of ‘success’.

Sharing the Story

Going forward, I thought I might sometimes like to share a small excerpt for feedback or help. This week I’m posting a short piece called London Zoo. Perhaps controversially for memoir (although not without precedent) it’s written in the 3rd person. It’s an example of a few ‘family outings’ we tried to have as photo opportunities. The stuff for Simon to show Max. “Here’s Mummy when..”
I can’t face writing it in 1st person so I wonder what you think? Does it matter?

If you want to read it, please click this link

London Zoo