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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Personal Audience

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“We store in memory only images of value.” Patricia Hampl

Personal experience and special audience can overlap in several ways depending on your focus. The details that you choose will become your center factor. For example if you are traveling for the first time with an infant or toddler that is very personal immediately, and memoir fodder, and definitely a special type of how to travel.

The attitude tone before, during, and after, can be humorous, dramatic, frustrating, frightening, or exhausting. Or possibly all of them overlapping!

There are many personal details and memories for any type of travel we do, but the most personal are the ones that impact or change us in some way we did not expect. And we may not realize or recognize the impact immediately. But something lingers, a small memento becomes an item of value, a memory or feeling keeps coming to the surface. And we might wish we could go back in time and process a little deeper into those moments.

One possible way to dig deeper all along is to develop a general outline that can be organized into three parts: before, during, and reflection. And adapt your note taking to the purpose and style of each adventure—again whether a day trip or a long excursion.


Before. Set up questions for your intended purpose. Just mark a few words. Why am I doing this? Why am I going there? What are my expectations? Why am I taking my dog? What difficulties might I expect traveling with a cello?

Personalize the lure of this travel trip now and what you hope for.

During. Set up a few simple questions that directly relate to your original hopes. Because time and fatigue at the end of each day can become a factor try for one or two word answers or a visual image that embraces the moments. (See action steps)

Reflection. Give yourself a few weeks before reflection. Especially if you are dealing with time zone changes or have an ultra busy return schedule. But then put aside a few hours to read over your notes, look at your photos and mementos, and remember some conversations. Now do a five to ten minute brainstorm technique where you write without stopping, or worrying about sentences or spelling. Just write down everything you can think of that you personally reacted to. Read your notes over and underline the few that stand out or surprised you.

With whom do you most want to share your experience? Why? What has affected your heart?

Action Steps: Daily Notes

1. Again sum up in one word or phrase that reflects this particular day for you: physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.

2. If you are measuring your trip/time from a success definition, for example fulfilling your day’s purpose or agenda, then give it a rating.

3. Whether disappointed, neutral, or enthralled write down the insight that gives you that response.

4. What happened today that you never anticipated?

Share: Which of the daily notes will be the easiest for you to keep track of? Which one is more challenging?  

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Focus

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

What is your own personal angle or curiosity?

In The Travel Writer’s Handbook, 2nd edition, by Louise Purwin Zobel, he lists twelve main article patterns that are often developed in travel magazines and books. Each of them can apply to your own personal journals whether or not you want to share with others. Also for those of you focusing on developing a memoir, note if any of these categories might also fit as an umbrella outline for your book length draft.

Notice too that although the material may have a similar foundation in each of these styles, the main focal purpose is the distinguishing difference, whether generalized or viewed under a magnifying class. These descriptive details will affect which category the content will be best presented. He lists four main categories with a sub- point in each.

“From your own Experience: Personal Experience. Advice travel. Humor Article.

Special Audiences: Who travel. How travel. What travel.

Readers On a Journey: Travel Flavor Article. Definitive Destination. Gimmick travel.

Easy Pegs: Roundup. Historical. Here and Now.”

Action Steps: Trip Exercise from a personal experience.

Choose a location from a day or weekend trip you’ve had within the last few months. As you brainstorm through the questions mix up your methods to discover different aspects from different angles.

1. Cluster/brainstorm all you can remember. What did you see? What did you do?  What was planned? Unplanned?

2. Set scene.

3. If you were to sum it up in one word or phrase what would it be? What specifically stood out to you?

4. Go back through your brainstorming and add in your feeling/reactions etc. Write them in with different color pens.

5. Choose a format: essay or article. Write your outline. Write your first paragraph. (More details in section 6)

6. Draft entire piece. Let it sit for a t least a week. Read it over and add in forgotten bits. Sit another week. Revise.

Or alternate version: Pick a place you’ve been to repeatedly and then tell it as if a one visit combining different insights.

Share: Were you surprised by a detail you didn’t notice before? What detail made it stand out?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Influence

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Doing these four things, you will discover why you were compelled to relive being with a particular person or at being at a particular place or event.” Sheila Bender

Travel makes a definite influence on our lives whether we do it daily on a local basis, or for vacation, or for special occasions. In addition to the personal reflections and family memoir material, travel journals can become stepping-stones to articles or settings for fiction, or blog material, or both. By focusing our perspective on travel details we also hone our observation and descriptive skills. Sensory detail is crucial.

When writing description in essays, Sheila Bender gives this advice. “1) Stay with the senses. 2) Make comparisons in order to share the experience as it was in the very moment you had it. 3) Stay in those moments that interest you. 4) Present experience itself. Your images have authority. They say, ‘This is how it was for me’.”

Description is one of the key ingredients for travel writing of any kind whether personal or public. With modern apps we can automatically keep a visual record, but a journal will go deeper by adding the atmosphere in ways that others can relate to our adventures.

Action Steps: Try out this journal prompt as a test run for potential material.

1. Make two side-by-side lists of One) ten places you’ve traveled to, and Two) ten places you’d like to go. (Can include repeats)

2. Are there any similarities or patterns in your choices?

3. Also note if there are any places you tend to look for no matter where you are?  My children surprised me on one road trip with an exasperated comment that I always spot the bookstores. As far as I knew I simply watched out the windows at everything as we drove by. However, they told me that whenever I saw a bookstore I would say so out loud.

Share: Do you have an interest you instinctively watch for when driving through small towns? Or set up on a map app to locate when you arrive?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family Journal Vacation Worksheet

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Creating memories is a priceless gift. Memories will last a lifetime; things only a short-period of time.”                                                                                          Alyice Edrich

Family Journal Vacation Worksheet

  1. Make a list of all the Events you remember that happened. (ex. flat tire)

  1. People
a. Make a list of all the people there: family, friends, and strangers that you noticed for a reason.

b. Next to each name put what was the distinguishing characteristic of that person at that time. (ex. lady in snack shack—wild hair) (brother—told new joke every day).

  1. Describe the Setting: place, weather, smells. Be sure to choose specific words rather than generalize.  For example, just how cold did it get at night: chilly or freezing?

  1. Was there then, or afterwards, an image or repeated phrase that became a code for that vacation? One friend shared that this turned into several favorite reminders for their various adventures.           

  1. What is your specific emotional connection to this vacation that makes it your funniest or most embarrassing or….. ?

6.     Write out a rough vignette draft of that vacation.

Action Steps:

1. After you’ve put all your thoughts together, make a copy for each person with you on that trip and give them each your version.

Share: Did any memory surprise you when you did the worksheet? What made it stand out?

Read deep, marcy

Note: I found the quotes for this family section at They had a lot more that you might find more personal, especially if you are beginning to prepare a memoir, which we will be examining later in the series.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family Vacations

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Your memories are your jewels!” Julie Butler

Family Vacations

Family vacations have the capacity to turn into books, especially if they extend to family reunions, or special locations visited each year, or combining group holidays that also include friends. Next week I will post a generic worksheet that can be a base line to build on, but for this section reflect on your own personal memories.

First make a specific list of the: best, worst, easiest, hardest, happiest, saddest, longest, shortest, funniest, and unexpected details.

Then choose one specific memory and do a worksheet by writing out it out as a visual photo frame, as if you were standing before a movie screen watching it happen.

Then choose a yearly event and, “Retell this generic memory as if it happened just once. In telling it as a single, one time memory, try to evoke the experience as a single vivid moment in time.”  Make a note of all the highlight features and write it as one incident.  You can choose to write it as a letter, or a short story, or as a vignette, or as if writing a travel article.

For example, for many years I spent the summers with my aunt, a schoolteacher who had summer months off work. My first poetry memoir, Summer Sketches, reflected the memories of those summers by combining several summers into one: some by personalities and some by adventure. The “only” captured my first surprise when five-years-old and found its way into this vignette when I wrote the normal everyday activity as an adult.


                                    Every morning a fresh
                                                pot of porridge bubbled on the stove.
                                    It could be stirred
       with a long wooden spoon and
       by my uncle.”

Action Steps:

1. First choose one very familiar detail to write about and then pick an unusual, or one-time only occurrence.

2. Write them up as a combined memory? What feelings do you notice came to the surface?

3. Now rewrite the first familiar version.

Share: What style did you write your memory up as? What specific feature surprised you?

Read deep, marcy


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family Communications

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Memories shared serve each one differently.” Robert Evans

What kind of communication works best with your individual family members that will enable you to go beyond the surface details: weekly, monthly, or yearly?

Our technical era makes it possible to do instant connections but look at some ways to go a little deeper.

Some possibilities might include an old-fashioned round-robin letter so readers can participate without rushing. Or consider a regular e-mail circular to family only. Try out a designated Facebook group for family only.

Perhaps set up color-coded calendar as to when to touch base with each other with a regular conversation before the activity timeframe becomes too overloaded to share all the details and the communication becomes superficial.

Even a few minutes with a weekly Facetime to share a smile can keep a caring relationship healthy.

For special family events such as birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and other highlight occasions take a few minutes to extend the involvement and pass each person’s reactions around to everyone.

Some communications might include having each family member write up their favorite memory of that specific event. Or each person writes down a blessing, or share a Bible verse, or a promise, or a prayer, or a gift of time. Do a photo scrapbook that is shared with everyone. Or do a memento scrapbook (like an old fashioned quilt).

Action Steps:

1. Choose a system that you haven’t tried before to see if that becomes more efficient than your current mode of communication?

2. Then look for ways to make the system fun so that it is not another required to-do item but something you all look forward to.

3. Think of ways that will include all ages regardless of technical abilities.

Share: What method of communication has worked for your family so far? What method are you going to experiment with?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family Reunions

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Memories are created by what we do not by what we think.” Byron Pulsifer


What family memories mean the most to you? Have you asked other family members what they remember? Family reunions are a natural opportunity to bring up family stories, but not always the best time to go deeper.

Yet it is a good way to capture events that might otherwise go unnoticed. Photographs and videos and art sketches help to capture the immediate conversations, yet usually there is some back-story as well. Family gatherings can be a great source to begin to gather memories that otherwise would be lost.

Look for ways to ask the older generation questions and record them when possible. Or consider trying to do a group memory of a particular incident.

If talking about family history while at the reunion is not appropriate, then set up appointments either in person, or by phone, and do mini interviews. Ask fun questions such as how did you get your name? And how did their name be a positive, or negative, or neutral, experience growing up? Did it get twisted into nicknames?

Or search out the Family “secrets.” Was the person with the reputation really a black sheep or just different from the others? What happens if it’s revealed that another relative was living a lie?

Additional Applications
Consider mentors as well who have contributed to life wisdom, faith walk, or your vocational field and set up questions and interview with them too.

“Memories, important yesterdays, were once today’s. Treasure and notice today.”
                                                                                                                              Gloria Gaither

Action Steps: Here are a few interview tips to get started.

1. Be specific about what you want to discuss before you meet in person.

2. Prepare a list of possible questions and leave the most difficult questions to the end.

3. Be prepared to listen rather than trying to keep your agenda.

4. Focus on one or two aspects.

5. Pay attention to body language and other silent responses.

Share: Did you discover a memory that turned out to be different from the reality?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family Heirlooms

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.” Bob Dylan

Family Heirlooms

Write down what you or other family members pass along through generations, either of value or humorous. Some of our Christmas ornaments seemed a bit odd after a few generations.

Why do some items become so special that there is conflict over who inherits it? Or is something a complete mystery?

One item that my youngest aunt saved for me from my paternal grandmother was a christening gown, made of intricate lace and exquisite needlework. Each child in the family had worn it, and I was the last to inherit it. How she came upon such a rich garment from a very low working-class background was a secret that no one knew the answer to. But it traveled across the ocean with her and was used for the christenings of her next three children born in her new country.

Choose one particular item and catalog it as if a museum piece. Send out letters asking siblings or cousins what stories they remember and then put them all together as a collection.

Action Steps:

1. What heirloom has a secret?

2. Is it dangerous?

3. What damage could it do to present relationships?

Share: What item did you choose?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Journal With Impact: Family History

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.” Corrie ten Boom

Family Stories

Some family stories are repeated every time relatives get together. Sometimes as an icebreaker, or common ground, or a particular incident that no one wants forgotten. Perhaps to reflect an incident of pride or, unfortunately, to nurture a grudge. And like the telephone whisper game the reality at the beginning may not be what is still being passed down through the generations.

Or to clear perspective. A cousin and I talked recently about one of our relatives. Because she is older than me she knew more details of an incident that I, as a five-year-old at the time, had heard but not fully understood. In turn, I was able to share a later update in my teens, which she had not been aware of. Between the two of us we realized a huge gap had existed for both of us. And the reality gave us both a fresh perspective.

Journal Sources
Some places to look to fill in the gaps or jog your own stories are photo albums, especially those that include anecdotes or vignettes. Look for those both with or without stories, autobiographies and biographical sketches. Look to see if any family members kept a memory book, either as an individual or for the whole family.

Is there a family tree or special notes in a family Bible? Did anyone keep a record of archives? Sometimes even a day-today diary that only lists chores or business can open up a picture of the past no one was aware of or had forgotten.

Past. Think of a specific relative in your past. What do you wish you knew about their particular circumstances or their feelings?

I knew at some point in my life that my paternal grandmother had crossed the Atlantic in 1911 to join her husband. She had three young children under the age of ten. Yet the full concept didn’t connect with me until I saw a ship from that era and the unit size she and the children would have occupied. I was stunned at the deprivation and wished I could know more about her courage to immigrate. All I had of her were a few pictures.

Future. Write a letter to a grandchild or great grandchild, niece or nephew in the future. What do you want them to know about their family—what do you feel is so important that it must be remembered?

Action Steps:

1. Make a list of some key relatives in your past. Then choose two from different generations and write a letter to them.

2. Put it aside and then re-read the following day. Were you surprised at some of your questions? Did you think of some more?

3. Now write one to a future family member. Again leave overnight and revisit. And surprises?

Share: What has been a special story that has been passed along to you?

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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