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Michelle's Musings

True Confessions, Part 4

As promised, I'm going to reveal a juicy nugget from my recent conversation with my aunt. I spoke with her as part of the research I'm doing for my memoir. In recent posts, I stated that I had only snippets of memories to go on. I've since read articles on memoir writing and was heartened to learn that it's fine to jump around a bit and go back and forth with the timeline. This seems to work well with what I'm laying out and affords a bit of reprieve to some of my more heavy-duty scenes.


But before I reveal that golden nugget with which I plan to open my memoir, I'm plugging an essay of mine that just appeared in an online publication called Blended Future Project. The piece is titled "Person of Color" and provides a snapshot into my contemplation of race from an early age. To read it, click here.


Now, back to my memoir project. I recently spoke with my aunt for the first time in years. She started our two-and-a-half conversation with a recollection of when she and her younger sister (both teenagers and younger than my mother at the time) were on their way to my home to babysit me and my younger sister. I was about five, but I have no memory of being babysat by them. Anyway, my aunt began this way: "I knew something was wrong when I saw you sitting on the curb two blocks from your home. I said, 'Look at the baby! Why is she sitting by herself in the street?'" My aunt then proceeded to begin another story without elucidating what was "wrong" in my home. Though I had a pretty good idea, I stopped her in her tracks and asked her to expand. I wanted objective confirmation of my suspicion.


When I subsequently sat down to write the opening chapter of my memoir, I called upon the old adage that a good story starts in medias res—in the middle of the action. I ended up using what is undoubtedly the most poignant of my childhood memories—my separation from my mother. My aunt's moving tidbit about finding me on a street curb also fits the bill, but I'm using it later in the first chapter (yes, I've already written several chapters).


I was once told by a writing instructor that I'm a master at creating tension. I'm sure there was some hyperbole involved there, but I like to think he was on to something. In the interest of keeping you hanging, that's all I'm disclosing at this point. But please don't hate on me! I've certainly opened Pandora's box, so let this be an indication of how much suspense you can expect in my memoir. This won't be easy, but I'm going to push through this journey of reliving heartache and pain with the goal of coming through transformed for the better. That journey and transformation will, hopefully, also be had by my readers.


Meanwhile, I'll give myself a bit of sage advice: Take deep breaths, and then get on with it...

True Confessions, Part 3

My comments for this third installment of my "True Confessions" posts focuses on the memoir I'm developing, which I alluded to at the beginning and end of installment number two.


The beginning and end. For my memoir-in-progress, I have an idea where to begin, and I have multiple options for its conclusion. However, if I'm going to be honest, I haven't yet figured out a through line, although my goal is to inspire others seeking survival and triumph amid adversity. As previously mentioned, I've written snippets or mini chapters of my recollections to get my thoughts down on paper. However, I need to tie them together with a connecting theme so I can provide the reader with a satisfying story.


I made an inroad since last month's blog post by contacting an aunt with whom I've had little interaction over the years. I informed her of my desire to know more about my upbringing and possibly gain insights into how I survived a highly dysfunctional environment. Surprisingly, she agreed to answer all my questions. We set a date, and I made the phone call, not knowing what to expect. My aunt opened the conversation by apologizing for anything she did or did not do to help my siblings and me during our struggles, which indicated that this discussion would be cathartic for her. Thankful for her willingness to have this conversation, I told her that no apology was necessary. She then gave an effluent monologue of the first 20 or so years of her life.


My aunt hardly took a breath between words as she recounted details of those years, confirming that the little I do remember of those tumultuous times is factual and not post-traumatic figments of my imagination. Then, I filled in details of which she wasn't aware but were consistent with her knowledge. It was the only time she was dead-silent. I could hear the proverbial pin drop on the other side of the phone line.


After nearly two and a half hours of back-and-forth and notetaking on my part, we agreed to resume our discussion at a later time. It's been three weeks now, and I've yet to pore through my notes, annotate, and write follow-up questions in preparation for our next talk. But I'm getting there.


The moral of this blog post? You never know who's willing to talk unless you ask!


Note - This third blog installment turned out to be longer than anticipated (sound familiar?), so I'm ending here and saving a juicy nugget of a revelation from the aforementioned discussion for next month in what should be my final post in my "True Confessions" series. To think that I initially anticipated only one or two installments—I might need a fifth, but I don't intend to write my memoir here!

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew?

I'm contemplating writing a memoir and have been in contemplation several years now. But I've not wanted to start the memoir until I finish my novel, which has taken much longer than anticipated. Sometimes, I wonder whether I should just go ahead and get a draft together even though I still have a ways to go on my novel revision.


Writing a memoir is a big project. If I don't get started soon, it will turn into an obituary! Yet there's something sacrilegious about simultaneously working on two large, distinct writing projects. Can I give each one my best effort? Will I mix up the different through lines?


I'm wondering what others think about juggling two large projects at the same time. If I begin the memoir while still working on the novel, am I biting off more than I can chew?


You're probably thinking, Well, that's up to you to decide, Michelle. Still, I'd like to hear your relevant experience.


(Hint: I've recently taken a couple of workshops on memoir writing.)

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