One thing I have learned is that I love to learn. So when my husband asked if I wanted to go to a genealogy club meeting in a nearby town since they were having a speaker on writing, I, of course said, yes. That was a tentative yes, because I have already produced a book of memoirs, and I think I am doing a pretty good job of writing my family history. But there is always some little tidbit to pick up, especially where writing and genealogy are concerned.
Because this was a genealogy club meeting, we thought the presentation would be on writing your genealogy findings. Filling in the dash between all those names and dates and then producing an interesting readable product. Wrong. The presentation was on memoir writing.
Oh well, I thought, this is going to be a long two hours. But in fact, the speaker, Alice Schwartz, laid out a formula for mining those elusive memories that was eye-opening and it works!
Her flip pad held five lines of prompt words. The lines were: Decades (meaning decades of your life from birth to present), Significant Events, Issues, Memories, and Deeper Memories.
She asked us to pick a decade in our lives. I chose 1960-1970. We were then asked to write a short list of significant events that happened in that decade. I wrote: HS graduation, college graduation, marriage, Chicago, NY. For the next line, Issues, I chose from the significant events list, Chicago.
I had to think about what issues came to mind when I thought of our time in Chicago. I listed: marriage life, adjustment to city living, job, California, travel, starting over. From this list I chose adjustment.
So under memories, I had to think about the adjustments I had to make as a country girl living in a Chicago suburb. That list consisted of: Big City, no friends, difficult, pollution.
As I drilled down into deeper memories, I chose to follow Big City, and this is when I remembered things I had not thought about in a very long time. All of a sudden I remembered the Brookfield Zoo that was nearby our apartment in Lyons, Illinois, the train that my husband rode into Chicago each day to work at Libby Foods, Berghoff, our favorite German restaurant in Chicago’s Loop, our weekends in Holland, MI to enjoy the Tulip Festival, and our Sunday rides to Wisconsin.
It occurred to me that I actually had a lot of fond memories of our time living near Chicago, and was amazed at how well this memory drifting technique that Alice taught us worked.
Alice reminded us to use sensory words, something I need to work on, and write to express your feelings.
This presentation on memoir writing produced for me a number of “aha” moments!