See the pile of notebooks amongst some of my French stuff I used to keep focus while I was writing The Holy Éclair? Those are the 5 different versions that the book took over the last ten years, as I worked and reworked it from time to time–not five different edits, but COMPLETE REWRITES, each one with countless edits. I guess you could say that it took me a while to figure out what the story was amongst all my memories and how I wanted to tell it. I kept at it because I loved the characters (real life people) so much and couldn’t ignore the changes they had made in me. And I had a few talented people challenging me to get it right and cheering me on as I struggled.
The most influential person was undoubtedly Nathan Bransford, my agent from years ago. Do you know Nathan? He’s not an agent anymore, though he’s still the person tons of writers go to for help through the best writing and publishing website around, blog.nathanbransford.com. I’m so grateful for the guidance Nathan gave me. Lucky for writers today, his new work allows him time to be available for consultations and editing, query critiques and brainstorming. So if you’re an aspiring author, check out what he does.
When I contacted Nathan about the release of The Holy Éclair, he was kind enough to ask me to do a post about writing memoir over at his blog. So I’m starting today’s post here, and continuing it over at Nathan’s site. I hope you enjoy it!
Within days after moving our young family to France, I knew that I had to write about it. During one of my early conversations with my new neighbor, Madame Mallet, the old lady looked at Baby Sam on my hip and said, “I prefer cats to children, though I do have a great nephew who isn’t too annoying.” When I smiled and nodded, (and wondered if I had translated her correctly) she added, “I call him Le Spermatazöide because he “was conceived by artificial insemination.” Just to be sure I understood, she added a series of strange charades.
Crazy stories were one thing, but a memoir was another. Could I tackle a project that big? Still, I kept writing, collecting stories that meant something to me. Four years later, as we packed our life into a shipping container and got back on the plane to South Carolina, I began to see the story arc underneath. After much wrestling and struggle, this larger story became French By Heart.
Now, years later, I’ve returned once again to the house on the corner of allée des Cerisiers to tell a story that I didn’t share in French by Heart, a more personal story whose characters have been whispering and shouting and stomping their feet inside my head for ten years. Even though this sounds like mental illness, I finally decided to give in and let them speak. In The Holy Éclair, Signs and Wonders from an Accidental Pilgrimage, I reveal how the town prostitute, a French chef, a homeless Brit, Vincent van Gogh himself, and a band of other ragtag saints turned my faith upside down during that first year in France, revealing the wildness of God’s love and teaching me the true meaning of grace.
So here I am writing memoir again. Does memoir appeal to you? Does your life hold a story that nags you for attention? Are there voices inside your head too, begging you to tell the stories you have in common?
If so, I have a few thoughts that might be helpful….
To read the rest of this post, hop over to Nathan’s blog, here! And while you’re there, take a look around! He’s a great guy to hang out with!