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Category Archives: Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

Writing Tips, Writing Quotes and Creativity

Writers need inspiration to keep them writing. Writers’ tips can also help any writing stumbling block, including the biggie “writers block”. I am a big fan and collector of quotes from other writers and I suppose I have a few of my own. I would hope that my 43 years of writing in journalism to fiction and many other categories (yes, even poetry and TV, but not radio…yet), have taught me several somethings about writing.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to share my collection of quotes and writing tips, one at a time, one post at a time on my Facebook author page. To make it a bit more visual, I add either a graphic or photo, which is related, at least somewhat. Sometimes I repeat the graphic or photo if it is relevant to another quote or tip. I do this somewhat daily, and by that I mean on weekdays, except for statutory holidays in Canada which is where I come from.

But writing, like music, is universal. And, no I’m not going to get into a discussion about which is more valid or creative – they both are. Let’s just say I can’t carry a tune and wish I could. So, words are my creative outlet (as well as my garden, but that’s another story).

My family on my mother’s side had creative members, from one first cousin once removed who played guitar, to another once removed who crocheted, made shell sculptors, to my mom whose creation was sewing everything from clothes to curtains. She also knitted and created a garden. Guess where I got the latter from. I also used to sew (when my left eye wasn’t so bad). When I was pregnant with my son I sewed all my maternity clothes. And around about then I started to quilt, mostly wall-hangings, some pot holders and a throw. I also designed some of the wall-hangings. And except for the throw, I did all  my quilting by hand.

My son, Martin, is a musician. He plays a variety of guitars from acoustic to lap steel to regular electric. He plays in a Toronto-based band called Beams and they tour throughout Canada and the US, mainly in small local venues. He has written some music. I think he gets his music smarts from the other side of the family – his dad’s. His dad plays guitar and still jams with other musicians, although he wasn’t big on public performances. Martin plays guitar right-handed, but his dad plays the guitar like Sir Paul McCartney – left-handed. That must have been fun when his dad gave his acoustic Martin guitar to  son, Martin – changing the strings all around. But here’s the clincher as to where the music in Martin comes from. Both Martin and his dad play by ear – they don’t have to memorize.s

Not like yours truly here who has to memorize every  line in every skit I perform in my book promo. Yet, I can teach a writing workshop without notes. It might go back to when I played the piano, when I took piano lessons from age 8 to 15. Every recital piece I had to memorize and when it was something like Debussy ‘s Clair de Lune, I messed up. Here’s my memoir/creative non fiction essay Don’t Look Down about it (and how it connected with my Mom and Dad) published in Smart Set Magazine the online magazine published by Drexel University.

What I’m saying is “creativity is in the blood” and I want to share it. No not the blood; no vampires here. Just some writing quotes and tips. So here is the link to my Facebook author page.and here is one quote not up there – yet. It seems to be my life’s destiny.

Half my life is an act of revision.

  • John Irving.

 And that also includes my writing, although more like all of it, not just half.

 

Cheers.

Sharon

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

 

 

 

 

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Creative Nonfiction intersecting with memoir and fiction?

I’m teaching a new writing workshop called Memoir as Creative Nonfiction. Although both are nonfiction and therefore must be truthful or as Lee Gutkind’s book stays You Can’t Make this Stuff Up. But you can use fiction techniques (emphasis on “techniques”) to tell your true story. Mr. Gutkind should know – he has been dubbed the Godfather of Creative Nonfiction.

As this blog primarily focuses on fiction writing, I’m going to give a brief look at this technique.

Let’s suppose you are writing a book about your parents emigrating to Canada or to the United States in whatever year they did so. Remembering that you must tell the truth (at least as best as you remember it and your research backs you up). Maybe you are a journalist and so you deal with facts. Truth is important in newspaper, magazine (print or online) stories too. And yes I know that’s not always the way they are written. So using your journalism background you do your research on how and when your parents emigrated. Yes, you interview your parents (let’s presume they are stlll both living)  for their story, but you do some online research for perhaps the boat they came across on. What was going on in the country they came from, etc.  All good…until  you start writing your story which you write something like this:

My parents were born in Germany in World War 11 – my father in 1936 and my mother in 1937. My mother was Jewish and along with her  parents and two siblings, was sent to a concentration camp in Poland in 1943. Her older brother didn’t survive. At the end of the war the Allies freed her parents from the concentration camp. Because of their ordeal, they decided to emigrate to Canada.

Boring!. Methinks the author is hiding her parents story behind her journalism. It doesn’t even make an interesting magazine story.

How did her parents, particularly her mother, feel about living during World War 11 in Germany? What was their life like – in the  eyes of a young child? How did she feel about losing a brother in such horrific circumstances? (research can be used to back up fact – for example dates, location.) So many questions that can be answered by writing like it was fiction, i.e., use dialogue, suspense, literary techniques like metaphor and simile and make her mother and father appear real – e.g. how did they feel? The writer has talked to her parents for goodness sake.

As this is someone else’s story,  I’m not going to rewrite it for you. But I’ll give a brief example from my memoir in the works and true stories based on it.

Here’s one which is somewhat self-explanatory.

Stuck firmly in this unknown, like a fly to flypaper, was Dad’s cancer, (From Don’t Look Down,”  copyright 2018 Sharon A. Crawford)of

And here’s the beginning of my recounting of a disturbing incident in the middle of the night. I was eight at the time.

One late night, loud pounding on the front door wakes Mom, Dad and me. Like the servant heeding the master, we all trip out to the front entrance. Mother turns on the veranda light and yanks the door open.

 “Do you know this man?” A police officer stands on our veranda. His right hand supports the shoulder of a dishevelled man.

“Uh, home,” the man says.

The stench of his breath assaults my nostrils and I jump back behind Mom, then peek out. The man’s oily black hair lies flat. Night shadow and red blotches compete for attention on his face. He is bare from his neck to his dark trousers. Looking closer, I see blood dribbling down from a deep slice on his left cheek onto his chest. His eyes look bloodshot and vague. A black mass is stamped above his left eye.

“Home?” he asks again.

“Sharon, go back to bed,” Dad says. “This is not for little girls.”  (From Deconstructing My Demons, copyright 2018 Sharon A. Crawford)

You can see some of the fiction techniques used – dialogue, the characters  and some of what they were like – real people, my inner thoughts and feelings, and use of the senses such as hearing (both dialogue and the pounding on the door) and lots of visual.

So it’s not fiction. It is memoir. Is it also creative nonfiction?

My workshop will reveal all – at least as much as can be done in one and a half hours including discussion with participants and a short writing exercise.

Here are the details for the workshop.

Memoir as Creative Nonfiction

Can memoir be creative non-fiction? In this workshop, author and editor Sharon A. Crawford will explore the many forms of Creative Non-fiction and Memoir and how they can intersect. Excerpts from published works will be used to start a discussion. Through writing exercises, participants will get the chance to begin their own creative non-fiction memoir and get a quick critique. Free.

Call 416-396-3975 to register.

Location: S. Walter Stewart Library, 170 Memorial Park Avenue, Toronto, Ontario Canada

Date and Time: Tuesday, October 16, 2018, 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.

And here’s a photo of my late Mom and Dad, who did not emigrate to Canada, but our ancestors did in the 1800s.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

author of the Beyond Mystery series and also memoir.

 

 

 

 

 

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