I had a lot of questions for others as I wrote my memoir. When people found out I was writing a memoir, they also had questions for me. Probably the number one question I asked others and others asked me was: How long does it take to write a memoir?
For me, it was a long time or maybe not so long depending on what I consider to be the actual start. I would guess anywhere from 10 to three years. There was a lot of pre-writing and thinking and a lot of writing that didn’t turn out to be part of the final manuscript.
A few months back I had an opportunity to see Anne Lamott speak in Madison. I was familiar with her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, but I wasn’t sure I ever read it. It was lumped in my mind with other texts, such as Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, both of which I had read.
These are books I classified as being about the writing practice. They were more inspirational than instructional, providing encouragement for writers to begin the practice of writing. I had been fortunate enough to take a workshop with Natalie Goldberg once and had done a longer seminar about Cameron’s book, where we worked through her suggestions week-by-week. I continued meeting with some of the women I met in the class for almost a decade after.
But I knew less about Anne Lamott. I followed her on Facebook as any “good” writer should, and attended her talk out of curiosity and I suppose duty. My friend and I were surprised when we arrived at the theater and the line wound down the street. The event didn’t even start on time because people were still taking their seat in the packed 1,500-seat theater long after she was supposed to begin.
When she finally did speak, I knew why she had been such a star for so long. She spoke of ordinary things, but in a way that made them seem fresh. Lamotte read and talked from her new book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope and in doing so provided advice to the audience about how to be a human in trying times.
She talked about writing, but also our troublesome government, loving difficult people, losing the people we love, and the struggles we face, such as her own past alcoholism. I was somewhat embarrassed to find myself crying through much of her speech. I needn’t have been, as I believe she was touching something deep inside me that needed attention.
It was not a complex message, and I tend to be a cynic, but I guess it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I have since read the book and found the messages there to be similarly helpful. I was even moved throughout to write down many of her quotes.
The book is broken up into sections based on the type of advice she is giving, such as Hope, Death, and Food. She also includes a chapter on her advice on writing in which she paraphrases the lessons she gives to young children as well as adults. I am not sure how much of this section is similar to Bird by Bird, but I felt as if I was copying almost all of it into my notebook.
We also learn the origin of the phrase “bird by bird” which was something her father told her brother when he was stressing about writing a report about birds. He reportedly told him to just take it bird by bird.
I even pulled out some of my favorite inspirational quotes from Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything book. I’ll be interested to hear from you if you’ve read this book, Bird by Bird, or any of the other books I’ve mentioned. Have you ever been moved by something that surprised you?
This post may be a little short. I’m typing with one hand. At least it’s my dominant hand. My left is wrapped in a splint. I took a spill in the kitchen on Christmas day. Other than my hand, I suffered a few bumps and bruises, but all in all, I was pretty lucky. We didn’t even have to wait too long at the ER. Considering it was a holiday, it went quite well.
I fell over the dishwasher door, which opened just as I was walking past it. When my husband and I told others about my accident, they said they had almost tripped over their dishwasher too.
The door had been broken for a while and didn’t latch tight and I was afraid one of us might fall over it. In the movie Garden State the main character’s mother had been paralyzed when she fell backward over the dishwasher door which opened unexpectedly. Even though I mentioned this before my accident, I don’t think I really thought it could happen.
There was also mention of a freak accident where a woman died after she slipped and fell on the knives in the dishwasher which were loaded with the point up. Other dangerous appliances were space heaters, ranges, and toasters for their ability to cause fires.
It also made me think about Emergency Room (ER) visits. We were seen right away. I had an X-ray of my hand and a CT scan of my jaw pretty soon after we arrived, but then it took longer to see a doctor and to get a splint and be to leave. I wondered if my visit was typical and so I looked up statistics on ER visits and made a short quiz of what I found.
As we move into the new year I, like everyone else, have been thinking what I want to accomplish. I checked out a few resources, planners, dreamers, and goal setters, and while they were great, I wanted something a little less complicated. So I decided to draw a campaign poster instead.
Since I’m not great at drawing, I used Google’s AutoDraw. It’s been around for a few years, but it seemed appropriate for this year since it uses artificial intelligence to help you draw.
It seems like AI is all I’ve heard about this year. Google trends show that people were doing more searches than ever before in January 2018 for Artificial Intelligence. In my own reading about the brain this year I have seen that AI is being used more than ever to help scientists better understand this organ, how it is organized, and how we think.
How to Draw a Good Campaign Poster
Autodraw is the perfect tool to draw a campaign poster. To you use it you start to doodle what you want to draw and the computer uses an algorithm to learn what you might be drawing. Suggestions pop up at the top of the screen. So, if you are trying to draw a house, a finished house appears, or a few different types of houses, or maybe a few other types of buildings. You click on the building you want and it replaces your doodle. You can change colors add words and save your picture.
It works well for a campaign poster since you don’t have a lot of options and the drawings and colors are simple. A campaign poster is supposed to get its point across in a few words and images. Here are a few other guidelines for a good campaign poster:
Bold, primary or complementary colors, and a restricted palette
Images support the words
To help myself make my poster I asked myself the following questions. My answers follow the questions. I did a year-in-review poster for 2018 and a campaign poster for 2019 so I have two sets of questions and answers:
If 2018 were a color, what color would it be? Green
If 2018 were a shape, what shape would it be? An octagon
If 2018 were a word, what word would it be? Waiting
If 2018 were a building, what type of building would it be? House
If 2018 were something from nature, what would it be? Tree
If 2018 were a vehicle, what would it be? A scooter.
If 2019 were a color, what color would it be? Gold
If 2019 were a shape, what shape would it be? Circle
If 2019 were a word, what word would it be? Yes
If 2019 were a building, what type of building would it be? Skyscraper
If 2019 were something from nature, what would it be? Rainbow
What type of path will get you from 2018 to 2019? Road
If 2019 were a vehicle, what would it be? A plane.
I took all the information and drew a 2018 year-in-review poster and a campaign poster for 2019. You’ll see that all the answers didn’t make the picture. Some just didn’t fit and others made more sense once I saw how the picture looked.
Using Autodraw was fun because of the objects that popped up as I drew. It gave me new ideas about which items to include that weren’t on my list originally. It was almost like asking Magic 8 Ball to draw my poster for me.
Here is my 2018 Year in Review and my 2019 Campaign Poster:
2018 Waiting Year in Review Poster House with Scooter and Octagonal Window on Door
2019 Yes Campaign Poster, Plane flying over skyscraper toward sun
If You Want to Give Autodraw a Try
After you visit the Autodraw website, the autodraw tool itself is the second from the top. Once you begin drawing the suggestions will appear on the top of the screen. You can change colors with the color picker. To color items in, select the Fill tool and then the color picker. Have fun!
One other fun thing to try is to write out something in words. For each letter you draw, Autodraw gives you a picture. Select the ones that speak to you and make a picture out of them. This only works if you draw the words, not using the Type tool.
Let me know if you try this. Leave a link to your picture or your images below. You can use your questions or mine. Wishing you the best in the New Year!
Lisa Romeo’s father gave her everything she could ever want. He financed expensive vacations and could get her almost anything else she desired from hard to get tickets to the best horses. Yet, he is distant, physically living across the country after an early retirement, and emotionally, somewhat because of her own choices and actions. It isn’t until after his death, that she sees all that she was missing while he was alive.
This is a memoir of parental death, but mostly of grief. Though we do experience her father before death after a stroke, the majority of the book focuses on Romeo’s experiences after he dies. This is when she begins to talk and visit with him. It is through these post-death interactions that she starts to get to know and appreciate her father.
It is an interesting concept for a book since I can not think of many books that focus on the grieving process of a daughter and father in the same way. Helen McDonald’s H is for Hawk covers the topic, though mostly through the author’s training of a goshawk.
There are also books about widows (Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking) as well as many books that deal with the illness and dying of those we love. Romeo mentions that researchers have begun thinking about how adult daughters process the death of fathers and that the relationship between fathers and sons (Blake Morrison’s And When Did You Last See Your Father) and daughters and mothers (Meghan O’Rourke The Long Goodbye) is often explored more often.
As someone who writes often about my own father’s illness and death, I was particularly interested in the father-daughter dynamic, especially since our fathers would have been of the same generations. I also found Romeo’s interactions with her mother and family members honestly portrayed. She mentions how her and her mother don’t really speak and spend their time shopping. But when her father was gone she was able to view her relationship with mother with fresh eyes.
She is also much younger than her two siblings and had a different relationship with her parents than they did. She also did not shy away from showing scenes where they may not have always agreed on the care of her parents, which was refreshingly honest.
Overall, I found it to be a realistic and thought-provoking look at how a middle-aged woman deals with her father’s death. We often don’t appreciate what is in front of us and begin to miss what annoys us most about our loved ones when they are gone. We can’t see that their peculiarities are what makes them captivating.