While my mother was failing in her later years, she indicated that she wanted me to find some money she had hidden her house. I use the word “indicate” because Mom’s stroke had rendered her unable to speak. My siblings and I needed the cash, since Mom was too ill to sign checks to cover her care or her household expenses.
Before she became ill, Mom wouldn’t tell my sister, my brother, or me where to find her important documents, how much money she had, nor where it was, only that we’d have enough to bury her. Our father had died twenty years earlier, so we couldn’t ask him. And he wouldn’t have known anyway, because she had kept her money secret from him, as well.
So, how would my siblings and I find our mother’s money? And how would we know when we had found all of it?
My memoir chronicles our discovery that the money my mother had hidden in her house was mere fraction of her financial assets. It describes the search we undertook to locate those assets, and the shocks and disillusionment we experienced along the way.
If you’re writing a book and want to tell us the plot—or just get some encouragement—please leave a comment.
To see some of the memoir writing resources I’ve found most helpful for my writing students’ work, as well as my own, take a look at Must-Have Memoir Writing Aids. And check the comments on that post for even more excellent resources.
Lynette, this sounds so interesting! I can’t wait to read the book.
I cannot wait to read your memoir. For some reason, I think many, many people can relate to your story. It holds within it the secrets and dynamics that we experience but rarely talk about behind the walls of our families. Intriguing!
Linda Gartz says
I, too, think your memoir will be fascinating once done. It takes a long time for us to understand just what it is we’re writing about — underneath the obvious facts. That said, this memoir-writing business must be for masochists! I’m struggling in my ninth year to try to find the core of the story I want to tell that’s embedded in literally thousands of pages of diaries, letters, documents and photos that my family has kept for more than 100 years. I’ve pored over those letters, making charts and notes of events so I could find them again quickly when I needed a quote or a refresher of facts, but I’m still trying to come to grips with the real “story.” Yes, I’m sick of it. Yes, I ask myself, “Why am I spending these hours on this when I could be a “normal” person: reading more, watching more movies, knowing the plots of the latest TV shows, more weekend get-aways, living more fully in my present life than wading through the past? (My son told me: “You and I are different. You like dead people!”)
(BTW, I DO enjoy my life and do some of the above, but clearly — only 24 hours in a day). So…I’ve made amazing discoveries about my close family — people I knew, but now understand — I didn’t really know. It’s informed my opinions of them, helped me to comprehend family rifts, angers, and even hatreds that seemed sad and pointless. Now I see root causes. So I keep plugging away. I get new inspirations and ideas constantly. This memoir business is a process. I thought I’d read the stuff and knock something out in a year. No way. Incubation takes time — and that thoughtfulness will, hopefully, create a memoir others want to read. Thanks for a great post.
Lynette Benton says
Oh, Linda. Nine years?! Brutal. But your persistence is an example to us all.
What you’re doing is so worthwhile. I know b/c I’ve visited your site; it’s terrific. I also hired a developmental editor, who was helpful in directing me to the core of my story.
Christin Geall says
Lovely to read about your journey from gorging yourself on ‘novelistic’ memoir to the thinking narrator. I’ve travelled the same path from my MFA thesis to a draft. Teaching younger creative writing students in nonfiction has made me aware how critical this element is to personal essay/memoir….it’s helps students develop a voice.
Keep me apprised of your progress. And good luck!
Lynette Benton says
Best of luck to you, Christin. See you back on Twitter.
Lynette! Thanks for directing your tweeps to this post, which I missed earlier in the year. It’s a compelling story because money is such a taboo in our culture, which is ironic since it is also one of the central forces in our lives, whether we have a lot or a little of it. I wish you success in publishing it and look forward to reading it.
I’m also grateful for Linda Gartz’s honest contribution in the comments. She is spot on when she writes of how essential it is to understand what we’re writing about, beneath the surface of the actual topic. It has taken me two years to work that out for my current work in progress. I am thrilled to have a detailed outline for a book that I really can see in my head now. Regularly I despaired of ever reaching that point. Linda, I do suspect nine years means it’s time for you to get some freelance help, but obviously something in all of that material needs to be told.