Memoir Updating, Among Other Things

Monday night was Parent Watch Night for BabyD’s ballet class. I took her out of the other dance school in town this fall because I was tired of the last minute expectations, nickel & diming, and the fact that there were a couple of girls in BabyD’s age group who were – um – destined to be the kind of teens I regularly mowed down as a middle school teacher. Uppity little girls either learned to be respectful of others or to keep their yippy mouths shut in my classroom. 

After a shaky start, I find I made the right decision. The new instructor is very well-organized, knowledgeable and has a grasp of classroom management that keeps things moving and the focus on dance. The class is also much smaller and BabyD is thriving.

I am not big on watching her every movement. I am a bad mother who does not find every activity my child enthuses on equally enthralling, nor do I care to gaze adoringly at her all the time. So during swim lessons I brought a book or a notebook for writing, glancing up to watch here and there but I certainly wasn’t rapt for 45 minutes.

Watching the dance class required not just watching things I have watched her do through the observation peep hole many times over the last few months, but I had to sit on the hardwood floor. Even during yoga, I get a mat. 

So I took a few photos and then pulled out my notebook (I always carry a tiny one in my purse) and began to write a piece I have in mind to submit to the Globe and Mail. I would write a bit and watch a bit and take another photo. But the last ten minutes or so were long and I succumbed to the lure of the pen and paper and got lost. Until I heard,

“Mom, are you ever watching?”

I looked up to see BabyD and her little friend doing their stretches and watching me write.

“Of course,” I replied quickly, guiltily stuffing the notebook into my purse and quickly snapping a photo.

BabyD then turned to her friend and said with a sigh,

“She’s a writer.”

Which marks, I think, the first time she has acknowledged my new profession.

My 50 Something Moms piece, In Praise of Teachers, was in syndication this week. I managed to pick up most of the news outlets I have on my last two outings in syndication. It wasn’t a humorous piece however so it didn’t do quite as well. I have three new pieces there as well. Here, here and here. And I hope to have another one next week.

The memoir inches along. I did complete NaNoWriMo but have found that the pressure of the deadline made it easier to generate a high daily word count. I need to tie a reward to completing my goal on my timeline to ensure it does not become a chore, I think.

The problem is there isn’t much I covet these days aside from perhaps my own weekly column in a newspaper or on a news site and an agent. Writers need agents I am told. I already have a trusted beta reader and I met a publisher at a workshop my writing group held last month who runs an agency on the side which helps writers shape manuscripts and find publishing outlets that fit their work. I am planning to contact her at some point in the new year. Coincidentally, I met a local author of children’s novels who also does editing and manuscript reading/polishing as a side business. I took her information. She might be my first contact.

The memoir itself has just left Idaho Falls and will detail Arkansas and our engagement this weekend. Then it will be about the emigration and wedding and then…I don’t know. I have been thinking about something I read in a book review of Abigail Carter’s The Alchemy of Loss. I am part of the TLC Blog Tour her memoir is on right now and my review will be up on December 10th. Another woman, also a widow, wrote her review this week and brought up a point I hadn’t consciously thought of though it is something I began to feel soon after Will died. What happens after the dust settles, but it still covers everything? After the one or two or three year mark? When grieving becomes something else entirely?

Like her, I found plenty of books to to tell me how I should act in the moment, but I was tired of the moment. I had lived there since Will’s illness began. It was time to move. No one however could, or was able, to show/tell me what came next or how to get there if they knew. And I know everyone’s road is different, but I didn’t, and still don’t, buy the idea that grief is a stumbling process over which you have no control at all. You most certainly do have control over your own actions and reactions regardless, and I am a firm believer in the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy of life.

I don’t have any plans for changing the course of the memoir right now. It is easier to write chronologically – for the most part – but I think the story lies in my beyond. Beyond that first year and into Canada and a new life will likely be the ultimate focus. There will be a lot of editing and rewriting. This is the first major piece I have written where I didn’t edit as I went along. It’s a milestone for me as a writer regardless of what becomes of it.

My mother is doing okay. I talk to her just often enough to not make her feel as though I am hovering. It’s odd to be able to talk widow with her now. It’s strange to be the veteran too. She is attending grief groups and has joined the widow social group her friend Nan started. She’s lonely though and as she put it once,

“It’s not like your dad and I did anything together anymore but he was always around.”

She finds herself wanting to tell him things and thinking,

“Don would love this.”

I assured her about the normalcy of it, and that it would change over time but never completely go away.

Although living life does displace things. I spent some of last week trying to remember the date of Will’s death. The date completely slipped my mind and I refused to look it up because what kind of person forgets the date? It eventually came back to me, but it wouldn’t surprise me if – like his birthday last month – the day comes and goes before it occurs to me again.

Oh and two final things – well three – the review of Abigail Carter’s book is next Wednesday. On Monday, December 22nd, I will be hosting the giveaway of an autograhped copy of Joshua Henkin’s book Matrimony in advance of a review of the book in January. I am also going to be hosting another TLC Book Tour for Ingrid Cummings, author of A Vigorous Mind: Cross Train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries and an additional TLC tour of Breathing Out the Ghost by Kirk Curnutt.

6 thoughts on “Memoir Updating, Among Other Things

  1. You’ve got a lot going on, girlie. Congrats on the pulications, though. It’s better your kid learns now rather than be shocked that you’re a writer later, don’t you think? Kids are resilient, so she’ll be all right about it with time. 🙂

    I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo, but I did manage about 11k words plus a bunch of essays and blogs. So I can’t complain, and I write fairly regularly anyway.

    Best of luck on your novel. The writing will come when it’s ready, like cookies baking in the oven. Just listen for the timer.



  2. Hi Annie:

    Thanks for the early plugs. Looking forward to your review of my book. I have to say, it was hard to know where to end the book. I really felt that a lot of what happened after the first year was far more important to me than the early grieving bit, and so I did try and concentrate on that. Even still, now that I am 7 years out, I am dealing with stuff that I never would have imagined and so there is a strong inclination to do a continuation of the story. Not sure how that will pan out.
    My advice would be to just keep writing. The ending will come when you least expect it.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. My kids always call for my attention when it’s something they really want me to see, and sometimes … just sometimes … I lie and say I did see it, that was great, yadda yadda … so I guess I’m not a rapt-attention parent either. 😦

    Oh well. They hardly ever pay attention to me either. 🙂

    Good luck with all the writing stuff.

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