Memoirs: B2BCyber Convention and Book Expo






Genre Tour: Memoir



Memoir as Individual Expression


Hundreds of Ways to Write a Memoir


By Laura McHale Holland
When I sat down to write today, 13th century poet and mystic Rumi came to mind. I’ve been a Rumi fan since I thumbed through Coleman Barks’ The Essential Rumi for the first time in the 1990s. Here’s one of Rumi’s most popular poems—and a favorite of mine:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
The poem’s message applies to myriad aspects of life and types of people—including creative artists, which is what memoirists are. I view it, in part, as an antidote to a world in which so many of us are married to clearly defined ideas of what is good/bad, right/wrong/, correct/incorrect. It helps free me from notions that were pounded into me as a youngster and, I think, offers guidance for memoirists.
“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” I wish my kindergarten teacher had embodied that wisdom when she passed out a mimeographed picture of a bird, along with a set of stubby crayons, to each of her students. She told us to color the bird’s body dark blue, eyes black, legs brown, beak yellow. The sky was to be light blue, the clouds white, the grass dark green, not the mint green that tempted me.
My classmates and I set to work, most of us engrossed in the project. She walked around our tables, offering words of encouragement, nodding her approval or telling some to stay within the lines, others to not press so hard. All was serene till she grabbed Marcie, a girl whose effervescent personality had always captivated me, hauled her in front of the room, picture in tow, and said, “Everyone, pay attention! Look at this picture!”
The teacher held it high for all to see. I looked up and saw the most beautiful bird set in a magical world. Marcie had colored her bird in shades of orange, turquoise and purple. The grass was pink, the sky lavender, the clouds mint green. My project was beyond dull by comparison. I was sure the teacher was going to praise Marcie for being so imaginative.
Alas, the teacher berated Marcie instead. She pointed to each part of the picture and called out, “Wrong color, wrong color, wrong, wrong. Don’t you know how to follow instructions?” Marcie, who had sniveled through this humiliation, burst into sobs, as our teacher ripped up the paper, handed her a new one and told her to start over. High-spirited Marcie ran, head down, to her seat.
Must we know how to follow instructions? Yes, of course. At times, our lives depend on it. We all need to follow the rules of the road, for example: stop at red lights, use turn signals when changing lanes, turn our lights on at night and all that. No one would get anywhere safely if we didn’t.
When it comes to writing, grammar and structure can be likened to rules of the road. Without them, we would have great difficulty conveying meaning to readers with any clarity. However, our lives do not depend on these rules. Indeed, surrealist poet and playwright Nanos Valaoritis, professor emeritus at San Francisco State University who was a beloved mentor of mine, used to encourage students to know what the rules are and then break them. Break them.
I bring this up now because the Internet abounds with articles about what a memoir should and shouldn’t be, what elements a piece of writing should contain to pass muster. Things like truth, theme, first person point of view, reflection, voice, meaning, memory. This is good on the whole. We need to know what people consider the parameters of a given form to be. But as artists, when we pick up pen and paper or type at the keyboard, we benefit greatly if we put all those rules aside and let the words take their own shape and then nurture what is emerging without trying to make sure it’s the right color or stays within the form’s defined lines.
Sometimes someone comes along who turns a form on its head. You could be the next Ntozake Shange, whose choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf masterfully combined dance and poetry and personal story to great acclaim; or Jennifer Lauck, whose stunning childhood memoir, Blackbird, contains zero adult reflection but is nevertheless imbued with meaning and insight.
If you celebrate the creative process as you write, there is the chance you will write something astounding and entirely new. You can get help with commas and structure and all that down the road. Just look for an editor who is more like Rumi and less like my kindergarten teacher, for there are hundreds of ways to write a memoir.


Laura's  Soulsciences Interview Here


for more of Laura McHale Holland's writing click here






Memoir as Connection

Connecting through Our Personal Stories


by Jennifer B. Monahan

Since the beginning of time, stories have been used to share ideas, educate each other, and fire the imagination.  Stories can break our hearts, help us better relate to another person or culture, or teach us right from wrong.

Memoir writing allows someone to tell his or her story and through that telling, connect with others. We have all had life experiences that we can draw from to see ourselves reflected within the memoir.  We can put ourselves into the memoir.  We can imagine what we would do in the same situation as the memoirist.  We can even invent a different ending if we don’t like the one in the memoir.   

In my memoir, This Trip Will Change Your Life: A Shaman’s Story of Spirit Evolution, I tell my journey to becoming a shaman.  Now, not everyone wants to become a shaman, but the main purpose of the book was to help people connect with their higher selves and guides so that they themselves could evolve. There were three main messages that readers connected with:

  1.  Each one of us has moments that shape and define our lives…and ask that we take action based on that moment.  For me, it was meeting a Mayan shaman. For someone else, it might be a serious illness, or the birth of a child, or the loss of a parent.  Regardless, these moments serve as wake up calls in our life and demand some type of response.
  2.  If we choose to ignore a moment, we will get another chance in the future.  Sometimes the timing feels off, or we’re not ready to take that big leap, or we don’t have the support system that we feel we need.  In my life, when I was first called to become a shaman, I tried to do it on the side while still working my day job.  While I was making some progress, I wasn’t taking the big leap into my new life…until I was in a bad accident that made me re-evaluate every aspect of my life.  The beauty of life is that if we don’t make the changes that are being asked of us with the moment, for whatever reason, the universe always provides us with another chance.
  3. And finally, we are not walking this life alone.  There are physical and spirit guides with us every step of the way.  Even when we feel at our lowest, our guides are working behind the scenes to have things manifest in ways that we could never imagine.

What I’ve found is that through memoir, readers begin to tell their stories as well.  So, as I’ve shared my story, I’ve had many readers reach out to me and start sharing their stories.  They’ve shared their moments, the times that they didn’t act on a moment, and second chances.  Through that sharing, we began to connect, understand each other better, and bridge differences to see the similarities in our lives – and that is the true beauty of a memoir.



listen in to Jennifer's Soulsciences Interview here



connect with Jennifer' Spirit Evolution here 






Memoir Reading Teaches Writing, Self-Expression


        How Reading is Helping Me Write a Better Memoir


 by Kathleen Pooler
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ~Stephen King, On Writing
 Most people I know who love to write also love to read—a lot.
Getting lost in a good book is right up there as one my favorite things to do. As soon as I finish one book, I am clamoring like an addict to get my hands on the next one. While I am partial to memoirs, I love to mix it up and dig into a good historical novel, a classic, a book by a writer I’ve never heard of, poetry. The list goes on and the pile of books at my bedside keeps getting taller. And I know you can relate.
Since I am in the revision stage of my work-in-progress memoir, On the Edge of Hope: My Journey Through My Son’s Addiction, I’ve had a laser focus on memoirs by mothers of addicted sons.

Addiction is a cunning beast which storms in like a tornado and leaves its victims shattered and confused. It goes hand in hand with codependency.

Memoirs I’m reading that have created sparks of recognition…



Every once a while, I read a book that sparks fireworks in my mind where scenes from my life pop out at me in rapid-fire fashion and have me grabbing for a pad and pen to jot them down. Pattie Welek Hall’s memoir, A Mother’s Dance: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Full Circle affected me in a deeply personal way as the mother of a son. It is about facing and conquering calamitous events with not one but two young adult sons, one who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident and the other with addiction.


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Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

What was it about Pattie’s memoir that sparked such a reaction in me?
The highlight of a good memoir is the universal connection the reader feels with the story. Even though this is Pattie’s unique story from her point of view, she brought me into her sacred journey in a way that helped me connect with the story of my heart–my journey through my son’s addiction. 
Reading her memoir inspired me to find other memoirs by mothers of addicted sons. There are other powerful memoirs about addicted children, namely, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore  by Maggie Romera,  Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Scheff  and Broken: A Story of Addiction and Redemption by William Cope Moyers but I wanted to focus on the mother-son relationship.

That’s not the first time that has happened…

When I read Sandra Swenson’s The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction, I heard the same bells and whistles go off as I relived my own efforts to help my son and felt the same level of frustration about not being able to control his addiction. Though Joey is still active in his addiction, Sandra has found serenity in her ministry to educate and inspire other parents to believe that letting go does not mean giving up. She chronicles her journey “through the place where love and addiction meet”.   Sandra shares her story in this ASK documentary:
Sandy from Kurt Neale on Vimeo.

More mothers speak up–more fireworks in my mind…

Saving JakeWhen Addiction Hits Home by D’Anne Burwell follows the long, tough road to family recovery, highlighting the shame and silence that often accompanies addiction. What’s unique about D’Anne’s book is that she incorporates the latest resources and research about addiction into her story, reinforcing the point that educating yourself about the disease of addiction will facilitate the recovery process. Through her own arduous journey to understand and cope with her son’s addiction, she has provided a wealth of resources for anyone dealing with an addicted child.

In Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction, educator and author Libby Cataldi shares the story of her son, Jeff’s valiant struggle to recover from severe drug addiction from her point of view. I love the part where Jeff reflects on his side of the story in retrospect. Libby has continued her mission to educate and support those families suffering with addiction through her weekly blog, Stay Close with stories of hope and inspiration about addiction and recovery.
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Each story similar–the same angst and heartache, the initial guilt and shame, the confusion, the silence and sense of betrayal and manipulation a mother feels when she discover her son is an addict. Yet so different in their presentations. All show the struggle and nurture the hope that recovery is possible.
 All these brave women have shared their story in hopes of helping others traveling the same terrifying path. They are advocates for families of addicts through their websites, radio programs, speaking engagements. Sandy helps cook at a home for unwed mothers. Sandy is involved with ASK, a program to educate families about addiction and codependency. D’Anne has  website ASK for Family Recovery. Pattie hosts her own internet radio talk show called Joy Radio. 

How has reading these memoirs helped me with my writing?

*They connected me to my own story in a deeply personal way.
*While reading outside my genre has helped me to learn about style, voice, narration, reading these memoirs has helped me to see how each author delivered their unique story–one I have a vested interest in– in a way that is believable and engaging. They each have their own voice and style, yet they all taught me the value of honest introspection, believable characters and showing their progress toward transformation. The transformation is the part that nurtures the hope.
*Reading a wide variety of authors with similar stories has given me a new perspective on my own voice.
While my story may be similar, it’s still unique to me and I get to tell it in my own authentic voice. There’s no right or wrong. Your story is just that–your story but if you don’t spark a connection with a universal story then the vision of helping others through your own life lessons is lost.
*Each story is an invitation into the sacred space of the mother-son relationship.
***
Pattie, Sandy, D’Anne and Libby are all warrior mothers who have faced the nightmare of awakening to the nightmare of their sons’ addictions. They have faced the truth and have forged ahead to find their own path to recovery. The lessons they share are making a positive difference in the world. They have inspired me to keep writing my own story in hopes of helping others who need it the most.
As I write about my son and the impact of his addiction on our family, I will keep Casey and Bo, Joey, Jake and Jeff and their warrior mothers who never, ever gave up hope, close at heart.

www.lightedpathcoaching.com
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How about you? Have you ever read a book that inspired you in your writing? What about the book inspired you?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
Listen to Kathy's Soulsciences interview here 

discover Kathy Pooler's weekly memoir blog  



Purpose of Writing Memoirs


Why I Write Memoir


by Joy Nwosu lo-Bamijoko


It is my belief that most African stories are memoirs. Just like slavery in the United States of America when most black music was the Blues. Black Americans in bondage sang the Blues, and their brothers and sisters in Africa, also in bondage, told sad stories. A good number of African authors still write about how events of the colonial era, and of the civil wars, affected their lives, and the lives of their people. …We have seen how the power of sad stories moved a whole continent. I have lived through many of the changes that happened in Africa, and I was bursting for release. That is, to lend my voice to the fray. This led me to read, to investigate, and to explore.

My first introduction to memoirs came from reading true stories and true romances. Funny eh?! Those offered the kind of stories available to me when I grew up. I enjoyed the true stories because I could relate to them and put myself in the shoes of the characters in the stories. I cried with them when they cried, and celebrated their victories too.

I used to wait by the vendor every Thursday to be the first to select my true stories and true romances as soon as they got delivered to the vendor, and I would stow them away ready to read in peace and quiet after my chores got done. My mother used to think me a smart child who loved to study, believing me to be an avid learner. If only she knew. And, yes, I learned too. Those stories sowed in me the love I have today for literature, especially my love for true stories.

Later, I became exposed to the great classics, the required books in my literature classes. With this exposure, I became an avid reader of the Bronte Sisters and Jane Austen. Understandably, these writers captivated me the most.

The Power of Memoirs

·       Not all true stories have happy endings. Only during the years of the African awakening, in the 50s and 60s, did I become aware of the non-soapy true stories—the heart-wrenching ones. Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, and from South Africa, hit the literary market in the early 50s. This book became, over-night, the required read for all high schools and above in Nigeria. Even non-literate people wanted to know the story that this book told. For the first time, the whole of West Africa knew what Apartheid truly meant.
·        
·        Although, most African countries had experienced colonialism, we in West Africa had never experienced or heard of Apartheid. This book laid bare to us the horrors of Apartheid, and we did feel horrified. Those of us, in the other parts of Africa, who learned about Apartheid through this book, started to pay more attention to the happenings in the other African countries.
·        
·         Problems fermented throughout Black Africa, and youths (though especially the educated intelligentsia) demanded freedom and independence. Lumumba set The Congo on fire. Nkrumah in Ghana and Azikiwe in Nigeria all demanded a peaceful and bloodless end to the colonial rules in their countries. All over Africa, leaders from amongst the people sprang up and rallied them. Writers had a field day, chronicling the pains and demise of colonialism in Africa.
·        
·        Cry, The Beloved Country became one of those books that prepared the African youths of pre-independence years for battle. The book became a rallying force for African youths. I can remember that I was then in high school, and all high school students were required to read this book and take note. And, for certain, we did take note.
·       See this book today on  Amazon.Com. AA

WILL THE CULTURES SURVIVE?

That became the question that whirled around the big cities of Africa after the onslaught of Christianity in the continent. Africans did not worry only about their freedom, that got taken away from them, but they also worried about their cultures that became subjected to extinction by the zeal of the Christian missionaries.

Shortly after Alan Paton’s story, another powerful book came from Nigeria by the Nigerian literary doyen, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. This book gave a dramatic depiction of the struggles and warfare that waged between the natives, fighting to preserve their culture, and the missionaries, bent on destroying all the effigies of heathenism and replacing them, sometimes, with images of Christianity. It became the struggle to save Igbo culture. This story is still read worldwide today. It offers a legacy to what Igbo culture used to be. Such events, as recorded in this book, rarely get seen anymore in Igboland. But the spirit of the Igbo people lives on.

THE WAR MEMOIRS

The war in Nigeria gave birth to more authors writing about the war and how it affected them, their families, and their country. Three such books in particular touched me to the core. The first, entitled: There Was A Country, again by Chinua Achebe, showed the history of how and why the war happened. Two other books by two female writers, showed life in the war-torn country.
1.     Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, showed how Olanna and Kainene, twin sisters, and their men navigated the war.
2.     Roses and Bullets by Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, showed how two families suffered want and loss throughout the bloody Biafran war.

These three books, all war memoirs, told from the different perspectives of all those who lived it. All prove compelling stories with lessons on the Biafran civil conflict—a senseless and fratricide war—which, instead of healing the country, divided it even more. The same things the people fought to eliminate, returned with force to haunt the country. Today, corruption has become a cancer that has eaten so deep into the fabrics of the country that people doubt the nation will ever survive from it.

WHY MEMOIRS?

During my search, I decided to step away from Africa. I joined a book club and read every true story I came across. One of the books I read during this period left a deep impression on me. The story became responsible for driving the fear of writing away from me. This story got hailed as one of the greatest stories of its time, and of course, I soon joined the scramble to read the book. I bought and read my copy in “double quick time.” The WILD by Cheryl Strayed turned out to be one wild book that left me with an incredibly strong impression. I could not—would not—imagine anyone in Africa, and a woman, doing what the author did. But the story felt so empowering.

As I read these powerful stories, my whole psychology, and the way I looked at life, changed. I saw life the way life really was, with all its murkiness and ugliness. I searched for some good in life, but with everything going on it felt hard to sift the good from the bad.

My memoirs, the first published in 2011, entitled Mirror of Our Lives: Voices of Four Igbo Women, and the second, entitled Pregnant Future, both got written during this period of my search and need to give voice to my pent-up emotions. I did this, mostly, to purge my spirit. The two books have helped in releasing my soul of all the anger, sadness, and disappointments that life had thrown at me, which all got bottled up inside me. Though memoirs, I employed two different approaches in writing them. This is because I wrote them to depict the different stages of where I was in life at the different times of the books.

In Mirror of Our Lives …,  I detached myself from the women I wrote about to allow them to express their anger and fight their battles their way. I became, simply, the onlooker recording their lives. The book portrayed a lot of events, which I did not live personally, but which people I know lived, some of them family members, and some of them friends.

However, in Pregnant Future, I needed to tell my story. I needed to vent. To free me from all the ugly baggage I had carried for a long time. And so, with great difficulty, I tackled the story. This proved such a difficult book for me to write. It was supposed to be my first published book, but because of the dread I had about events contained therein, and the fear of spilling my guts for all to see, I circled away from it and wrote about other things. I chronicled other people’s fears and struggles, their disappointments and victories, and all the time, I asked myself, what about the fears and struggles I personally witnessed and endured?

For instance, in 1962, I was practically smuggled out of Nigeria, out of the continent of Africa and to a foreign country, a European country where English was not spoken. No one prepared me for the trauma of finding myself where I became the odd person out. The plan, originally, had entailed me going to Dublin, but somehow, the plan changed, and for the better, I was told. Instead of a scholarship by the Holy Rosary Sisters, who trained and nurtured me, the scholarship got up-graded to a government scholarship.

At the time, I felt ecstatic about the upgrade. I even looked forward expectantly to living in Rome. Still a child in everything, I had never had exposure to the outside world. There I was, alone and lost.

I mentioned getting smuggled out. Yes. I was spoken for, and my fiancé had determined to sabotage my leaving the country in any way he could. So, I had to leave in a hurry without his knowledge. Few will ever comprehend how it feels to end up alone and lost, unless one has lived it.


Check out more of Joy Nwosu lo-Bamijoko here


Interview 

Joy Nwosu lo-Bamijoko author of Mirror of Our Lives andPregnant Future kindly offered to respond to some questions I asked recently.

Charlene:Joy, you say, “I have lived through many of the changes that happened in Africa.” Please describe to our readers what Africa was like when you lived there, and how you awakened to the broader troubles around you.

Joy: In the years before Independence, we lived in ignorance and in poverty. But we didn’t know this. There was nothing to compare our lives with. All the natives lived the same way, in our grass thatched mud houses, but we were happy.
When the missionaries started coming in, we could see they were different from us, and we accepted that difference as something that set us apart from them. However, when they started trying to change our way of life, by super-imposing their way of life over ours, the die-hard culturalists amongst us, the custodians of our culture, revolted. They too started their campaign against the missionaries, and how they were trying to destroy our culture, and the way we believe, with their new religion.

Charlene: In Mirror of our Lives: Voices of Four Igbo Women   you write as though these women were separate from you. Why did you choose to write in this way?

JoyLike I said in my article, I should have started writing and publishing with my second memoir entitled: Pregnant Future, but I didn’t. This is because, I was not comfortable yet with telling my story. I needed to show first that other women, not just me, went through hardships in life. This was like preparing or watering the ground for my story. After Mirror of Our Lives… and the way it was received by the reading audience, I was ready to embark on my own story. This is not to say that Mirror… is all about other women. No. The first story of the four, is my story, told as if I am looking at my life as an onlooker. The POV of the book was all in the third person. That is what allowed me to tell the story without becoming part of the story.

Charlene: How did detaching yourself from these women affect your writing? Did it make writing easier? In what way did this present more challenges to your writing process?

Joy: This is a great question. For me, writing in the third person is very difficult. I tend to tell a lot, and not show when writing in the third person. I tried the same trick in Pregnant Future. It was first written in the third person. I was still trying to detach myself from that story like I did with Mirror ... But I found a very able Beta-Reader who suggested I change everything into the first person. I did. The problem of telling, disappeared, and the story flowed.

Charlene: In Pregnant Future, you write of a different stage of your life. Please describe that stage and how it differed from the Mirror of Our Lives time.

Joy:   The story in Mirror… was all about after my return from Italy, while the story in Pregnant Future was before and during my stay in Italy. These were two different times in my life.

Charlene: Please Joy describe your arc to achieving a PhD. And how this accomplishment changed your life.

Joy:   This is very interesting. When I returned to Nigeria with my Diploma in music, and was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Lagos, some Nigerians, who did not understand the value of an Italian seven years Diploma, campaigned against me. They claimed that a Diploma, which in Nigeria is given after a two- year course, did not qualify me to teach in a University. I needed to go back to school to prove them wrong. I could not go back to Italy, because I already had the highest credential in Italy for music, which is a Diploma. I needed to go where my credential this time will be a clear Ph.D.
I applied for, and was admitted to the doctoral music program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. After three years there, I returned to Nigeria, and to my job with a Ph.D. in music education, and that ended the feud.




Listen in here for a talk about the power of Memoir from Irene Allison, author of Stay, Breathe with Me.  









watch for My Impossible Life: Memoir by Charlene Jones 

excerpt:
     I stand in the red and white kitchen my mother painted. The cupboards have glass doors and my mother has pasted small decals of flowers —orange, yellow, white— on the bottom edge of each.  She will slam those doors against their frame, screaming and slamming until the glass flies in all directions, the scattered shards of dark angels.

      Not yet. Now she stands by the kitchen sink, her back to me, over the white porcelain. She talks to her budgie bird, “Pretty boy! Say it. Say “Pretty Boy.” Tell me, come on now, who’s a pretty boy?” She chirps like a bird, her voice sing song and the fowl, enchanted by my mother’s sounds, encouraged by her sweet face, charmed by her warmth lands on her shoulder. It shoves its beak into its feathers, then hops on etch-a-sketch bird legs back and forth across her shoulder, dipping its head in rhythm to its own skinny sound, “Pretty boy, who’s a pretty boy, achhhh.”

     I stand on a chair, just tall enough for my arms to reach up to the top of the round, white fridge. That’s where the dirty yellow radio sits, its dials smiling at me. I am not allowed to touch.

     In spite of this my fingers reach out. Without turning, my mother snaps her voice, “Don’t touch that.”

     “I was just…”

     “Don’t. Leave it where it is.”

      Maybe it’s Connie Francis telling me Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, or Bobby Darin yearning for his Dream Lover, or the Platters, Only You. My small body rocks with the music I love. Sometimes when the Platters come crooning through, my mother sings, her voice pitch perfect and I feel her velvet.  That’s on the other days, when she may be making cookies, or peeling vegetables, her face smiling, her kind black- brown eyes suffused with love as she calls me, “honey.” That is the heaven of my short life.

      Not now. No softness now. Her voice bites the air and I hear the warning. Her voice is the first. The leather belt hangs at the top of the basement stairs to her right. That is hell.

      Did my mother know? Did she ever see my brother’s feral eyes peering at me, gloating with triumph after? Did she ever hear in his boy words the imperious humiliation he leveled at me, stripping me of emotional worth after he had invaded my body. For all her visionary ability I believe she was blind and deaf to him, her shining light. Birthed from a line of Scottish visionaries my mother’s mother, Gram, had been born with the caul on her face. Gram told me how her own visions began when she caught her waist length carrot red hair on the tracks of one of the first street cars, what she called a trolley, in Toronto. Outside the door of their convenience store my grandmother’s screams pierced the air where the conductor slammed the brakes on, the smell of electricity acrid in his nostrils, relieved to see as he jumped down only the shining tresses of my grandmother’s precious hair wound ever more tightly into his wheel, which had attempted and failed to pull my grandmother’s head toward its demise and Mama, her one good eye trained on her only daughter, running with the scissors,  clipped her daughter free.

      My Great Grandmother, that Mama, stands behind her two small children in the picture from 1905. Taken when they first landed in the great New World, my Great Grandmother’s one good eye stared down the present, peered through its veils into a future she found more tolerable the more she consumed the alcohol that fueled her blood.

      Did he pluck the eye from her, that man, my biological Great Grandfather? His shadow seeps across the dock in Edinburgh where, toddlers in hand, surrounded by crates of silver cutlery, crystal vases, bowls, glasses, china the detritus of a marriage gone wrong, my Great Grandmother scans across the dangerous voyage before her to a land of safety.

      Her Sight, and love of alcohol, ran true in my grandmother’s blood, sang in her sleep all the nights of her life, whispering to her cells secrets of the future. I believe this because my mother had the Sight. I believe this because that knowing dances in my blood too.

     Visions in dreams: as a child a single dream of horror returned three times: a green valley of slime. I want out! The first two times I scramble up the sides, driven by instinct to the top of the sides where I hoist myself up. Through broken concrete I look back and see the bloodied stumps of what remains of my legs.

      The third time I have the dream I refuse that thrust and walk, terrified to the end of the valley. The dream tucked itself away in an inside pocket I didn’t know I had.

      It returned in the middle of the three days I was held hostage by two criminals, Al and Gary, who splayed a man’s flesh to shreds with a sawed off shot gun, the smell of that blood fingering through my nostrils, flying back out through my mouth in bile and gorge.

      “We’re going out that door. You can run. The highway is 12 miles in that direction,” Al’s sneer twists his face, his finger points. “But we’ll come after you.”

     “And shoot me dead.”

     “No,” triumph in his voice, “No, we won’t shoot you. We’ll shoot the legs out from under you and leave you for the animals to eat.” The dream springs out of hiding, green slime splashing across my inner vision.















My Impossible Life Excerpt 2

My Impossible Life - Excerpt 3

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