For more than a year now I have been recording anecdotal stories about my first six years at school in the 1950s. The 50s decade is not yet a well documented one and so I thought a few stories about how school life was back then could be useful. The project has blossomed and I’m well on track for publication next year. If writing memoir can become a reality for me, it can be the same for you.
Choosing to write my memoir and record my memories of my first six years at school has been an interesting and enjoyable task so far. The more I write, the more I remember. It has been surprising at how clear many of my memories are. I loved my early school years so much, I’m not surprised i became a teacher!
It has also been an interesting experience through which to examine the child I was. She seems very different from the person I now know. My initial perception of myself has changed considerably. Writing a memoir should be something all people attempt at some stage.
For more than a year I have been writing random anecdotal stories, with no thought for chronological order or thematic sequence. I just kept pouring stories on to paper. It has been such a lot of fun, it hardly seemed like work at all. Some of these stories I’ve managed to turn into little articles, such as Getting The Strap: 1950s School Punishment in New Zealand and School Nature Study : a 1950s Memoir Story.
Aiming for the completed document to be around 30,000 to 40,000 words, with a publication date early in 2013, I have worked furiously in recent months. I made a probable outline of chapter headings and what could be included in each, so I had an idea where the unwritten gaps were. About a week ago I decided I had probably accumulated enough material to move on. The time has come to move into the next phase of my writing journey, that of bringing everything together and writing a proper first draft.
It is proving to be easier than I thought. I’ve done a lot of the hard work of recording stories, but there are many more that will still need to be written. Having organised my chapter outline, it is now easier to see where each story fits in to the completed text. I thought one of my major challenges would be making sure it was all written in the same voice. Because the stories have been written over an extended period of time, there are different styles of writing, which wouldn’t read well in the finished product. I’ve discovered, however, by imagining myself to be that young girl back at school, my writing voice is easy to capture.
So far I’ve written the first draft of three chapters, with about another twelve to go. I want the first draft to be completed by mid July, when I am starting on a three month memoir writing course, face to face, with one of New Zealand’s top women writers, Fiona Kidman. It may seem strange attending the course so far into my work, but I thought it will be an opportunity to polish up the text, improving on it and hopefully making it sparkle.
As part of Phase 2 I’ve also contacted the publishing firm I’ll be using. That will be the basis of the next memoir writing article I share with you. Meanwhile, I do hope you’re also encouraged to travel the journey I’m travelling. It’s no where near as difficult as I thought it would be. You need only to give yourself time and keep on writing. Sharing my journey with you all has been a major motivating factor for keeping me on task, so thank you all.
Some of my memoir writing articles so far include: