The Making of a Memoir

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

The process I went through to create my memoir

Unlike a number of my friends and neighbours, I had a fantastic childhood. In fact, I didn’t suffer any serious trauma until I was 30 years old.

Growing up, I didn’t realize that I had it so good. But as an adult, I recognized the blessing of my childhood years.

In 2000, I began writing Morning Pages according to Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. This ritual of writing three pages every morning helped me to deal with the trauma in my 30s and led to the beginnings of my devotional books, my novella, and my memoir.

I scribbled three pages of memories growing up. I wrote a few words per recollection, enough to jog my memory and enable me to write a story.

But that’s as far as I got. I had no idea how to write a memoir.

I decided to read books and take courses including, Writing a Memoir by Karen Barnstable, and Spiritual Memoir by Karen Stiller offered through The Word Guild.

I rummaged through my “keepsakes” box and found many treasures. Included in this eclectic collection were my Strawberry Shortcake doll, Canada Fitness badges, my Confirmation sash, report cards from kindergarten to university, Brownies and Swimming badges, Science Fair ribbons, Sacramental Certificates, and a Grade 8 graduation booklet.

I also found my “Confirmation Logbook and “The Salvation History of Kim” booklets.

The idea to share my religious upbringing started to form in my mind. I wanted to share with others my positive experiences growing up in the Catholic Church to show how this impacted my faith to eventually accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

But I still didn’t know how to put it together in a cohesive format.

Then I was introduced to the micro-memoir and specifically the book Heating & Cooling 52 micro-memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly.

The short form of the micro-memoir intrigued me. The Writer says,

One thing the micro-memoir is particularly suited for is an exploration of a moment, particularly a moment that seems small or unimportant, but, when viewed from the right perspective, with the right attention, reveals itself to be central to identity. What are the moments who make us who we are?

I dabbled with writing my stories in as few words as possible. The best way I could find to do this was in poetry form.

I shared my poems on Medium including My Parents in HaikuPraying the Rosary, and Fun With Cousins Through the Seasons

Although I was writing, I still needed a framework to put it all together.

Originally, I thought maybe I would break it into the Fruit of the Spirit and have each chapter dedicated to one attribute: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But my memories didn’t fit neatly into these attributes.

I considered the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, Marriage, and Ordination. But again, it didn’t fit all my stories and I only received the first four sacraments.

So I prayed about it.

The next day it came to me. Create a framework of school years from kindergarten to grade 8. Align my stories by the year they took place. Include the 4 sacraments I participated in along with photos and excerpts from my “Confirmation Logbook and “The Salvation History of Kim” booklets. Add snippets from my report cards, specific to Religion class. Build-in fun facts from the 1970s and early 1980s.

I love when God answers prayers in such a clear way!

Originally I wanted to call my memoir, Watch for Children, like the yellow triangle signs found in school zones.

But then I changed it to, East City Girl — A Micro-Memoir of Growing up Catholic. This better suited my main theme of being Roman Catholic in a small town.

I hired a graphic artist to design the cover. The first cover she designed had a cathedral building that really had nothing to do with my memoir. The graphic artist thought that because I used “Catholic” in the title, the stone church would be a good fit.

Instead of letting her choose another photo, I researched and discovered a photo of the Hunter Street Bridge in Peterborough that leads into East City, the exact area where all my memories take place.

The second cover had East separated from City Girl. The graphic artist didn’t realize that “East City” is the actual location of my memoir.

The third and fourth cover drafts had font and colours that I really didn’t like.

She nailed it on the fifth draft. I loved the font, the photo, and the colours.

Once I had my cover and the stories and poems in place I put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in volunteering to be a beta reader.

I received 20 responses!

I sent a pdf copy of my draft memoir to all 20 with a list of questions for them to answer (i.e. what did you like best/what did you like least/would you like more photos/etc.) and a deadline to return to me.

Some responded right away and gave a thumbs up to the project. Others provided some insight into what was missing. Still, others took the time to go into detail on improvements I could make, including a title change.

I worked through each suggestion meticulously. Through their suggestions, I added a prologue and epilogue, a map and family tree, and many more stories.

I featured each story on Medium as a pseudo draft copy including stories like Lent CookiesMidnight Mass Memories, and Forgive Me, Father.

I also changed the title to East City Girl — A Memoir of growing up Catholic in a small town.

Instead of asking the graphic artist to change the book cover, I used Canva to recreate the cover with the new title and added a small photo of me in my Confirmation gown.

Once complete, I resent the updated manuscript to a few beta readers for final comments. Changing my voice from passive to active and “showing rather than telling” was the main feedback I received.

I also sent it to my three brothers and my parents for their input. I received spelling changes on a few Dutch food items but overall they all enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

I made the final edits and uploaded to Amazon kdp. I wrote the back copy:

East City Girl is the story of a young girl growing up in a small Ontario town influenced by her parents’ Roman Catholic religion and Dutch heritage.

It’s a recollection filled with prose, poetry, and pictures from birth to Grade 8 in the 1970s and early 80s.

The story unfolds in a “scrapbook” format with diary entries, school projects, and report cards that draw you in from the start and transport you back in time with nostalgic memories.

The proof copy arrived days later. It felt surreal to hold the hardcopy in my hands.

This memoir had been on my mind and in the works for at least 22 years.

On February 11, 2022 it released on Amazon.

With a wide smile I scratched “write a memoir” off my bucket-list!

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 LinkedIn 0 Pin It Share 0 Email -- Google+ 0 0 Flares ×

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.