Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CWA: Memories to Last A Lifetime


Attention passengers, this is Cheryl your Cruise Director.  Today will be an exciting day touring another island and exploring fabulous beaches.  Don’t forget your sunscreen.  All passengers please report to the main deck to board the transport to the island.

The ship assumed an eerie quiet with only a few crew members remaining to prepare for the passengers’ return.  An occasional chirp from a porter’s walkie talkie interrupted the sleepy silence.
A slim shadowy figure slunk down the deck hesitating at cabin 13.  Glancing to the left, then right, the figure rapped quickly on the door.

Welcome my friend. A rotund man opened the cabin door illuminating the shadowy figure in a swath of bright light.  She flinched under the glare and slipped into the cabin quickly.
Please make yourself at home.  A spot of tea perhaps or shall I order from room service?  I suspected we would speak today when I saw that you had not signed up for the day trip.

 “But but, how did you know I would come to speak to you Doctor?  We had never met before the Captain’s banquet and even then we barely spoke.   I found your book on memoir writing in the ship’s library after the Captain introduced us and mentioned that you wrote books while helping people discover the story within them. Time allowed me a few quiet moments to read it and I felt inspired.   It was only then that I knew we needed to meet.   You certainly do know how to unlock the secrets in the brain.”

Well, quite honestly, when I learned of your trip, I booked a cabin as well knowing that our time to come together was imminent.  My intuition spoke loudly that I needed a cabin as someone; you in fact, would require my assistance unlocking memories.   Am I correct in assuming that vacationing on this cruise has helped your memories come rushing back?  How confusing this must be for you.  Frightening even.   I used this cruise an opportunity to help you focus on your special story—the story of your life.

“You’re right.  I have a story to tell and am not quite sure how to do it.  With our 30th high school reunion fast approaching I’m trying to decide whether or not to attend.  Those four year broke my spirit; however, I want to teach people through my life experiences.  Your book will guide me on this journey down memory line.  A memoir.  That’s what I want to write.” 

Well, let me get my favorite guide to capturing your life stories.  It appears that you have already spotted my latest book, Slices of Life:  The Art and Craft of Writing Memoir on the side table.  Simply a fabulous read if I do say so myself and it specifically leads you through your life journey one step at a time to find that slice of life to fine tune into a memoir. 

Let’s start on this together.  First, we’ll make a list of memories.  Write for 5 minutes as fast as you can just jotting down whatever comes to mind.

The clock on the wall marked each second with a harsh tick.  Scratching of pencil to paper was the only other sound to fill the silence.

Snow ball fight with Sharee
Jasper the mouser
Finding new hair on my body
Parking with George
Police scanners are bad
Purple Jesus in typing class
Graduating from college
Breaking up sucked
Tequila hangover
I want a divorce, ok
Building a nest
184,000 miles and counting
HPV

Ok, time’s up.   What do you have on your list?  I see a mixture of events, people, and emotions.  Does any one thing draw your attention more?

“I haven’t thought of Purple Jesus for years.  No one expected such a goody-two-show like me to fall in with the bad crowd.  I want to write about being a misfit. ”

Really?  Purple Jesus you say?  Ok, that is what you will write about next.  We’re going to create another list but this time I want you to include all of the people, places, sounds, smells and details about Purple Jesus that you remember.  I’m only giving you 3 minutes this time so write fast and don’t worry about making this perfect.

More scratching on paper as the clock ticked slicing the silence.  The Doctor continued to study his visitor who crinkled her brow in concentration as the words poured onto the page.

The mysterious doctor stroked his beard before speaking.  Purple Jesus was a kool-aid and vodka drink you snuck into high school typing class in empty Fanta grape bottles for a semester?  Really, you never got caught?  I’m sure that there is more behind this story so our homework tonight is to write up a draft to share at our next session.

Based upon your list, most of the memories on your first writing dash deal with high school.  Perhaps that is the slice of life that your memoir will write about.  What would you want to teach readers who pick up your book?

“My high school years sucked.  I would want to teach readers how to survive being the outcast in high school without feeling like a victim.”

That sounds like an admirable memoir to write.  If you read Slices of Life:  The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing, you can continue on this writing journey alone.  This well-written book contains all sorts of fun activities to pull those hidden memories from your brain onto the page.

“Doctor look at the time.  I didn’t realize how much fun writing for a memoir could be.  Quick!  I must leave now.  Today’s excursion returns any minute and I don’t want anyone to know I’ve been here.  Not until my memoir on surviving high school has been published.”

Snatching the doctor’s copy of Slices of Life off of his side table, the slender lady slipped her wrap over her shoulders and quietly opened the door to cabin 13.  Scurrying back to her cabin, she flipped open to the first activity in the book and began to write.  As the hours passed, the pen slipped from her grip as her head slid onto the pillow.

A brilliant sun illuminated the deck after breakfast the next morning, blinding the slender lady as she sought out the cruise director.  “Excuse me Cheryl, I am looking for the passenger staying in cabin 13 but I can’t seem to locate the room.  Can you help me?”

“Oh honey, cruise ships never use the number 13 when numbering cabins.  Too much superstition comes along with that number.  I’m sorry that I can’t help you."

“Hhmm…so where did I go that morning and whom did I speak with?  This book.  Where did it come from if I didn’t take it off of the doctor’s side table?  Slices of Life:  The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing has unlocked so many memories and I know that writing a memoir is possible.  I want to thank him before leaving.  Maybe I am losing my mind and this cruise was a bad idea.  A story though lies under the surface of my memories about surviving under the radar in high school.  It needs to be told.”

With the help of porters, passengers queued up to disembark from the cruise ship.  The slender lady frantically asked crew members and guests about the rotund doctor but no one knew of such passenger.  With only a few minutes left to thank him, she slid the copy of the book into her purse.  Sometimes my imagination gets the best of me so maybe I imagined the whole session she wearily thought. But where did I get this book?  I may never know how it started but with this magical book, my memoir will be on shelves before the holidays.

Who is Cheryl Stahle?

“Dear Blogging Friends, I want to do a virtual tour promoting your books on my website.  Just put your character on a cruise ship.”   Allison’s message came through while I was relaxing on the beach so I’m attributing my eager ‘yes’ on too much sun exposure.  Sure, why not?  Well, Slices of Life:  The Art and Craft of Writing Memoirs by Cheryl Butler-Stahle has no characters.  It doesn’t have a setting either.  Piece of cake?  Let’s just say, this has been fun and funny as I worked through various drafts to include on this tour.  Thank you Allison!

Here’s my world in a nutshell:  Multitasking writer enjoys chaos and chardonnay.  Cheryl Stahle, memoirist, writing coach, teacher and author facilitates memoir writing workshops on the east coast as well as virtually reaching a global audience.  Cheryl’s latest book Slices of Life:  the Art and Craft of Memoir Writing available at www.yourbestwritinggroup.com as well as Amazon and Doylestown Bookshop (and frequently a box of them sits in the trunk of her car for impulse buyers) is receiving rave reviews for its style and ability to lead writers through the memoir process.  Check out her workshops,  programs and blog at www.yourbestwritinggroup.com .   

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