So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca
Showing posts with label automobiles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label automobiles. Show all posts

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The crucial ingredient in memoir is people.

William Zinsser says the crucial ingredient in memoir is people.

You must summon back the women and men and children who notably crossed your life. What makes them memorable?

Why do we remember some things and not others? Why do we remember certain people in our past? 

When we write our memories we learn why they stay with us, why we must explore them.

I don't have to look hard to find something or someone to write about. The people who notably crossed my life include family members, four brothers and two sisters, a mother and a father, four sisters-in-law, two brothers-in-law, and a number of nieces and nephews. Then there is my husband and his family.

In my family history, Profiles and Pedigrees, The Descendants of Thomas Charles Council (1858-1911) my main characters were my paternal grandparents, Sally and Tom, and their ten children. With those children came spouses and their children. Each family had a historian who shared the life stories of his or her parents. It was interesting to me what each person remembered. The stories were not all the same because what one remembers is not the same as what another remembers. One of my male cousins described the automobile his father drove and how impressed he was with the car his uncle owned. His memories came from his childhood, and I have found that automobiles often bring back memories when we begin to write about our lives. 

Think about your first car. How did it make you feel? What did it look like? What make and model was it? Did you do something special the first day you had it? Who were the people who rode in your car? Write about your adventures and travels in your first car? What memories come back to you when you think about that car? How did it smell? Did you wash your car or have it washed? What did you keep in your car all the time? Did you inherit your first car? Was it brand new off the lot?

My father, Coy Lee Council, and his first car. We heard stories about this car and his friends. This was likely one of the first automobiles built, but he didn't buy it new. He learned quickly that he had lots of friends until he had to repair the car or buy a new tire. Then those boys were hard to find. He is one of the characters in my life story.

My husband, Barry, liked sports cars. We rode in this one when we were young marrieds.
 Barry was particular about the cars he owned. All of his life he enjoyed convertibles and his last car had a sunroof because I didn't want my hair blowing as it did in a convertible.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Photographs - wonderful prompts for writing

Helen Beall
 The above photograph was taken on a trip from California to Georgia in the early sixties. The woman in the picture is Helen  Beall, mother of the man I would later marry. Several things about this photo provoke memories for stories. She had flown out to San francisco where her son had been living. He was about 25 at the time. When she and Barry decided to come back to Georgia, they climbed into his little MG.  The two of them rode across country in the winter time in a two-seater convertible in which the heater quit working. Somewhere in Texas they encountered a blizzard. I can go on and write the entire story, but I won't do that here.

Barry Beall at my parent's home in Georgia
I was not a fan of the tiny sports car, but Barry loved it. 

Often in my classes I will ask my students to make a list of all the cars they have owned. Our automobiles are like family, close friends, and we often name them. A car is such a personal attachment they live on in our memories long after they are gone. 

The photos above bring to mind a significant time in my life. Barry, my husband, loved convertibles and he loved small sports cars like this Austin Healey. Before we met, he and I had just bought new cars. The white Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible I bought with my own money. As a first year teacher, I splurged and purchased the car of my dreams, a car no one ever thought I would drive. 

When it became obvious we could not afford two car payments, he traded down to the used Austin Healey. I don't think he felt a loss because he still turned heads when he passed, and he loved the thrill of shifting  gears and speeding down country roads. 

Anytime I feel I need to motivate myself to write, I only have to look through my old photograph albums. They hold the key to hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories and poems. 

Have you used pictures to jump-start your writing?