#16 About Writing Your Memoir

06/21/2017

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I always tell people, “Everyone should do this.” But with the caveat that you probably should not do it until you’re at least 50 years old, because you might not be able to handle it.

It’s no small deal. Telling your truth honestly and earnestly means time-travel, not just remembering. Being a disembodied observer looking down impartially like a sacred voyeur. You will see things you never saw– about your life, yourself, and the people along your path– truths and revelations you could not have seen with your younger eyes.

This will be painful. It will also be healing. Old wounds you didn’t realize you had will open right before your eyes, and bleed and leak other nasty stuff you never realized was in there. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you will see other things too, that you didn’t notice before: the beauty of yourself and other “imperfect” souls in your story. I promise you, you’ll be astonished, and quite possibly overcome with love and respect for that stumbling, blundering, courageous innocent that you really were.

Emotional wounds,  big and small, are like abscesses, scarred over with guilt and denial. When opened again in a clean place with a good light, they have the opportunity to drain their poisons and finally heal. We all have old wounds, many from our earliest years on earth, because they go with the life-path. A big part of the adventure of life is about managing them, rather than just allowing them to manage you. This takes a mature observer, an experienced blunderer, a sympathetic listener.  This is the heart of my book.

Writing a memoir forces us to re-open the time again, to look at ourselves and others in our story with mercy and compassion that puts whatever regret or guilt we have been carrying into a truer perspective. We can honestly forgive, and be forgiven.


#15

05/01/2017

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I believe absolutely that life is inherently and necessarily about adventures, starting out innocent, blundering along, and discovering things. Learning about life, for better or worse, one way or another.

Going off to college in Austin Texas was an adventure that took me out of the shelter of home to another city and an infinitely more exciting and joyful way of life. When I quit school and got married, I went on another adventure, not so joyful, to a lonely East Coast. Again my life changed completely– I gave up my life to support his.

When I got divorced, I took my life back. That was the biggest leap of faith, and the most terrifying: to set out alone into unknown territory. Then I came to California– another new state, another new time zone, and another new life.

All these adventures were great learning experiences, far beyond anything I could have imagined or ever would have planned. Some were wonderful, some were terribly painful and wounding. But I survived them, and I’m “still here to tell the tale”

I learned a lot, but I think the most valuable thing I learned was that this is the nature and function of life— to venture out beyond our beginnings, to discover. It’s why we came here at all– to have adventures, and then to share the stories.


#14

03/10/2017

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First of all, thank you for participating in this pre-publication First Read, and helping me to write the best book I can. Some of you have known me at some period in my life. It’s going to be a task for you to step back from that, and read the stories as abstractly as possible, as a group of characters you’ve never met. That’s the way you can help me most, in the writing process.

Thoughts like “Oh I didn’t know you went through so much, you poor thing.” Or: comments like “I loved it” are non-contributory. I’m not saying to be brutal, only saying, as you read, keep reminding yourself that this is a piece of writing, that’s all,  just like a book you bought at the drugstore.

As you read, or after a chapter, just notice things like “what was my impression of this chapter? What stood out for me? What seems strong? Weak? Too fast or slow? Confusing? Unrealistic? Vivid?.” Was there enough of __(fill in the blank)__ or too much? Those are the things I need to know about, things that if spotted and corrected, will make the book clearer and better, more on target in saying what I really want to say in a way that is understandable, not phony, not preachy, not fancy but as genuinely as I can.

In writing the stories, I found it enormously helpful to think of the protagonist/ storyteller as simply a character in a book. Not me. That changed both my perspective and my perception surprisingly. When I stepped back and looked at this funny little girl from a distance, as someone I was observing like a character in a movie, I saw things about her that I never could have seen when I was her.

So if you are one of my friends, don’t take Victoria with you into chapter one, dump her at the gate and leave her out of it. She is someone else, who came much later. The first time you meet Vickie, see her as somebody you have never met before. And in your comments and suggestions, please refer to this character as “the little girl” or “the storyteller.” That will help you keep a fresh unbiased perspective. For example, write “she was…” Not “you were…” This is important. Other than that, just enjoy a free book.

Congratulations, you are now a Developmental Editor. Professional ones make big bucks for this. So please know how much I value and appreciate your participation in my creative process. This will surely bring you lovely Karma. I’ll be blogging more here about the beta reader experience, so y’all come back.


#13

03/08/2017

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A beta reader is someone who reads an unpublished manuscript at an early development stage and gives feedback to the writer. It can be anyone the writer invites: a friend, colleague, teacher or mentor, but usually not close friends or family because it’s harder for them to be objective. Beta readers provide a second perspective (or third, or fourth) of their work, which can often spot fixable flaws or shortfalls in the manuscript that the writers didn’t see, because we are too close to it.

How does the process work? Whatever is easiest for you. Tell me what you’d like:
1. You can read the chapters on the web and give your feedback on the Beta Readers Comments page. This is easiest for most people. or
2. You can download chapters as PDFs to read later.
3. PDFs can also be exported as Word.docs and marked-up with the “Review”
4. The manuscript can be sent to you by Email attachment, then you can read at your leisure and return your notes and comments. Or
5.  the old-fashioned way that many editors like, Chapters can be sent as hard-copy print-outs by snail-mail, to be read, ”marked-up” and sent back with the comments scribbled right on the actual pages. Organic! On the web, the works and the comments are both  password-protected; they can’t be seen by search engines or anyone else except you and me.

I need one or two readers who are fellow-writers, but don’t know me personally, and also a few non-writers, simply people with life-experiences who like to read. Those with backgrounds in Medical Emergency, Fire Service, or teaching, would be especially helpful.

The book is Victory Is My Name, A Memoir. If you are interested in reading and being a contributor to my creative nonfiction book, please go to this page, request a password, and tell me a little about yourself. http://w2w.victoriachames.com/workslogin.html


#12

01/03/2017

The book I’m writing was intended as a memoir but has become more like an epistle of faith. Looking across my history and the history of my family from the  outside in, I see  patterns and meanings I didn’t see when I was looking from the inside out. It is being written like a letter not from my persona’s usual view, but more as if spoken from some inner voice, seen by inner eyes, uncontrived and unplanned. Whatever comes to me that rings true and real, I write it down. If it has value, it will stay. If it is meaningless or useless, it will be discarded. These things take care of themselves. All of my poetry came this way – as  gifts of grace, never as the product of conscious endeavor, craft, or intention. I trust the soundless voice that speaks, much more than I trust my own limited and conflicted intellect.

When I was in my twenties, an artist and a fledgling poet, I said to God “Make me your instrument.” Maybe God will finally do that, or maybe that’s the One who placed the desire there to begin  with. Either way, the prayer has not really changed much, for I have learned and relearned that by myself I can do little of real importance or significance. But when I’m driven to the page by that unnamed voice, something clear and clean and beautiful emerges into the light of ordinary day. In that moment, the ordinariness, the stories, the simple truths of life become what they have always been, but unseen: they become sacred. My response to this can only be awe, wonder, and gratefulness.


number 11

12/25/2016

It CAN happen here.

The American so-called “democratic” so-called “election” has shocked and stunned the world. I too have found this bizarre turn of history beyond my ability to bear. That this could happen in what has been a democracy shakes me profoundly. We have leapt into the abyss of mindless, godless violence, irrational hate and war, unaware that this could ever happen here. It IS happening. We are at the trembling brink of it. An irrational, power-mad dictator is already taking actions, (illegal ones because he is not yet sworn in) to start a third world war, apparently for the fun of it, and to show us all that he can. He is eagerly planning greater nuclear proliferation, and inciting countries worldwide to do the same. He is not a rational person, and his psychotic arrogance is more than dangerous, it is deadly.

From Psychology Today, via the internet:
“What is the definition of a sociopathic personality? Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. Individuals with this disorder are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths.”
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-spot-sociopath

Once again, “our government” has placed the LOSER of a so-called democratic election –WHO LOST BY THE LARGEST MARGIN IN HISTORY and yet was given to the LOSER of an election, into the seat of power, against the will of the people and to the shock and horror of the rest of the world.

There have been dictators before, but not here. There have been other hideous murdering madmen, many in fact – Adolf HItler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, all the ISIS wave of mindless hatred. All of these men were/are sociopaths. But not here. What they did, and what they stood for, has always been, up to now, what the U.S. has stood against, as the polar opposite of what we believe in. Now we have joined those tragedies too. We have “chosen,” even  thought it was against the will of the majority of the people, to give absolute power to a sociopath who has no allegiance toany established rules, and no regard for human life. There is evidence that the Russian leadership influenced this election as well, but even so, Trump lost the election, but was given the post of President, Commander in Chief, of our military forces, maker and destroyer of laws.

The purpose of this, I know, is Life’s way of waking us up, and it will be a terribly painful waking. There was so much to be done, and we didn’t do it. Now an utterly dehumanizing dictator will take over one of the most powerful nations of the world and PLAY with it like a video game, with no intention to serve anyone but himself, and no desire but to glorify himself, and to destroy all the other “players” and to “win.” If this sounds extreme, please Wake Up. Start by reading the truth of the matter, and realize that this person is not going to change or suddenly go sane. Now, Unless the Grace of God somehow miraculously intervenes, we are powerless to stop him.

for a detailed picture to compare that will make your blood run cold:   http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.htmlhttp://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

And so, in fear and dread and sorrow, I asked myself, What can I do? What can I, myself, possibly do? And The answer was the same one as yours – tell my truth, my story, and let the love and humanizing of it reach whatever hearts are willing to receive it, and use it in their lives to make better choices than these that now darken the skies ahead for all of us, for years, perhaps decades, to come.

We have started down the path of death. All our news and entertainment media show it – nothing but bloody guts and murders and mutilations on every channel, 24 hours a day, including commercials. We have chosen violence, war, hatred and rage of the most demonic kind, such as we have never experienced in our history of having been so blessed and free. But Freedom is too easy to poison and misdirect, and all sociopaths are masters of deception and manipulation. The deranged Emperor Trump is already moving forward as fast as possible (even though illegally)  with his actions of destruction of everything the American people have built in 300 years. He cares nothing about humanity, why should he care about law?

I entreat you to read this, all who are not afraid of the truth, and make your own judgement. http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

The voters could not stop him. We can blog, and we can talk, and we gather together to seek ways to survive this. At best, millions of us will lose our homes and our livelihoods and even their lives to one man’s insatiable greed, as he toys with global politics and upsets world trade balances display show his godlike power.

And so, Here we go, all of us, willing or not. If you are someone who prays, pray that Spirit/God/UniveralConsciousness/Allah/The Source, or whatever sacred name you know to call upon the grace of your soul’s highest power and loving protector, will find some way that we as human minds can’t see. In the meantime, we must do what is ours to do. Seek your mission, if you don’t already know it, and do commit to your highest work here. Whatever you can do to bring more of honesty, integrity, kindness even in the smallest simplest ways, do it. Love whoever you can, and forgive who you can’t. This is what we can do, and must do, to add more of that and less of hate to the world we must all live in together.

I have my work to do, my small part of whatever shall be the future for humankind. I turn again to that, and keep my own soul’s promise to do it.

The American so-called “democratic” so-called “election” has shocked and stunned the world. I too have found this bizarre turn of history beyond my ability to bear. That this could happen in what has been a democracy shakes me profoundly. We have leapt into the abyss of mindless, godless violence, irrational hate and war, unaware that this could ever happen here. It IS happening. We are at the trembling brink of it. An irrational, power-mad dictator is already taking actions, (illegal ones because he is not yet sworn in) to start a third world war, apparently for the fun of it, and to show us all that he can. He is eagerly planning greater nuclear proliferation, and inciting countries worldwide to do the same. He is not a rational person, and his psychotic arrogance is more than dangerous, it is deadly.

From Psychology Today, via the internet:
“What is the definition of a sociopathic personality? Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. Individuals with this disorder are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths.”
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-spot-sociopath

Once again, “our government” has placed the LOSER of a so-called democratic election –WHO LOST BY THE LARGEST MARGIN IN HISTORY to be given to the loser of an election, into the seat of power, against the will of the people and to the shock and horror of the rest of the world.

There have been dictators before, but not here. There have been other hideous murdering madmen, many – Adolf HItler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, all the ISIS wave of mindless hatred. All of these men were sociopaths. But not here. What they did, and stood for, has always been, up to now, what the U.S. has stood against, as the polar opposite of what we believe in. Now we have joined those tragedies too. We have “chosen,” even  thought it was against the will of the majority of the people, to give absolute power to a sociopath who has no allegiance toany established rules, and no regard for human life.

The purpose of this, I know, is Life’s way of waking us up, and it will be a terribly painful waking. There was so much to be done, and we didn’t do it. Now an utterly dehumanizing dictator (unless the Grace of God somehow unexpectedly intervenes) will take over one of the most powerful nations of the world and PLAY with it like a video game, with no intention to serve anyone but himself, and no desire but to glorify himself, and to destroy all the other “players” and to “win.” If this sounds extreme, please Wake Up. Start by reading the truth of the matter, and realize that this person is not going to change or suddenly go sane.

for a detailed picture to compare that will make your blood run cold:   http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.htmlhttp://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

And so, in fear and dread and sorrow, I asked myself, What can I do? What can I, myself, possibly do? And The answer was the same one as yours – tell my truth, my story, and let the love and humanizing of it reach whatever hearts are willing to receive it, and use it in their lives to make better choices than these that now darken the skies ahead for all of us, for years, perhaps decades, to come.

We have started down the path of death. All our news and entertainment media show it – nothing but bloody guts and murders and mutilations on every channel, 24 hours a day, including commercials. We have chosen violence, war, hatred and rage of the most demonic kind, such as we have never experienced in our history of having been so blessed and free. But Freedom is too easy to poison and misdirect, and all sociopaths are masters of deception and manipulation. The deranged Emperor Trump is already moving forward as fast as possible (even though illegally)  with his actions of destruction of everything the American people have built in 300 years. He cares nothing about humanity, why should he care about law?

I entreat you to read this, all who are not afraid of the truth, and make your own judgement. http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

The voters could not stop him. We can blog, and we can talk, and we gather together to seek ways to survive this. At best, millions of us will lose our homes and our livelihoods and even their lives to one man’s insatiable greed, as he toys with global politics and upsets world trade balances display show his godlike power.

And so, Here we go, all of us, willing or not. If you are someone who prays, please pray that Spirit/God/UniveralConsciousness/Allah/The Source, or whatever sacred name you know to call upon the guidance and grace of your soul’s highest power and loving protector, will find some way that we as human minds can’t yet see. In the meantime, we must do what is ours to do.

Seek your mission, if you don’t already know it, and do commit to your highest work here. Whatever you can do to bring more of honesty, integrity, kindness even in the smallest simplest ways, do it. Love whoever you can, and forgive who you can’t. This is what we can do, and must do, to add more of this, and less of hate to the world we must all live in together.

I have my work to do, my small part of whatever shall be the future for humankind. I turn again to that, and keep my own soul’s promise to do it.


10

12/10/2016

eal-books

When the Internet was born, they said traditional books would soon die out, but so far the opposite has happened. People are buying and reading more books than ever. E-books, though easily accessible, have not caught on as readily as expected. I think it’s partly because they simply are not as satisfying as a real book you can hold in your hands and sit by the fire all cozy and lovely, while another world comes alive with the delicious turning of real pages.

I went to a poetry reading in Berkeley last night. I thought it was an open reading, so I brought some of my poems. It wasn’t. It was a group that meets once a month to read poetry from books,  anything from Keats to Dickinson to Ferlinghetti, nothing too “edgy” or avant-garde. It was a small group of adults with knowledgeable tastes. It was old-fashioned and surprisingly refreshing.

We read from thick anthologies and thin paperbacks of individual poets we personally liked. I read from Wilfred Owen, a rather obscure poet of World War I, whose very beautiful poetry was the first to use consonantal rhyme. He was a significant trailblazer, though he was not recognized for this in his lifetime. Most of the credit for this went to a more well-known  but much less innovative contemporary named Sassoon, who urged Owen to return to the battlefield at the front lines, where he was mortally wounded and died.

I still love books, real books. Solid physical-entity books with hardcovers and paper pages sometimes old and gilt-edged, sturdily bound, built to last.

Books are important to the future of the world for a lot of reasons, but the first one that comes to me is that they connect us to some of humanity’s finest moments, deepest feelings, and highest thoughts, so that those are not lost.

Real books are not trivial. Real books are not temporary, not made to be disposable like Styrofoam cups and razor blades and 90% of what’s on the Internet today, mostly “throwaway” art and culture, existing only in thin air or the flickering flash of the small screens of cold, hard, “devices.”

E-books are useful of course, entertaining, informative, or educational, but they serve a limited temporary function and then are automatically discarded when the screen goes dark.

Real books, living physical-entity books, have an inherent permanence that few things in our world have today. Style, legend, and legacy are easily lost on the Internet,  swallowed up and drowned in the ocean of minutiae, trivia, intelligentsia, jibber-jabber, in the rude, “edgy” and soulless fashion of our culture, in which there is too much of everything, and so, as much as possible is designed to be disposable and as brief as possible. “How RU? Im fyn.C U latr”  Sorry, that’s not enough for me.

I don’t do trivial. I don’t do throwaway art. If that’s what you’re looking for, pass on by.

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Read some stories: http://w2w.victoriachames.com/sampler.html


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