Last week I participated in a NAMW teleseminar with Linda Joy Myers on Mining Your Memories. Her use of new terms and a unique slant on things left me thinking differently about my memoir. She asked us to think of 10 ‘turning points’ or moments in our lives to form the basic structure of our memoir. Her simple use of the dynamic words, ‘turning point’, instead of ‘story’, suggests movement through the arc of our story. The turning points serve as markers of our progress through events, crises and the climax until we change and the problems are resolved or at least some change is observed.
Using this framework, I mentally reviewed my stories in chapters already written. I considered all the changes that had occurred in my life. I thought about the births of my 3 younger siblings. I thought about special people in my life: roomers who lived with us when I was a child and were like extended family . I thought of the child I was until the age of 9 and how much I changed after we moved to the suburbs. I thought about family secrets revealed when my grandfather died. I thought about the secrets I carried and how that affected me. Now I realize what the theme of my story is and how I need to shorten the time frame and write a tight focused memoir instead of a sprawling life story. The turning points or stories that I choose will be the ones that speak to my theme.
The next step will be to plot my turning points on my time line. Instead of plotting my entire life, I will plot only the first 18 years and see where that takes me.