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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Perspective

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“For to remember is to make a pledge: to the indelible experience of personal perception, and to history itself.”                                            Patricia Hampl

Now that you have developed some sensory language, and defined character attributes and physical locations, the next stage is to extend your seedlings to focus on relationships, memories, and communication. Look for specific threads where past history can connect with present history in your personal world.

We want to be able to connect emotionally with our readers—sometimes across barriers of language or age or culture. However, often, we first need to understand how we connect with ourselves. In her study on memoir Patricia Hampl also notes that it is a landscape bordered by memory and imagination.

Art and imagery can become a separate language of communication. One way to begin to explore some aspects applying autobiographical premises and techniques is to use vignettes, a self-contained prose passage, according to Michael J. Bugeja, which then can be developed later into narrative, or poetry, or essays, if so desired.

Consider vignettes as a series of verbal photographs. These mini snapshots can be seen through your own personal autobiography or through a fictional character. Sometimes it helps to lay the groundwork for memoir through a character in order to set up a scene, especially if you are exploring sensitive issues where healing still needs to take place. In this situation a certain emotional distance helps ‘see’ into the truth behind the memory.

One approach that Michael J Bugeja suggests can also become an over-arching thread for perspective and voice and theme.

Poet as a Visionary can be a veteran of an experience—someone who has participated in or been an involved witness or someone who hasn’t—yet gives an overview of events, sometimes by imagining what it would have been like or has an opinion on the whole process.

Poet as an Eyewitness has the experience and gives a first hand account of some aspect. The emphasis is on impact of the experience whereas the visionary’s emphasis in on perspective or opinion.

We’ll examine some examples in the next blog as we discuss voice, but for now look over your maps and see if the words you chose fit either as a visionary or eyewitness voice.

Action Steps:

Begin the shaping process towards an outline and possibly a working table of contents. Choose one perspective to develop a possible theme thread.

1. Make a list of your key words so far.

2. Next to each write a very brief sentence that focuses it’s meaning to you then.

3. Next to each mark whether the key is a location, or a relationship, or a inner revelation. Do any repeat more than others?

4. Take whichever focus repeats and then set up a practice outline using that as the foundation.

Share: Which perspective did you choose and why?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Maps

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera glass.”  Lewis Carroll

The lens through which we view or relive our memories will focus the story we want to share with others. First we take all our brainstorming and look for the connections. The memories begin to form a shape, a map, from which to outline and track the journey we want to relive and then to share. Both figuratively and literally maps can help us go deeper into memoir and give us new insights.

Drawing maps can combine the brainstorming and concrete research at the same time, whether you use an existent map to copy from, or design your own. It is another way to focus on the time, place, and experience that you are exploring. 

Here are some suggestions to experiment with and choose which lens you want to share from—a long distance reminiscence, a day in the life, or an internal life-changing experience. Then once you know the style that captures your voice focus on the action step versions below to fine-tune your story.

Possibilities. Draw your own setting map, or trace one. Take an old atlas and cut and paste to make up your own country or local setting. Mimic a tourist map. Take a map and turn it upside down or backwards. Make a collage of landscapes and buildings.

Research old maps in a library, make copies, and then turn them into your own. Several years ago a friend sent me an historical map of a small town in Holland around the 12th Century. It has figures on the streets showing where commerce was done. One youth is leading sheep down one path. On another a wagon is loaded with produce. The people in the village are included along with the street names.

Any map can be adapted to your personal visual memories.

Here is a word sample memory map that is a combination of memoir and creative process that author George Ella Lyon suggested for beginning poets in her book “Where I’m From.” 

I am unable to copy, sadly, but she took a piece of a traditional map of a geographic location and then placed the word YOU in the center. Then she scattered words all over—near the highway, along the river, and in the various neighborhoods. Here are some of her words—“Town or Street Names, SMELLS, Central Events, Wild Card, TASTES, Objects, Church Experience, Parent’s Work, and Hiding Place.”

Action Steps:

1.     Choose a literal map, antique or present, or a photograph of a particular landscape, or draw your own version with multi-colored pencils, or in black and white with pens. Or try all three to see which atmosphere most resonates with your memories.

2.     From whichever map shape or style you chose to work with, make at least three different versions. A) Literal objects or site names. B) Emotion words or phrases only. C) Themes or symbols as representatives of your main impressions. Have fun and draw your own personal emojis.

3.      Then from your three approaches mix and match them as in the sample by George Ella Lyon.

Share: What one key word did you post on your map that you didn’t expect?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New Five Star Review!

So excited to receive such an in depth review from author Karen Weisner on my new workbook release.

If you'd like to read it too click the cover on the right hand side. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Seeds

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Writers are the custodians of memories.”  William Zinsser

In his book Writing About Your Life Zinsser continues, “Your biggest stories will often have less to do with their subject than with their significance…how that situation affected you.”

Sometimes it will be an anecdote shared over a meal with family and friends or a mutual special occasion over many years. Or a life changing experience that you are still exploring the depths of and know others can benefit from your discovery. Once we identify the significance then we will have a better understanding whether it is meant for personal or public communication. The reflection exercises we’ve looked at so far keep us in touch with ourselves now; the memoir exercises enable us to see how our past and present intertwine.

Seeds as Prompts

Begin building a memory journal for yourself. Tie it to specific personal memories—both trauma and joy—and fix the location whenever relevant. Focus the emotional description. Next to each category list the senses incorporated and how the senses responded.

Or, if it feels too emotional to address with a clear perspective, take a step back and examine the memory as if you are a main characters that you are questioning in an interview.

Begin with basic journal entries as before:

·      saddest day

·      happiest day

·      scariest

·      challenging

·      hopeful

·      joyous

·      disappointing

·      despairing

·      successful

Action Steps:

1. Choose two categories to focus on. Focus on one that you have a lot of material for, and one that feels limited so far.

2. Make a list of questions for what is missing from your memory for each category?

Share: What surprised you?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“How did I come to believe that what I knew was also what mattered? And, more to the point for the future, is it what matters?” Patricia Hampl

In her book, I Could tell You Stories, Hampl explores the realm of memory in auto-biographical writing connected by the impulse to remember. She pointed out that both Kafka and Rilke saw memory, “not experience”, as holding the sovereign position in imagination.

For herself Hampl discovered: “The recognition of one’s genuine material seems to involve a fall from the phony grace of good intentions and elevated expectations.” If we are unable to infuse our memories, or perhaps our search for our memories into our work then we rob it of honest quest and discovery and an imagination that connects. Each person’s voice is unique and bears witness to life. But in order to share, we first need to identify what really matters to us.

“We store in memory only images of value.”

Action Steps:

1. Choose a first memory of an experience you’ve had twice and write each up as an autobiographical event. For example, the very first day you went to school and then the very first day you went to school in high school, or college, or several years later for graduate work.

2. Or perhaps choose an area in which you became accomplished. The first day you swam in a pool and then first time you swam in a race.

 Share: What emotions rose to the surface? Were there similar ones in both choices?

NOTE: Memoir writing is extremely personal even when you are not preparing to share it publicly. Whether you have mountains of material already at hand and are trying to sort it out, or tumbling about in your heart and soul with no clear direction, it takes time and energy to understand, shape, and mold. Sometimes a seemingly simple exercise will knock you over emotionally for no apparent reason.

So over these next few weeks be kind to yourselves and take a break whenever you need to. The purpose of a memoir journal is to assist you in uncovering and engaging heart, soul, and mind, stories that you want to connect with.

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Journal With Impact: Nature Inform

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them.”                                      John James Audubon

We began this journal section saying, “Art, music, and imagery can become a separate language of communication. So too does nature. It is a language that speaks to us, by personally touching our hearts and souls with meaning, and also by allowing us to share across time and culture with others. Nature as reflection builds a bridge of communication that gives us soul-to-soul threads of understanding.”
With whom do you want to share your discoveries? What age? What method: art, writing, music, comic books, maps, photos, or…? What will be your bridge? Sharing builds communication. It’s like the excitement of watching a gift being opened for a special reason.

We may not have every moment to pour ourselves in, as did Audubon, but because of his commitment he still continues to inspire others because of his nature discoveries that have been passed down through information and art.

And the bonus is the memories continue to be fresh with each encounter. Nature is ever present and ever changing. Share both the ordinary and the unexpected.

Action Steps:

1. Ask yourself, ‘What are three parts of nature that I find the most interesting, intriguing, confusing, symbolic?’ Other categories? Make your own lists.

2. Then ask yourself, ‘What could they be springboards to?’ If as a writer perhaps a new setting for a scene or novel, a vocabulary for metaphors, a source of study, or perhaps a preparation for essays, or articles or devotions.

3. Or a hands-on project for yourself or your neighbors or city? What might that look like? With whom might you be able to share insights to fuel creativity and action?

4. Start a reading list to dig deeper into your territory.

Share: What is your dream? What is your first step?

Read deep, marcy


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Journal With Impact: Nature Interact

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”                     John James Audubon

John James Audubon was both a scientist and an artist. He dove into his passion and has left an amazing legacy not only of his own work, but the inspiration he passed on to others. What action from your journal last week has built up your desire to combine your own practical and creative abilities into an ongoing interaction?

Or, where would you like to investigate more? What time can you carve out? Has anything surprised you in your journal so far that is changing your perspective? The possibilities are endless in nature so to interact means to listen to your heartbeat for your passion.

Several years ago Geary Mandrapilias shared her story in Nature’s Garden that she had begun gardening as an outdoor activity while her children played in the yard. “I was definitely collecting plants but…I certainly did not know I was making a habitat.” Her passion grew and when a fellow Master Gardener suggested she become a wildlife rehabilitator, another one of her interests blended in. She built a chain of three small ponds into her yard that became a habitat for turtles. Later an “assortment of birds, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, and other wildlife” also came.  (Nature’s Garden Magazine Summer 2007)

Sometimes taking our first step of interaction can begin a surprising journey.

In a recent visit to Milwaukie, Oregon, I spotted a few Wildlife signs near driveways during a walk. When I took a closer look I saw they were certifications for backyard habitats. The Portland Audubon society has a program to assist homeowners to interact and help preserve local habitats. Their five program elements include: “removal of aggressive weeds, naturescaping with native plants, pesticides reduction, stormwater management and wildlife stewardship. Two of their concerns under wildlife stewardship include providing water and shelter, and decreasing hazards to wildlife.

Journal ideas of how you would like to interact with nature. Then write out other interests and daydream how they might merge—either in concrete physical action and/or art. 

Action Steps:

1.     Look up the Audubon websites and resources in your own geographic home and see what stewardship or habitat possibilities you might be able to incorporate, even if in a crowded city.

2.     What actions will best combine your personal factual science and your art lean together?

3.     Plan your project.

Share: What is one simple action you discovered for your location?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Journal With Impact: Nature Interest

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“The act of recording a life, in healthy solitude and active connection to loved terrain, is also the act of creating a life.”                                    Hannah Hinchman

How to find that creative interest? Begin from your own home habitat.

Like any other journal, the nature journal also extends from the five minute quick write such as ‘what did I see in nature today that affected me’ to a deep detailed scientific analysis. Sometimes the more we connect the more we want to explore. Our interest is not satisfied with a passing glance.

However there are also so many possibilities to explore that we’re not always sure exactly where we’d like to dig deep. Here are some suggestions to try out a day at a time, or a week at a time, or for long-term studies a month. When you find your journal responses producing more and more questions and ideas, then follow that curiosity.

1. Take a different route for a walk each time. Look for anything that surprises you.

2. Or look for a specific feature: type of tree, animals you see, smells and shapes.

3. Keep a log of the weather patterns or the sunrise, sunset for a month.

4. Choose one spot and look at it morning noon and night. What stays the same? What is different?

5. Choose a particular study such as the moon, or tides, or seasons and watch the changes over a long period of time.

6. Or, on the same idea, watch a nest of birds for their entire cycle while taking daily readings. Mark the day-by-day different changes.

7. If you are keeping a more scientific study create a template page where you can mark dates or time of day, notes pertinent to your study and sketches or photos.

8. Keep a sketch journal only. Or, if unable to draw, take photographs and make it a visual journal.

9. Collect leaves or seeds or stones if allowed. Draw or trace them.

Once, when I first moved to a city that had a different skyline than any I had ever seen I spent every Sunday evening over the next two months describing the colors in the sky. Not one was a replica.

The main idea is to enjoy the beauty and mystery and astounding creation that too often we can take for granted in our busy lives.

Action Steps:

1. Which of the above caught your interest or led you to your own version? Why?

2. Design a study plan that fits your life so you look forward to each week’s    discovery.

Share: What would you like to watch for in nature over the next week or month?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Journal With Impact: Nature Identify

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Journaling from the events of daily life does not mean simply keeping a log or diary of who we saw and what we did each day. It means, rather, writing down the experiences that have affected our soul in a particular way.”   Anne Broyles

Identify what inspires you through nature.

Here is one view—one day—one experience—that had the ability to capture a whole inspiration as Rainer Maria Rilke offers up a prayer from the land that carries across the centuries of time.


            “The leaves are falling, falling as if from far off,
            as if in the distance heavens gardens withered;
they fall with gestures that say, ‘no.’           

And in the nights the heavy earth falls
from all the stars into aloneness.

We are all falling. This hand is falling.
And look at the others: it is in them all.

And yet there is One who holds this falling
with infinite softness in his hands.”

Just as a reflective journal helps connect you to your daily life from a variety of views, so too can a nature journal be approached either randomly, or while trying to study a particular concept, and then go deeper into certain aspects.

One creative writing exercise, often known as the index or table of contents, works well with nature journals to grasp an initial overview to start from. The idea is to make a list of about 20 to 30 ideas or subjects of your choice. A list of potential titles works well too. Do it quickly under a timer to help keep your critical thinking set aside. Try five or ten minutes. One time after I put together a mock index of things I’d like to read/write/study I discovered to my great surprise that 22 out of 25 topics were all nature related.

Below are some headings Hannah Hinchman used in A Trail Through Leaves.
Feeling It In Your Bones
The Power of the Ordinary
The Flow Of Attention
Seeing Order Seeing Chaos
Unmeasureable Phenomena

Action Steps:

1. Make a table of contents list from one particular season and write down as many nature memories you can think of. It can be in a specific season one year or a general overview of memories over the years.

2. Then expand each one with concrete details. For example: Did it rain one whole week? What did it sound like—list all the other characteristics you remember as well.

3. Now go back to the description exercise and choose five episodes from your list above that affected you either positively or negatively. Now write them up in descriptive detail.

Share: Which season most captured your heart?

Read deep, marcy

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