How Do You Keep Track of Time?

Some great posts by Charles Yallowitz on flashbacks (like this one) got me to thinking about timelines and story. Another thing that got me to thinking was catching a mistake in the timeline of one of my WIPs. Events I thought happened concurrently with the events of another character’s day weren’t lining up. Though I plotted the movements of each character on a calendar, something was missed. I needed to fix that.

Why does this matter? you might be thinking, especially if you don’t write novels. A story’s timeline affects the story events you include. If you claim a story happens in, say, twenty-four hours, but the characters do enough activities to fit a thirty-six-hour timeline, you’ll need to address that gap. Things get even messier if you are tracking the movements of more than one main character, as I was doing.

As a freelance line editor, I have had to check the timelines of many manuscripts. Only occasionally did I receive a typewritten timeline from the author. Someone gave me a handwritten note with dates once. Somewhat helpful, but not overly so, since I had to give the publisher a typed timeline that the copyeditor and proofreader could use—which meant I had to type it. Some authors didn’t have notes, preferring the “it’s all in my head” method. I’m not knocking that if it works for you. But does it work for your editor? One hundred percent of the time in the manuscripts I have edited, I have found timeline mistakes even in the most linear stories. Even if an author hands me written notes, I don’t just take those at face value. I check the notes against the events of the manuscript.

So, this post is kind of a PSA (public service announcement, since those initials stand for many things these days) asking you to please keep a written timeline if you are working on a fiction or nonfiction book with any type of chronology. If you have time to type your manuscript, you have time to keep track of, and type, your chronology.

You’d be surprised at how easily an author can get a sequence of events wrong, even with the use of time markers like “the next day,” especially if the author is coming up with events on the fly (and sometimes adding scenes between existing scenes) but isn’t keeping track of the chronology of said events. Imagine having to tell an author, “Your timeline is three months off” as I have had to do, which definitely meant a major rewrite.

I totally get that writing anything takes precious time. With some impossibly fast deadlines, you don’t have much time. And keeping track of a timeline is one of those drudgery activities that no one really likes to do. It’s like loading a dishwasher or a washing machine. But if you elect to avoid doing it, mistakes—like dirty laundry—can pile up. If your editor has to take the time to fix something you could have fixed early on, it becomes more costly, especially with freelance editors charging by the hour. So please listen to Auntie L. Marie and keep track of your chronology. Your editor (even that editor is just you) will thank you.

Clock from cloudcentrics.com. Project management image from getharvest.com.

What Is “Real”?

Awhile ago, I talked to someone about movies and stories in general. This person mentioned (and I’m paraphrasing), “I take seriously movies like The Hurt Locker (2008) [as opposed to fantasy movies] because they are real.” In other words, works based on real-life events have more relevance for this person.

I’ve heard sentiments like this before in regard to speculative fiction—fantasy mostly—which I’ve mentioned in blog posts from time to time. But as I thought about what was said this time, a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco came to mind.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

I’m sure you’ve seen that quote before. If you haven’t, you can find the whole story here. I resonate with the rabbit’s question, because every time someone tells me he or she wouldn’t read a fantasy story because it’s not “real,” I wonder what “real” means. I don’t have to tell you that every fictional story is fiction, even those based on true events, because that is the nature of fiction. Otherwise, it would be nonfiction. But my guess is that the speculative nature of the story is the turn off, though science fiction falls under the speculative fiction umbrella.

An author who gives careful attention to worldbuilding makes his or her world seem real to me. I never enter Middle-earth without feeling like I’m in a real place, wandering roads that don’t exist in life, and eavesdropping on the conversations of beings who are works of the imagination. When I love a story, it becomes real.

But I’m not proselytizing for fantasy. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. I wrote this post, because of a conversation about the stories people relate to more than others.

What are the stories you relate to most?

Book cover from Goodreads. Hurt Locker poster from The Movie Database.

It’s a Matter of Perspective

Before I get into this post on perspective in fiction, I will start with this: You do you. I am not the literary police here. Also, since I did not invent fiction writing, I am not an expert on what should or should not be done. But, if I have been paid by your publisher to edit your manuscript and a perspective issue comes up, I will call you on it, because that is my job.

The following is not an exhaustive treatise on perspective in fiction. People have written books on the subject. I have gone the route of brevity.

The perspective you choose for a piece of fiction is part of the voice of the story. I do not have to tell you this, but here it is. Authors write in first person, close third, distant third (often omniscient), and even second person. I also don’t have to tell you this, but here I go anyway: when you’re in first person, you’re following the perspective of the narrating character. Unless you’re writing sci-fi/fantasy fiction and your character is Professor Xavier who can read minds, you are presenting only the thoughts and motivation of the “I” character. In close third, the author still follows the perspective of one character at a time in a scene or possibly a whole book. The Harry Potter novels were written in close third. We follow Harry’s perspective for the most part, though there are times when J.K. Rowling :provides a perspective that is not Harry’s (chapter one of the first and fourth books, for example).

Omniscient narration has an unseen narrator who is privy to the thoughts and motivations of all of the characters. Many of Terry Pratchett’s (photo below) Discworld novels have this sort of narration. Chronicles of Narnia author C. S. Lewis also went the narrator route.

If while describing what Harry sees, feels, and thinks Rowling were to suddenly tell us what Cho Chang or Hermione thought (outside of dialogue), we would call that head hopping. Author and former agent Nathan Bransford describes it this way:

Sometimes people try to create an omniscient perspective through an assemblage of third person limited perspectives. . . . We see what this character is thinking, then we see what this character is thinking, then we see what this character is thinking.

Now, many authors with multiple third-person limited narrators might switch narrators from scene to scene as Bransford mentions in his article, which you can read by clicking here. That’s common. But Bransford is referring to a sudden switch of perspective within the same scene. The perspective is muddied when we know we’re following Sally’s close third perspective in a scene but we’re suddenly told what another character  thinks—information Sally couldn’t possibly know (but the author knows). Here’s what I mean:

Sally darted into the elevator. She heaved a sigh of relief as the doors closed, then glanced at the elevator’s only other occupant—a man whose gaze seemed fixed on his shoes. What was his name again? Phil? Frank? She knew him from Accounting.

The man glanced up, noticing her gaze in his direction.

Aside from the hasty writing, you might wonder, what’s the big deal? Seems pretty straightforward. But I would call your attention to the word noticing. That tells me we are now in the man’s head, rather than Sally’s. Why? Because only he would know what he noticed.

I have looked at someone sometimes but my thoughts were completely elsewhere. So while I was seeing the person in theory, I wasn’t really seeing him or her. Authors slip up in perspective when they assign an exact motivation or action to someone outside of the perspective of the point-of-view character (i.e., telling us what the man noticed).

This post is a bit long, so I will stop here. For a good craft book on perspective, you might check out The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley (Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2008).

Terry Pratchett photo from Wikipedia. Other photos by L. Marie.

Writing Emotion


Charles Yallowitz’s great tips on balancing humor and heavy topics (you can access it here:
https://legendsofwindemere.com/2022/01/24/2-post-of-2021-7-tips-to-balancing-the-humor-and-the-heavy/) got me to thinking about posting on the subject of writing emotion. Obviously, I’m not an expert. Yet as a freelance book editor, the emotional aspects of a story are what gain the most comments from me. That and perspective issues. Maybe that is the subject for another post. Anyway, take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Back in grad school days, I gave my advisor some pages of a manuscript for feedback. The note she provided was short and sweet: I hate it.

Lest you think she was unduly harsh, let me explain. I had written a scene I thought was beautiful and emotional. I dressed the prose in all of the figurative language I could—similes and metaphors galore. But the problem was that my goal was to prove to her that I could write well. A rookie mistake, as they say. I didn’t factor in a reader’s reaction—whether or not the scene would resonate with a reader’s emotion. It did, but in a negative way. My advisor added that she felt emotionally manipulated with all of the figurative language.

I was angry and hurt, because I didn’t understand her reaction. Understanding didn’t come until years later, when I was hired by some publishers to help authors revise their manuscripts before editing them. In regard to writing emotion, here are a couple issues I noticed (there are others, but this post is already very long):

An Overabundance of Tears. Many authors use tears to show emotion in a character. But tears often are a short-cut to emotional depth. They also have a cumulative effect. The more a character cries, the less effective those tears become. If a character bursts into tears at the drop of a hat every ten to twenty pages, usually by the second or third crying bout, I’m irritated, rather than moved with sadness on that character’s behalf. I have had some hard emotional blows but didn’t shed a tear. Yet I have had excruciating physical pain that caused me to shed them. Tears do not always equal real emotion,

Shallow Emotion. In many manuscripts a character has been dealt a harsh blow in one scene. I mean something that would take a person in real life multiple counseling sessions and months, or even years, to work through. Events like this take a toll on a person. Yet in the very next scene the character is mostly or even completely over what occurred in the previous scene. This lack of emotional carryover always raises a red flag within me. If the character is over the event so easily, the emotional depth seems questionable.

Now I totally understand that if your story takes place over a two-week period, you’re pressed for time. If you’re trying to get through a certain amount of plot points, maybe you just want to move on, even if it means a quick emotional reaction. Keep in mind also that I’m not talking about a two-hour movie where characters move about on the screen and you’re seeing snippets of their lives.

In The Emotional Craft of Fiction author/agent Donald Maass discusses the emotional turmoil many of us face through life’s difficult events. (Anyone alive during a pandemic can relate.) He writes

Let’s look at the emotions [these events] evoke, for these are strong feelings and the ones you’d like readers to feel as they read your fiction. . . . However, there’s a problem with that: Big emotions often fall flat on the page. (35)

Note that he mentions the emotions you want readers to feel. So what does he suggest?

Creating big feelings in readers requires laying a foundation on top of which readers build their own towering experience. . . . Details have the power of suggestion. Suggestion evokes feelings in readers, drawing them out rather than pounding them with emotional hammer blows. (36)

In other words, instead of having your character fall out on the floor in tears (which does nothing for me, to be honest) do something to help your reader connect to his or her own emotion.

Here’s a snippet from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story taking place before and during WWII. A French young woman is one of the protagonists.

Marie-Laure hesitates at the window in her stocking feet, her bedroom behind her, seashells arranged along the top of the armoire, pebbles along the baseboards. Her cane stands in the corner; her big Braille novel waits facedown on the bed. The drone of the airplanes grows. (6)

 

All the Light We Cannot See I felt a mounting sense of dread as I read that paragraph, thinking about the oncoming Nazi occupation of France and what that could mean to a blind young woman. This kind of writing might look simple yet is difficult to achieve. It takes some restraint on the author’s part and trust that the reader is savvy enough to understand and connect without hand holding.

Writing scenes with emotional depth takes some bleeding on the page. Many of us don’t want to go there, because we don’t want to feel that emotion. But if we’re writing a scene with any sort of emotional authenticity, we can’t really escape going there.

Anthony Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See. New York: Scribner, 2014.

Donald Mass. The Emotional Craft of Fiction. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2016.

Book covers from Goodreads. Crying man from clipground.com.

Are You Hungry in 2022?

 

This is not a Snickers commercial, assessing your physical hunger level. (Actually, I could go for one of those, right about now.) Let me back up. I was thinking today of my own hunger level in regard to writing. From a young age, I wanted to write anything I could write: stories, novels, play scripts, movie scripts, poetry, graphic novels, essays. I attempted any and all forms of writing. But as I grew older and rejections happened, my hunger slackened. In other words, I played it safe.

But who was I hurting by doing that? Me. So in 2022, I’m tired of avoiding an activity just because of the fear that someone else might not like what results when I try it.

Maybe you feel the same in this dawning of a new year. So with that in mind, my new year’s giveaway is a $50 gift card to Amazon/Amazon UK or some other source that will inspire you in your goal to advance in your writing or illustration, your artistic endeavors in needlework, or your whatever is legal. Maybe you want to purchase a craft book to boost your skill. Or, if you’re like me, you want to buy a coffee table behind-the-scenes book featuring a movie you enjoyed because you’re fascinated by the process of the filmmakers. (The Art and Soul of Dune, anyone?) Or maybe you want to buy a book from a trusted source (like Bookshop.org) or some crafting supplies (Hello, Michaels or JOANN) to inspire you to greater heights.

   

Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Be sure to name the place where you would want to spend the money. I hope to post the winner sometime next week after my next deadline.

Happy New Year!

Does Fantasy Seem Less Fantastic These Days?

I recently overheard a conversation between these doughnuts that got me to thinking about the question posed in the title of this post.


“What’s that?” you say. “Doughnuts can’t talk. That’s unrealistic.” Herein lies the issue that some people seem to have with fantasy.

Let me back up. I had a conversation with an actual person about a fantasy novel we both read, the title of which I am withholding. We came to the conclusion that the fantasy elements seemed downplayed in favor of a social injustice message. This is not to say that social injustice is a bad theme. But when a book blurb touts that a book is “full of magic,” I expect something along the lines of the Harry Potter series, the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend, Charles Yallowitz’s books, or the Oz books. You know—dragons, flying cars, lunch pails growing on trees, huge cats, inventing gnomes, and fantastic hotels. But that’s not what I found. Instead, I found rich people indifferent to the plight of the poor and magical healings that weren’t called magical healings—just healings.

   Cover art by Jason Pedersen 

This is not the first book I’ve read where the fantasy elements seemed a little scarce. As I pondered that, I couldn’t help recalling what the son of a friend once told me: “If a story isn’t realistic (The Hurt Locker as opposed to The Lord of the Rings), it isn’t real to me.” I’ve heard similar sentiments from others, most of whom would never crack open a fantasy book. As if stories of imagined worlds are inferior somehow. But imagination has been the key to so many breakthroughs in our world. Ask any trailblazing inventor who dreamed of a new way of doing something.

“That’s for kids,” someone else said to me about fantasy stories. Yet the Harry Potter series, a fantasy series “for kids” in that person’s estimation, has sold the most copies of a fiction series worldwide than any other series. When each book in the series was released, I remember seeing more eager adults standing in line waiting to pick up their books than kids. But I digress.

This is not a knock against anyone who dislikes fantasy stories. It’s all a matter of preference, isn’t it? And for the record, I love many realistic stories too. This is just an observation from someone who never really grew up; who never really stopped loving fairy tales with dragons and knights and princesses.

You see, I read or watch movies to escape. I love diving into fantasy worlds and learning about the people and creatures who inhabit these worlds. I want to escape from the horrors of the current news stories. So I wouldn’t purposely search for a book because I need to know more about social injustice. You can call that burying my head in the sand all you want. I call it saving my sanity.

Just my two cents. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

The Merchant of Nevra Coil photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Deathly Hallows from Goodreads. Dragon from en.gtwallpaper.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Message Received?

In a movie review, Jeremy Jahns, a YouTube reviewer I usually watch, talked about social commentary in movies based on fictional stories in a way that I found very thought provoking. While he mentioned a specific film, what he said could apply to many films and other types of stories. Of course reviews are subjective, so take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, he said,

A picture is worth a thousand words. But this . . . movie would rather use a thousand words to paint a picture.

In other words, he felt the social commentary was too obvious and heavy handed and would have been better had it been more subtle and the story and characters better developed. I have heard statements like this about a number of movies. Though I didn’t see the movie he reviewed, Jahns’s statement got me to thinking about the messages I’ve noticed in some fiction books or on the screen in the last ten years or so. Obviously this is my opinion which you can take with a grain of salt, but sometimes the messages have seemed a little too obvious, with characters practically saying things like, “And that’s why _____ (fill in the blank) is bad.” Sometimes the whole reason for the existence of a book or film (again please keep in mind that I am talking about fiction, rather than nonfiction) seems to be to deliver a message.

I totally get the need to encourage change through a well-written story. That is the power of words. But I’m drawn to stories where the message doesn’t rest on top in a blinking lights kind of way. I like to glean the message for myself. I can read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and see the awful toll war takes on people, something Tolkien experienced firsthand, without having to be told by a character, “Do you see what disagreements like this could lead to? How awful everything is? How needful it is that we come together in peace and goodwill?”

What about you? Do you like messages that are a

and as obvious as this:

Or do you prefer the subtle approach? Are there some messages that need to be wrecking ball clear? Do tell! While you ponder that, Anne Westrick, get ready to receive a signed copy of Edie in Between by Laura Sibson! Please comment below to confirm.

    

Jeremy Jahns photo from famousbirthdays. Quote from August 27, 2021 review. Stupidly obvious messages from dreamstime and ebaumsworld.

Of Bunnies and Birds and Apples and Poetry

Ever since I learned to crochet, I’ve always loved discovering and trying new crochet patterns. I’ve made sweaters, afghans, and numerous amigurumi patterns including these:

Exp Crochet1

Traveling Tu bunny pattern by Doris Yu

Apple and bird patterns by The Wandering Deer

Exp Crochet2

I had the same love of experimentation back when I first put pen to paper. Case in point: Back in first grade I wrote my first song with a friend.

We don’t wanna play with Jennifer
Jennifer
Jennifer
We don’t wanna play with Jennifer
Because she’s soooo bad.
Yeah!

We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna play with Jenn-Jennifer

We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna
We don’t wanna play with Jennifer!

We actually sang this to Jennifer. Yes, I was a brat, I am ashamed to say. Needless to say, this song did not make the Billboard list.

Anyway, besides song writing, over the years I dabbled in other poetic forms (haiku, iambic pentameter even!), and also wrote stage plays and screenplays, short stories, devotionals, graphic novels, novels, newspaper and magazine articles, and product ads. Now, when I say “wrote” the above, I made several failed attempts at some of them. But I at least wanted to try my hand at every form of writing I could, because experimenting was fun. And I netted some sales as a result

So why is it that nowadays, I have steered less toward experimenting and more toward the tried-and-true forms of writing I have done over and over again? I don’t actually expect you to answer that question by the way. I know the answer: fear of rejection. You would think after receiving literally hundreds of them I wouldn’t fear rejection so much. But I realize now how much having a fear-of-rejection mindset has hampered me.

I love how Jill Weatherholt, who is the winner of When in Vanuatu by the way (click here for the interview with the awesome author, Nicki Chen), kept trying to get a story published by Woman’s World. She didn’t let “no” stop her. She kept writing and submitting stories because she loved to do so.

90216397F079 9781647420345_fc-2

I want to return to my writing experiments. I’m in the middle of a novel that needs more of my past pioneering spirit.

What about you? Do you like to experiment?

Author photo and cover courtesy of Nicki Chen. Author photo by LifeTouch. Other photos by L. Marie.

Lemons

Have you ever bitten into a lemon? I did once, when I was a kid. Note the word once. I quickly realized that some fruit have a taste other than sweet.

Now, I realize that many people love to eat lemons. (My mother for instance.) And this article talks about the benefits of eating lemons: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefit-eating-whole-fresh-lemons-4390.html

Yet I prefer my lemons paired with other things: sugar and water in lemonade; sugar, water, and tea for iced tea; or sugar, eggs, flour, and other ingredients in lemon meringue pie or lemon bars. Even the lemon candy I like is of the sweet and sour variety.

    

It’s much the same with stories. I like a mixture of sweet and sour. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien; Sabriel by Garth Nix; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016 movie; the novelization was written by Alexander Freed). An author who writes this kind of story has to strike the right balance between hope and hopelessness.

   

Usually I love the point in the story where things are at their worst, and you don’t think good can come out of it—but then it does, sometimes at a high cost. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion is a great reward for that kind of tension.

I also think of lemons because the sourness of life sucks sometimes. I can’t help putting it that baldly. (Yes, baldly.) Jobs are lost. People you love face health issues or are in emotional pain. These moments are the “shut the book, Dad” moments Samwise Gamgee talked about in Lord of the Rings—the moments when you’re not sure everything will turn out right. I’m in that kind of moment right now. Maybe one day, I’ll provide the full details. But I wanted to write about it in the moment—when a happy ending isn’t a guarantee—because often you hear stories of triumph after the fact, after the darkness has passed and the “sun shines all the clearer”—another quote given to Samwise, this time in The Two Towers:

I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.

These words gives me hope when life hands out lemons. May they enable you to keep pressing on in a sour/dark time of your own.

Now I’m thinking of some words Galadriel spoke in Fellowship of the Ring:

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Lemon image from freepik. Lemon meringue pie image from Pillsbury. Lemonhead image from Target. Quote from Two Towers is from the script by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Fran Walsh © 2002. Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee image from Cinema Blend. Words of Galadriel and others are by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Check This Out: Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl

I’m very pleased to welcome to the blog the amazing Marian Beaman, who is here to discuss her memoir, Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl, which launched on September 14.

   

You probably know Marian from her blog, which you can find here. After I talk to Marian, I’ll tell you about a giveaway of Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Marian: 1. I met my first husband on a blind date. (He is my only husband!)


2. I flunked my driver’s test twice.
3. On Sunday mornings, I like to play with two-year-olds, making abstract art with tennis balls and paint on cardboard, blowing bubbles.
4. I watch my Fitbit like a hawk. Gotta get those step in!

El Space: What made you decide to write a memoir?
Marian: My blog readers helped make the decision for me. I wrote stories about my parents, grandparents, and other relatives on my blog. Readers wanted more, and suggested, “Write a book about it!” Though for many years I have wanted to leave a legacy of stories for my children and grandchildren, these readers pushed me toward actually doing it!

Granddaughter Jenna at guest book with hostesses Judy and Carolyn at Marian’s book signing at the Deerwood Country Club

El Space: How did you decide how much to include and what sections of your life to leave out? What was your process as you wrote? Did you write an outline of events? Talk with family members along the way?
Marian: My life as a Mennonite was dramatically different from my life now, so I decided to make the first 24-year slice of my life the focus of my memoir.

A memoir is not a biography. Memoirs need a focus. My focus was the imprint of two forces upon my life: the boundaries of my life as a Mennonite and the blessings of two homes (my parents’ and my grandmother’s house close by).

The collage on the easel is a composite of various snaps of Marian’s family with Bossler Mennonite Church in the background (done by artist Cliff Beaman).

I agree with May Sarton who said that she has “never written a book that wasn’t born out of question I needed to answer for myself.” For me, that question was this: “What was the source of my father’s anger?” My memoir explores possible answers.

To learn the craft of storytelling, I took a memoir-writing course from Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner: “Writing Your Story in Six Months.” And to get me started, I wrote topics I could remember on colored sticky notes I pasted to ply-board. Some of the topics became scenes that made it into the memoir; others did not.

El Space: How did growing up in a Mennonite background shape you into the writer you are today? What did you appreciate most about your upbringing?
Marian: I grew up loving my faith traditions and my family. Also the Swiss/German stock from which I am descended has imprinted on me a strong work ethic, which gave me the strength and discipline to persevere through the five years it took to write my story.

El Space: After you described your baptism [chapter 28], I was struck by this quote from page 157: “I had to find a way to reconcile pleasing God with expressing my love for beautiful things, hairdos and clothes included.” Such a turning point in your life. What was one step you took as you were “beginning to ‘kick against the pricks’”?
Marian: My mother, aunt, and grandmother expressed their love of beauty by planting flower gardens in a riot of colors. They, along with women in my church, also made exquisite quilt designs. I wanted to look pretty like a flower, wearing bright colors and shiny shoes. My desire to buck the strict dress code enforced by my church at that time caused friction with authorities at the Mennonite School, where I was employed in my early twenties. My reaction to these restrictions is told in two chapters which bookend my memoir.

These are the most cheerful looking flowers I have seen in years. They remind me of Marian. 😊

El Space: What books or authors inspired you as you worked on your memoir?
Marian: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life—Sassy, sometimes sarcastic, but always instructive.

Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time—A good one to read early in the writing game.

Dani Shapiro: Still Writing—If you like Shapiro’s novels and memoirs, you’d like her take on the craft of writing.

Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing—A breath of fresh air, especially if you are tied up in a wad about your story and the writing process.

Dinty W. Moore’s The Story Cure: A Book Doctor’s Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir—Book Doctor Dinty provides cures and checkups in his manual embellished with case studies. Humorous and practical!

El Space: What advice do you have for memoir writers?
Marian: 1. Write every day, even if you don’t feel like it. Inspiration comes to those who sit in the writing chair. But don’t go nuts over it; take walks, go shopping, chat with friends. 2. Don’t impose a strict Get-Done-By deadline on yourself. I hoped to finish in three years, but it took me five years. 3. Life goes on! In those five years, my mother and my aunt died, and we had to clear out two houses with scads of stuff. Last year my brother died. Three years ago we also moved from a house we had lived in for 37 years to our current address; lots of sorting, recycling, and tossing out.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Marian: When people ask that question, I say, “Give me a break! I need a vacation or at least time to relax.” 😃 However, two ideas are playing tag in my brain right now: 1. A children’s book based on the oak tree my children and their cousins planted in the Grandma Longenecker’s back yard after she died. I have an in-house illustrator—ha! 2. My year and half in the 36-foot trailer with two babies while my artist/performer husband did art and music performances all over the Southeast. The object was to keep our family together; the reality of the itinerant life wreaked havoc on my sanity!

Thanks, Marian, for being my guest!
Looking for Marian? Click on the icons below:

                    

Looking to buy Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl? Head to Amazon or to your mailbox, since
one of you will receive a copy of this memoir just for commenting! Winner to be announced sometime next week!

The book club, after reading and loving Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl, unanimously decided to shop for red shoes.

Author photo by Joel Beaman, courtesy of Marian Beaman. Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl cover designed by Cliff Beaman, courtesy of Marian Beaman. Other covers from Goodreads. Book signing photos courtesy of Marian Beaman. Book club and flowers photos by L. Marie. Neonlicious and Royal Bee OMG dolls are products of MGA Entertainment, Inc.