Thursday, May 24, 2007

Remembering in writing.....

  • Recently, Dandelion Books, the publisher of two of my books, asked me to write an article explaining why I wrote a memoir about my grandparents. The hope was to inspire others to write similar books about their ancestors. It seemed to be a perfect article in celebration of Memorial Day. My grandparents loved Memorial Day, but always called it Decoration Day. They loved the USA but were quite outspoken about politics, taxes, and government programs. Following is the article that can be found on the Dandelion website at www.dandelionbooks.net.

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Treasures in the Attic of Memories

When my uncle suggested an interesting writing project might be a book about my maternal grandmother’s life, I hesitated. Granted, my grandma and grandpa lived through pivotal periods of the 20th century -- World War I, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam War. They saw the advent of electricity, the automobile, radio, and television. And yes, their love story was touching, funny, and engaging. Grandma’s marriage to the only man she ever loved, her gangly Kansas farm boy, lasted more than sixty years. So much of their history was lost when my grandparents died, I doubted my ability to tell such a story in ways readers would enjoy.

I knew many of their experiences from stories they told of early life on the farm and the struggles they endured trying to raise five children at a time when almost every American was poor. In way of encouragement, my uncle sent me audiotapes and videotapes of Grandma telling stories of her childhood and youth. Within those tapes I found treasure, and the framework on which to build the creative non-fiction novel, My Name is Esther Clara.

I’m still surprised at the response this book received. I’m not accustomed to such attentions:

The editor at Dandelion Books loved it. I had expected just the opposite;

A TV producer in Pennsylvania loved the book and scheduled an interview with me. This twenty minute interview featuring me and my book was shown twice -- once live and once in rebroadcast;

Libraries and gift shops in my home state scheduled readings and signings;

Relatives I’d never met discovered the book in various ways and called the publisher to get my contact information and to order copies of the book. Long lost relatives scheduled a reunion so they could meet me;

Fans of my earlier books said this might just be my best book yet;

Strangers who did not know Grandma or me related to her strength, her feisty personality and outspoken ways. One woman said she had read the book four times because she admires my grandma so much;

And, the book is under consideration for the Kansas Notable Book Award this year.

My grandparents were not rich or famous. Neither am I. If you’ve ever considered writing a memoir about your parents or grandparents, now is the time to start. The courage and determination of common everyday citizens in past generations made this country great. Their stories should be told.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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