Benefits of a Writing Workshop

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I have become distracted. Somewhere along the way my original purpose for writing this blog lost its way and, instead of writing about writing, I’ve used this space for sharing some of my writing projects, such as memoir writing and social history. But hopefully I’ve remained faithful to the whole idea of writing stories – my stories, your stories, the stories so many of us like to read because we can relate to them.

This morning I attended a two hour creative non-fiction writing workshop, the writing I spend about half of my writing life doing. This was the first writing workshop I’ve attended for a few years. I came away with more than I expected.

A writing workshop ideally offers us opportunities to write, to put into practice what we’re focused on. Yes, I came home with a piece of new writing developed at this morning’s workshop. But I came home with even more.

Perhaps even more stimulating was the contact with other writers, all writing different stories, all having something valid to say, most of whom I’d never met before. I enjoyed being exposed to different styles of writing and discussing them. I also listened to how each writer faced challenges in their writing lives.

Writing tends to be an isolated task. A writing workshop brings us into contact with other writers. For me this was more powerful than the piece of writing I produced.

If you have the opportunity to be part of such a session, grab it. There’s something quite powerful about thinking about and talking about writing, while producing the start of a new piece of work and receiving feedback.

Have you had similar experiences?

Listening Through Closed Doors

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Image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/

I’m sure many of your parents, like mine, told you that no good comes of listening to conversations not meant for your ears. But when you’re a bored teenager sometimes listening to an adult conversation can be quite revealing. How else were we to learn about life?

On one occasion my parents’ saying proved to be wrong and what I heard became a turning point in my life. The conversation unfolded between my father and a woman who often visited us, the very woman written about yesterday with the silver grey hair and the pink volkswagen car.

Said woman disapproved of the freedom I was given since I had started competitive swimming. She’d apparently seen me biking home from training with some boys.

‘You give that girl too much freedom,’ she said. ‘She’ll end up getting herself into trouble.’

Now I was at an age where girls getting into trouble meant only one thing, they found themselves pregnant. I was about to burst through the door in protest, but my father’s reply stopped me. His answer was simple.

‘We trust her,’ he said.

They were such powerful words and even though he never said as much to me personally he didn’t need to. His trust always came to mind when I found myself getting involved in teenage shenanigans.

So, conversations listened on through closed doors are not always a bad thing.

On Being the Middle Child

Apparently yesterday, Sunday 2 April, was middle child day. Living in the southern hemisphere as I do, I’ve only just found out about this. We’re already more than half way through Monday as I write.

However, the whole concept of middle child fascinates me for two reasons, the most obvious one being that I am a middle child. I’ve read so many things about the negative side of being a middle child, especially of feeling left out, but that hasn’t been my case at all. I loved being a middle child. The family position proved very advantageous to me.

You see, while the other two were being doted on by our parents, as middle child I was left to be independent and free. There were plenty of times, especially during my teenage years, when I was grateful for my parents not really knowing what I was up to. And then, if I wanted to curl up with a book on my own, no one actually noticed.

The other reason I was interested to learn about middle child day is related to one of my current writing projects. I’m exploring what life was like for me in the 1950s and 1960s through the eyes of a middle child. The revisiting old memories is proving lots of fun.

So, to all middle children out there, I hope you had a happy day. I’d love to hear about your middle child experiences and whether it was a positive or not-so-positive experience for you.mice-395831_960_720

Memory Prompts are Everywhere

Quite often people think they don’t remember much about their past, but that could be because they are out of practice. In my experience, the more I write my stories down, the more twice as many memories come flooding in.

If you think about it, memory prompts are everywhere. No matter what you do, or where you go, it’s likely you did something in your childhood or younger life, or maybe a family member did something, similar to what is happening now.

Take this afternoon for example. I’ve just been watching the women finishing in the World triathlon Series race here in New Zealand. This not only made me remember my days as a young competitive swimmer, but also in adulthood as a Masters Swimmer. Then there are the memories of women’s triathlons and fun run and walk events I’ve participated in.

If you really want to write your life stories but don’t know where to start, I recommend you start looking at the things around you. Then, consider whether anything similar happened in your own life. Open your mind to memory prompts and start writing your stories.Image

Myself and two friends, after our first team triathlon effort, about ten years ago.

Making a Start on Writing Your Stories

So many people tell me there life is not worth recording, they’ve never done anything interesting that others may want to read. Of course, I tell them that is absolute nonsense. No one else knows our life as we do. What seems ordinary to us seems fascinating to others. That is why it is important to get your stories written down.

As I go about my research for my latest writing project I’m grateful that people in the past have recorded their everyday stories, so that every day details are not lost. In the future someone may be grateful to you for writing your stories down. Even the smallest details may prove to be informative or interesting to someone in the years to come.

Why not start writing down your stories today?Image

After the New Zealand Earthquake

I’m having a quiet afternoon, much quieter than the one we had here in the lower part of the North Island, New Zealand yesterday. About this time yesterday we were hit by a magnitude 6.2 eathquake, that really rocked our socks off.

Not knowing what was going to happen and needing to share my shaking with someone other than my husband, I wrote about it at this link – I’m not sure if we were having an after shock or whether it was just me shaking.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2098096-breaking-news-huge-earthquake-in-new-zealand

Fortunately we weren’t close to the centre, and judging by news coming in during the day some places had even more damage than we did here. The local paper shows pictures of chimney damage to the house next door to the one I grew up in the 1950s.

Our cat Smooch wasn’t too impressed with the noisy shake, he bolted like lightning out the window once the shaking stopped.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2100363-smooch-the-cat-didn039t-like-the-earthquake

I managed to find something to laugh about after the earthquake stopped though. My cup of coffee had emptied itself, leaving me with the need to clean up before making another.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2105146-i-do-hope-the-librarian-will-understand

Today the afternoon is quiet. I’m thankful for that. Do you have earthquakes in your part of the world?

Time to Remember the Stories of Our Pets

There’s something about growing older, life tends to float by at a more even pace. Not that I haven’t been busy so far this year, but maybe I’ve finally found some balance.

New Year came in with huge bangs in Taupo, where we were minding my sister’s house and dog. The fireworks terrified the poor fellow. However, he settled down and we continued our week with him amidst lots of fun and laughter.

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Here’s Busta pleading, please take me for a walk Aunty Val. We didn’t dare mention that word, w-a-l-k aloud, unless we were ready to put our words into action!

Oh the Smells a Dog Can Smell and the Birds he Can Chase

One of the things I want to do more of this year is write the stories of our pets. After all, their stories deserve to be told just as much as the rest of the family. I know our cat Smooch will agree with that!

Smooch the Cat is Pleased Mum and Dad are Home

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The stories of pets and humans are entwined together don’t you think.

 

Red Faced Embarrassment for a Swimmer at the Bank

Why is it we tend to remember the embarrassing moments of our lives more easily than the more rewarding times? Well, I do anyway. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had plenty of embarrassing moments, not that I’m prepared to reveal all here.

Some of you already know I’m a swimmer, a lapsed one at the moment, but still a swimmer. I have chlorine in my veins and so does my husband.

So, when I heard a quite common line on TV the other night, ‘I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on,’ I had to laugh. Oh yes, I’ve definitely heard that line before.

It was when I was in my thirties. My husband was manager of the local outdoor swimming pool and worked seven days a week during the summer, so I spent many of my waking summer hours there. My usual attire was either my swim suit of course, or shorts, top and bare feet. That was how people knew me and how I knew many of the people in my life.

So when a well dressed young man spoke to me in the bank queue one day, at first I didn’t recognise him. Then he smiled and the penny dropped.

‘Oh, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on,’ I blurted out.

I can smile now, but at the time I blushed more red than any sunburn I’d ever experienced.

Isn’t is funny how a simple throw-away line on TV can bring forth old memories in a rush. It certainly did for me and now my mind is racing with other stories that may one day get told.

We all have so many stories to tell. How about you?

Do you find some things just unhatch the lid on your mind, like opening Pandora’s box, letting out more than you keep up with?

Keeping Warm in the 1950s

Many of you are currently sweltering in the Northern heat, while I look for ways of keeping warm down here in New Zealand. Yesterday, while dressed in three layers and wearing thick socks, I thought about my childhood. Were the winters really as cold then as they appear now? The aging process has possibly increased my awareness  of the cold.

I grew up in an old wooden house with its share of places for the drafts to creep in, but  I don’t remember being cold at home. Maybe during the day we kept warm busy playing vigorously outside. The evenings inside seemed to radiate warmth, unless I’ve forgotten the cold times.

Our home had a large room we called the kitchen, a bit like a modern house with kitchen, dining room and lounge sharing an open space. The cooking happened in the kitchen on a gas stove and oven. Wedged between the stove and the hot water cupboard, a small fire place, a chip heater, burned all day, heating both the water in the adjacent cupboard and the whole room.

I loved chopping the kindling for the kitchen fire once old enough to be trusted to not chop off too many fingers. The tiny fireplace churned its way through firewood, coal and carbonettes and food scraps after meals.

Not only the warmth from the fire that filled those winter evenings. The whole family gathered, talking, reading, playing cards and board games and listening to the big old radio in the corner, creating a room of family warmth. At bedtime we kids trundled off to bed with a hot water bottle, taking the evening’s warmth with us.

The fire died down over night, but by the time we got up in the morning either Mum or Dad had re-lit it, enabling us to eat our breakfast at the big table in warmth.

Snow rarely falls in the part of New Zealand I live in, but we did experience heavy white frosts during winter months, so the nights were cold. Electricity was never used to heat our home in the 50s, so we maintained a good supply of wood and coal.

Your childhood winters no doubt differed from mine, depending on the part of the world you live in and the era of your childhood.

I sit here in the warmth of my home this morning, heated by gas, thinking about the sunshine that will arrive back here in a few months from now.

A Kiss to Make it Better

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Grazed knees and kids used to go together. Childhood should be an active time, a time of exploration and in such an environment kids expect cuts and bruises. They become an inevitable part of growing up.

I remember my childhood days from the 1950s when we wore grazed knees with pride. Sure, becoming brave enough not to cry took practice and the sight of blood made our lips tremble and tears well in our eyes. But we knew where to find the instant cure.

We’d rush inside, wailing about our misfortune, seeking some love and comfort more than any medical attention. Mum would clean our knee, dab it dry with a soft cloth and say, ‘There, now let me kiss it better.’

This involved Mum raising her forefinger to her lips, placing a kiss upon her finger in a display of affection and placing that kiss on our grazed knee, or whatever other part of the body had been injured. Tears were washed from our face and we enjoyed a quick cuddle, before being sent outside to play again.

We weren’t encouraged to dwell on our minor misfortune or the sight of blood. My father made a big thing about the need for blood and he pointed out mine was nice and red, a healthy sign.

I feel sad today when I watch kids turning small grazes into major catastrophes. We live in a plaster or band-aid world. At the mere pinprick of blood many kids fall apart at the seams and limp off to get the attention they crave. A huge manufacturing industry has developed, producing colourful kid like plasters to protect the tiny cut or injury. Having received the demanded plaster, many kids continue with a huge attention seeking display, acting like a wounded soldier, showing off their covered injury, no matter how small it may be.

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Kids are resilient and bounce back. They don’t need mollycoddling. Scratches, small cuts and grazes heal quickly with the wound being cleaned, a quick dose of parental love and lots of fresh air.

I’m so glad I grew up in a home with minimal items in the first aid cabinet. Expectations were different. A quick clean up, a cuddle and a kiss to make it better were usually all we needed.