So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much!

p.s. my mom now refers to me as the family "chronicler" - getting down all the family stories. How I love that title!! :)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Writing about our lives, our families and ourselves

Today is Sunday already. I slept most of Saturday. I needed the rest from the chronic pain I seem to live with daily now.

But I am working on getting it under control. I have a writing class coming up on April 30, Tuesday at 2:00 PM. This is a memoir class sponsored by ICL, the Institute of Continuing Learning at Young Harris College.

ICL has been around for a number of years and they engage talented instructors in varied subjects that teach classes for adults, most of them retired people who live in our area. I have learned from some excellent teachers there, and I have taught several times as well.

Once an older adult told me, "My grandchildren think I grew up when people traveled in covered wagons, so I decided I needed to write about what my life was like."

I have been told, "I don't know how I can write about seventy years of life. It is just too overwhelming!"

That is why I help my students write about the most important parts of their lives and they can take it one small part at the time. You know the old saying How do you eat an elephant? One bite at the time.

When I wrote my family history book, I decided to write about my grandfather and grandmother and their ten children. I told the stories of each one of them in a few pages, and then I added the genealogy of each of them. They were not rich or famous, but their lives were examples of rural life in the late eighteen hundreds and early twentieth century in north Florida and south Georgia.

My grandfather, Tom Council, was born in 1858, a short while before the Civil War began. His father served in the war and was taken prisoner. They lived in a  rural area south of Tallahassee, Florida. Everyone in the family worked in the fields on the farm.

Tom's first child, a girl, was born in 1878 or 1879. His first son, born in 1883, died at the age of 14 from malaria. He is buried at the Council Cemetery in Wakulla County Florida.

The family moved up to south Georgia after John Henry died and the other children had a completely different life. The cotton mills were being built in the south by men from the north. Since there were no child labor laws at the time, all of the children in the family worked in the mill. The girls enjoyed their new life much better than working on the farm. In their teens they married and began families. 

In the 1920s, Florida began booming with growth and drew most of the family members to the Tampa area. All of my father's brothers and sisters ended up down there. I still have many cousins in the sunshine state.

I was so fortunate that my mother and my cousins told me their stories. I had to edit most of them and tried to include only the most interesting parts for my readers. 

Now I am working on writing about my brothers and sisters and my parents. Each one of them has a story that is unique and interesting. I hope I do them justice.

My mission in teaching is to help my students create interesting nonfiction narratives while including the facts in their lives or the lives of their family members. We can only do our best to tell the truth as we know it and remember it, because no two people will remember exactly the same things. 

I look forward to my classes, hearing the stories written by my students and helping them create the best narrative they can. We write short pieces that I use to teach the basics in writing. 

My classes are listed on under Studio Classes and Off site Classes. I am so pleased when students write to me and tell me how much they enjoy our time together.


Elephant's Child said...

Memoirs, biographies and autobiographies are always on my 'go-to' list. I feel no urge to write my own though, other than a few snippets I have put on my blog. Later perhaps...

Glenda Beall said...

EC, I can only imagine what a unique and interesting life story you have. I, too, read memoir, biographies and autobiographies more than I read fiction. I have found that truth is often more interesting to me than the imagination of an author. But I do like novels based on true facts such as Pat Conroy's books about his dysfunctional family. His memoir, the Death of Santini is also excellent.

DJan said...

I just finished a couple of memoirs. When I visit the library, I always look at the most recent ones that have arrived and usually end up with one or two. I just finished "Somewhere Near the End," written by Diana Athill in her nineties. :-)

Abbie Taylor said...

Thank you for sharing a little bit about your family's history. Good luck with your upcoming class.