Back To My Memoir

By now most of you will be wondering when I’m going to stop writing about my great-aunt Lena. Between Christian Cassidy's research and my own, we have exhausted the topic. Apart from some LDS research I need to do before erecting a monument on her grave at Brookside Cemetery, I’m finished. We now know far more about her life and death than we ever did before. This exercise illustrates the amount of detail that can be gleaned from genealogical, archival and geographical research to bring to life the characters of your memoir. The family photos, news coverage from the fire and a lot of 'perhapsing' resulted in a real person coming to life on the page. I will leave this topic for now and move back to my memoir which has been lying fallow these many months.

After writing the first draft of what I thought was the first two thirds of my story, I got stuck on where and how to end it. I played around with various possibilities but nothing felt right to me. Advice from my writing pals and teacher didn't help either. The unexpected death of our daughter Milo in May 2010 and other family demands crowded in on my writing time. I distracted myself with genealogical research on my husband's family and setting up another blog. I even considered chucking my memoir!

A few weeks ago when playing on Facebook or Twitter, I can't remember quite how, I came upon the website of James FitzGerald, a Toronto author and journalist. I then connected to the Random House site  where the first chapter of his latest book, WHAT DISTURBS OUR BLOOD is available. The power of his voice knocked me out. I could see how he deftly braided together the threads of a complex (far more so than mine) family and personal memoir as well as a medical history of his prominent grandfather and father told from the voice of the boy, himself. Suddenly, I could see a way forward for my story.

Now I'm writing again and it will be in my voice, my style, my weaving of the threads of my own story. You never know where the inspiration will come from. Just keep reading. The writing will follow.

Copyright © 2011, Ruth Zaryski Jackson

The Saga of a Blocked Blogger by Sandy Naiman

Sandy Naiman
age 4 years

Sandy Naiman
Photo by: Mary McIntyre
 Many years ago from the time I was about 11, I babysat for a family across the street from us. Last name: Naiman. Oldest daughter: Sandy Naiman, well-known Toronto journalist at The Sun for 30 years, featured blogger at The Star for 2 years, and currently blogging for PsychCentral. Sandy is a mental health advocate and blogs openly of her journey and struggles for balance in her life. I recontacted her a year ago and asked her to be a guest speaker at a WCDR breakfast sometime. Here is her blogpost about her experience on February 12, 2011:

Copyright © 2011, Ruth Zaryski Jackson

West End Dumplings: Elmwood’s Riverview Hotel (Part 4): The life and d...

Here is the reposting of Christian Cassidy's final chapter on the death of my maternal Great-Aunt Lena Huckan in a fire at the Riverview Hotel 1918.

West End Dumplings: Elmwood’s Riverview Hotel (Part 4): The life and d...: "Elmwood’s Riverview Hotel series: Part 1: Winnipeg gains a suburb Part 2: A controversial place Part 3: A 'near holocaust' Part 4: The life ..."

Copyright © 2011, Ruth Zaryski Jackson

West End Dumplings: Elmwood’s Riverview Hotel (Part 3): A 'near holoc...

Here is Christian's post on the fire at the Riverview Hotel February 5, 1918:

West End Dumplings: Elmwood’s Riverview Hotel (Part 3): A 'near holoc...: "Talbot Ave fire brigade ca. 1921 (source) Though the Elmwood fire hall was within view of the Riverview's front door, at around 3:30 a.m...."

Copyright © 2011, Ruth Zaryski Jackson

My Obsession With My Great-Aunt Lena

Lena Huckan Winnipeg c. 1914

My obsession with my great-aunt Lena has been contagious. Christian Cassidy, a local historian and Winnipeg blogger, has picked up the family story of my great-aunt Lena's death in a hotel fire in Winnipeg on February 5, 1918. He has written a four part piece on the anniversary of the fire and posted his research, with newly discovered photographs from the Manitoba Archives, on one of his captivating blogs called West End Dumplings. I am very grateful to him for uncovering this additional information and publishing her sad story to a wider audience. Thank you Christian!

Copyright © 2011, Ruth Zaryski Jackson