my memoir

I am rewriting the beginning of the memoir. I think I mentioned that a while ago. The drafting went like a field afire after a summer drought, but despite the length (10,000 plus words) it was bones only. After letting Rob read it, I am fleshing it out. Slowly. Not that the words come slowly but the memories are far clearer than they have ever been and they compete viciously with the emotions that saturate them. The word count will easily have doubled by the time I am finished – next week sometime with luck – and then I have to meld it to the original.

I am excited about it. Really. Because it finally looks and sounds the way I have envisioned it all along. But, the scope sometimes pulls me up short. Feelings are going to be a bit raw when people read about incidents that went on that I never shared or when they discover my true feelings concerning events that involved them. I have wrestled with this from the moment I decided I would write about my experience and me and Rob. I still haven’t worked it out completely.

Memoir is a subjective form of storytelling. And it is the telling of a story. The story happens to be true, but it’s a limited viewpoint and one that is faulty unless the author happens to be omniscient and even the bible lacks the all knowing third person.

One thing I noticed as I have gone about the business of living these last six years is that nearly everyone I had contact with had no problem foisting their interpretation of circumstances on me and expecting me to agree with them regardless of the veracity, so I have decided to proceed and write it the way I recall it and show how I felt. It might not match up with others’ recollections. So be it. The beauty about memoir is that everyone has a life and they are welcome to write about it from their own point of view. As long as one isn’t trying to settle scores or be cruel, and recognizes that it may result in some “splaining”, memoir is a good way to maintain the tradition of personal/family oral histories that help us to know and understand one another.

Six years. It was six years this past summer. Even digging up the events that led to Will’s being diagnosed weren’t enough to bridge that span for me entirely. He is so long gone, and the person I was disappeared along with him. The interesting thing? I don’t miss her.

I don’t feel like meme’ng today and couldn’t find anything worth the effort of stealing for that purpose anyway. Today I want to hear from you, my gentle readers.

I am rewriting the first chapter of my memoir. I have the chance to pitch it to an agent who represents a friend of mine and I need at minimum the first three chapters written and polished. I am going to write some version of a recent post on Will’s last months in hospice. And I just want to say, I appreciate those of you who took the time to comment and offer your take on my disclosure dilemma.

Whenever I question writing and trying to publish the memoir, I hear from people who say “Write it. I want to read it.” but they never really say why or what it is they think I will be writing about that intrigues them sight unseen.

Rob is semi-busily composing his chapter in his head. His first months after Shelley died, I think. But as he pointed out, our lives have been intersected only a short time in comparison to the length of our lives overall and certainly our first marriages. What makes our story worth knowing? Worth the time it would take to read?

I remember a snarky comment – not here – that I read directed at Rob and I shortly after we married that went something like,

“I don’t need to hear about relationships and marriage from two people who’ve been widowed less than a year and been dating and then remarried for about a total of  two minutes.”

And though I think that sometimes “seat time”  is important, it does not necessarily make one an expert either. I have run across more than a few widowed people who believe that it is years out that gives when insight and the moral authority to speak to the generalities and larger truths of surviving a spouse, and yet some of the widows I most admire for their choices, compassion and wisdom aren’t even as far along in the journey as I am.

And anyway, my experience is atypical in terms of circumstances and the order in which I went through things, so I don’t see it as modeling for anyone.

At the conference I attended in May, I had a chance to sit with a publisher from South Africa and I quizzed her on the marketability of memoir. She said that from a personal standpoint the reason people read them baffled her. She found books on surviving tragedy more depressing than uplifting and a little bit voyeuristic, not in a good way. 

I suppose I have things to say in terms of dating after spouse loss, remarriage, family blending. I hesitate to get all “how to” though. I prefer the facts and how it played out personally with people taking or leaving it as they will.

So, here I ask again, what would you want to know – bearing in mind that I am as likely to really tell you as not – in terms of my memoir. Don’t be shy. But don’t be a snark either.

Some people go to conferences and workshops and take notes; I see blogging opportunities, so being me, I blogged the whole experience … on paper. I will treat you all to it when I get back from holiday. But only in parts! I really have a lot to do as I explained the other day and won’t be online much.


  • I am smarter than I realized.
  • I don’t like cities much.
  • People are far too quick to self-publish.
  • There are many professional writers who don’t know as much as they should about online promotion or social media.
  • I should have pitched the memoir already. IT’s NON-FIC!! Big “duh”.
  • I have a kick ass fiction query.
  • I need to polish a short piece to send to On Spec. I am sure now that if I pitch them the right thing, they will publish me.
  • I rock.

No packing is done the day before we leave as our per usual. We are outta here for a goodly amount of time and completely off-line, but there will be posts so look for them and comment if you feel inclined to entertain the others in my absence.

Love ya! Miss ya.

I have been working on Night Dogs as my primary fiction piece. It’s coming along slowly now. This seems to be the way of storytelling. An idea appears, details gel and I write like gangbusters and then it slows as the story starts to demand sturdier legs to stand on. However, this is probably the best story of this length I have ever written and I know it has novel potential. My goal is to finish it in May and workshop it via a writing course I am going to be taking at the university this June.

Which leaves my regular readers wondering about the memoir? Well, maybe you aren’t. I haven’t forgotten it. Ideas about what to do with the rough draft swirl, recede before morphing into something tangible.

It’s hard to pick up again because it was hard to write. Deliberately picking at emotional scars is not my idea of something that is good for a person, but I want to finish it. It’s just not going to be quite the memoir it started out to be.

I have come to realize that the story of my loss and widowhood is not a story that would strike a cord with too many people. And, that the loss was not mine. It was Will’s loss. He died. Too young and too horrifically. All I lost was the option to live a life I thought I was supposed to live, however, that life was never mine to live. It was not a part of the great overall scheme of things for me. My loss was insignificant compared to his.

No, the story is in accepting and rebuilding because how many people really and truly do that?

And it’s Rob’s story too, so I have been in semi-discussions with him about writing his story as it overlaps with mine. He is warming to the idea, but regardless, we wouldn’t start on it until summer. So that is where that is.

I continue fitfully at 50 Something Moms. I have two short works I want to finish this spring that have promise, and then there are the boxes in the basement with half-finished or simply outlines ideas that I need to go through.

And thus I end my state of the writing address, dear readers.

During my downtime this week, I ran across the new trailer for the upcoming Star Trek prequel. Very cool. The dry and dustbowly Iowa landscape seems to indicate the “reimagined” landscape of Kirk’s boyhood did not escape the whole global warming thing, and I am having a bit of trouble with Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother. Otherwise, I am totally there in May 2009.

I ordered up John Updike’s sequel to the Witches of Eastwick, which I will have to read as well because I don’t think I did. I just saw the movie – which is dated now. The sequel is about old widowed witches. Hmmm. Are there any other kind?

My week did not go precisely as planned. I started off with high hopes but was felled by infection coupled with a reaction to the medication the doctor prescribed. I had to visit the walk-in clinic. An experience that is probably on par with the kind of medicine uninsured, or crappily insured, Americans receive. I was not one of those people. I had really good insurance and a regular doctor. I never had to sit for three hours to see a doctor for as many minutes.

We have a doctor here but he was at a convention and gone for the week. He has no partner in his practice and given the medical profession shortage up here, there is no one who he can find to back him up. Another hunt for a regular family doctor is necessary but might prove fruitless. Canadians all have access but sometimes there is nothing to access and we have to queue up for what there is.

The Walk-In Clinic has a very small waiting area that holds about thirty people and on a Monday it is wall to wall. One of the Doctors on call that day was Shelley’s old doctor and though she agreed to take BabyD and I as patients, I have never once seen her. She keeps very limited hours and seems to have a roster of people who take precedence over others. On Monday, her patients were jumping the queue all over the place and the rest of us had to wait for Dr. A. He is a nice young man who still looks 19 or so and I usually see him when I am forced to use the clinic. He at least speaks English I can understand which can’t be said of all of the practitioners there.

The worst thing about the wait were two women who talked non-stop, and loudly, about things no one should casually be blithering in a waiting room full of sick strangers. They started with a lengthy discussion about their educational backgrounds and as it turned out – neither of them have an education. In their late twenties to early thirties, they were both still working on high school equivalencies, but they had a lot to say about the high school program for drop outs and most of it focused on the fact that there were just too many losers clogging up the works for the rest of them to get through. From there we were treated to a far too detailed stroll down pregnancy lane.

“I had this pain. Like round ligament but worse and it felt like a bladder infection but Dr. C told me, after I pee’d in the cup, that I didn’t have one.”

“So what was it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It just went away after a couple of days and then I went into labor.”

“Vaginally or c-section? I wanted a c-section but they wouldn’t give me one even though it took hours and hours to push that kid out.”

“Oh, I wanted vaginal, but my first was a c and so you can rupture you know if you try to go vag.”

And on and on. Eventually I knew that one of the women was raising a step-child who was sitting right next to her when she confided – to the whole room,

“You can raise them up from scratch properly but when you get them older, there is so much damage to correct.”

They were both married to men capable of knocking them up from a distance of several feet using only their penetrating eyesight. Perhaps they were closet super heroes?

Mercifully one of them was called into the back exam rooms after nearly 45 minutes of far more information than even a blogger like me wanted to be privy to. If only I had a device to knock out obnoxious conversations like Unbearable’s cell phone jammer. I think they are called “ice-picks” and it’s probably illegal to lobotomize total strangers in a waiting room although I doubt anyone would have lifted a finger to stop me. The whole room let out a collective sigh of relief when that air pollution ceased.

I fell behind one day on the memoir, but I was already over 30,000 words and confident I could make it up. I am at the place where I am writing about meeting Rob and our developing friendship. It’s funny to think that we have known each other for two years now. The time has gone by so quickly.

In some ways the memoir just flows like rain water down the eaves until I stop and remember I am referencing real people, most of whom are still alive and might read what I am writing. Did I mention that DNOS is reading my blog now? It’s a good thing my need to write takes precedence over my sense of decorum is all I can say.

And so another week is at an end and you, dear readers, are updated.