Get Organized to Write More in 2012

by Memoir Mentor on January 10, 2012

It starts after I heft the last of the Christmas decorations into the garage attic. I look at the blank spaces in my house where the manger scene, Christmas village, and other decorations sat and realize I need to fill them with the pictures, flower arrangements, and other doo-dads that sit in those places the other months of the year.

Pulling those accessories out of their storage places makes me look at them in a new light. Maybe I ought to arrange them differently this year, I think. Why should the house look the same year after year? And so I create a new arrangement on the coffee table with photos, picture books, and a candle. It looks pretty nice, but it could use a little greenery to soften the effect, so I borrow a small arrangement from another room to see if it works. It does. Then I work on another area, soon moving things from room to room, rummaging through drawers for this and that, setting a few things aside for Good Will, and…I’m on a roll.

I can feel the buzz of an organizing binge taking on a life of its own. It can last for days as I move from tabletops to bookcases to drawers to closets. Sometimes I become so engaged in the process, I forget to eat, which is a good thing. You know, because of my Pioneer Woman escapade?

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On Food and Holiday Stories

by Memoir Mentor on January 4, 2012

I’ve decided this blog post will combine two writing assignments I gave my students recently: Write a story about a holiday memory, and write a story about food.

I’ve  been thinking a lot about food in the last two months, and the scales show it. It’s natural, after all. As Mom and Grandmother, I’m in charge of holiday food preparation (we’re traditional at our house)–and Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two biggest food holidays of the year, right?

Ree Drummond

I discovered “The Pioneer Woman” (TPW) on the Food Network in mid-December, and since then my cooking and waistline have taken off on a new trajectory. After being thoroughly enchanted by TPW’s Christmas show, I checked out her blog and felt like the last person arriving at a gala party. I consider myself a foodie of sorts, and I wonder how I could be so out of the loop. Why, she (Ree Drummond, aka TPW) has a mind-boggling 20-plus million people visit her blog every month. Amazing! Where have I been?

I may be a little slow on the uptake, but I’ve scrambled to make up for lost time. Since watching TPW’s Christmas show, I’ve made her cinnamon rolls TWICE (delivering them to my nearest and dearest the way she did on her show, but without the cowboy duds), her prime rib, cream gravy, and Dutchess potatoes (served on Christmas Eve to rave reviews), and her Italian Chicken Soup (last night’s dinner fare). I’ll say this in my behalf: I’ve spent substantial time looking through the comments on TPW’s blog, and it seems to me that most of of her followers say things like, “Sounds like a yummy recipe. I’ll have to try it.” I just wonder how many of them walk the talk like I’ve done, and in such a short amount of time!

TPW has carved out a great niche for herself in the foodie sector with her city-girl-turned-ranch-wife narrative. That, plus her lively personality and mouth-watering recipes (cinnamon rolls!) have garnered her a well-deserved following. My friend Lorna says I must read her books. Really, how does TPW find the time? She even home-schools her four kids! [click to continue…]


The Magic of Mood: Molly Shelton Shows Us How

by Memoir Mentor on December 9, 2011

Thinking about incidents from my past I may write about brings up emotions associated with those experiences. When I write a story about an event in my life, it’s as important that I communicate how the incident made me feel as it is that I describe what happened. One way to accomplish this is to control the story’s mood.

Stories, like people, have a mood, be it fanciful, somber, ironic, angry, scary, etc. Often your story’s mood springs naturally from the emotions you’ve resurrected as you craft your story and intuitively influences your word choices, sentence structure, pacing, and decisions about what you call to the attention of your reader and the amount of detail you ascribe to it. All of these things contribute to your story’s mood. We need to be careful that the mood of our story conveys the emotional experience we attach to it.

As you read the marvelous story below, you will be captivated—perhaps mesmerized is a better word—by its mood. Indeed, our class felt mesmerized when it was read to us in the soft, lilting voice of its author, Molly Shelton. Molly is a careful writer, weighing the effect of her word choices, savoring the experience in her memory as she writes and sharing the details that are important to her. Molly could have told us this story in a variety of ways, but the mood she chose to create lets us experience her adventure the way she experienced it. As you read her story, notice what she does to sweep you along with her to a very special place.

The Tale of an Eagle and an Ego
by Molly Shelton

Jim and I are in Banff, British Columbia. We park our motorhome at the back of the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, just as did the year before, alongside the Bow River. There is still some tension in the air because at breakfast I’d flippantly said, “It would sure be great if you were as thrilled to be with me as you are to get on that golf course!”

“Hon, I thought you wanted to spend the day looking for that eagle. And you know how much I love being here with you and getting to play this course again.”

Somewhat contritely, but still off-put, I replied, “I do…but you’re so excited I feel like I’m in second place when it comes to your golf.”

Jim looked at me. “I don’t even know how to answer that.”

And there it was left. He started asking me about my plans for the day and things were quickly smoothed over.

He has barely taken the key out of the ignition when I jump up and double-check my little backpack to make sure I have everything I need for the next four hours—six, if he decides to play all 27 holes: trail map, binoculars, bird book, a banana, and my

straw hat will take care of the first three hours or so. Later, I will need the post cards, Sharpie pen, colored pencils and, of course, a writing pad and a book for when I sit at the writing table next to the huge windows in the Rundle Room on the mezzanine of the hotel. Flipping the backpack over my shoulder, I eagerly pop open the door and step onto the river rocks. The cold, rushing water charges the air. Jim is just behind me, carrying his golf bag and putting on his cap.  [click to continue…]

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