It's the little miracles

All we want from a story is to be reminded that we exist in a universe of miracles. It’s not much because miracles are all around us. The very fact we are talking with each other right now is proof.

But maybe this sounds like hogwash to you. You huff and stare off into the distance. “My story is not about miracles. It’s about the horrible things that happened to me, and how hard I worked to get away. I’m still mad.”

You have every right to be.

And perhaps you’re writing a fiction book about a man solving brutal, shocking crimes. That seems about as far away from miracles as a blizzard in July. You, the tough nut author, don’t understand how this talk about miracles matters in your story.

Let’s take a look at our daily lives.

If you’ve ever gone to Costco, you’ve seen pallets of food and hordes of depressed people. Most folks shove a cart through the aisles where the only surprise is how much food they feel forced to buy. There’s no joy in grabbing another six-pack of lifeless black beans. But if you go to the local farmer’s market on Saturday, you will see customers practically levitate with giddiness over late-summer strawberries. Every little basket seems a miracle offering.

If you can bring a miracle like that to the surface, then you will find hungry readers. And not all miracles need to be as obvious as fresh produce.

A few weeks ago a neighborhood mom posted on Facebook:  'No shower, no makeup, no bra, big coat to hide the floppy boobs means I am heading to Wal-Mart. I apologize in advance.'
Another mom wrote in response: 'Sometimes I don't get out of the car while running errands because sometimes I don't wear a bra. The other day my son asked if we could go in the bank…I said no I was just doing drive up. He began crying then screamed at me, "Why cause you’re not wearing your bra?" I guess I used that excuse in the past and he remembered :) lol'
It’s amazing any mom gets errands done while raising kids, and if a mom happens to also maintain a sense of humor, well, we can put that down in the miracle column.
It doesn’t take much, but you have to sprinkle miracles into your memoir. Go past the pain and hold hands with the neighbor who helped you, the boss who didn’t fire you, the sweetheart who asked you to dance. They’re all miracles in your life. We want to be touched by the miracles you have witnessed. And if you are writing a crime novel, you must find a way to inject miracle moments into your book. You can’t force readers to endure unrelenting pain and sadness, or it will seem as lifeless and depressing as a Costco visit. Only by sharing the things you find amazing will you find an audience that can’t put a finger on why, but oh how they are under your spell.
Take this time to write about the important things, the things that leave you gob-smacked and giddy. The smaller and more hidden they are, the more your reader will love you for pointing out wonders of the universe between the tough lessons you learned. Here are your easy start lines.
I remember this amazing moment when…
I’m still awestruck over…

Sending long distance hugs and good wishes, Janette

This one thing will make your memoir come alive

A while back, my hubby and I saw the most amazing concert. The music, the showmanship, the banter – it was perfection. We drove home in happy silence and later looked up a few of the showman’s songs on the internet. The man was a super talent.
Now let me tell you about Halloween last week in our town. I knew there was going to be an impromptu show of parents and children in downtown Edmonds, so I grabbed my husband’s arm and pulled him to the door. “You have to see the kids and flash mob dancers.”

Hank frowned. The idea of seeing middle-aged women gyrating to Michael Jackson music did not thrill him, but he came along.
Soon we were huddled under a restaurant eave to avoid the drenching skies and parade of goblins. “Any minute now,” I said, checking my phone clock and praying for the dance squad to start before Hank got antsy and left. At 6 o’clock a group of forty-to-sixty-something ladies assembled in front of us. Music started and the troupe began to gyrate, not really as a dance, but more like a gym workout performed for our benefit.
I whooped in appreciation for their guts and awesome zombie outfits. My husband nodded along with the music and when the last note of ‘Thriller’ died off, I clapped loudly. “Wasn’t that great?”
This time Hank grabbed my arm and we took off for home. I couldn’t help but comment on the dance and thousands of costumed townsfolk, which brought up a memory. “Do you remember our kids’ holiday shows in grade school?” I asked. “I always cried at those Christmas and graduation events because they were a celebration of the ordinary. That’s why I love our little town. Edmonds celebrates the ordinary.”
I smiled a wide grin. “That’s why the perfect concert weeks ago left me cold. It’s why I never care for razzle dazzle movies. I prefer the ordinary. Where children don’t spout adult trivia. Where grownups don’t save the world. I prefer stories where righting a small injustice changes everything. Where tiny misunderstandings matter. Where love doesn’t cure all, but it makes life a tiny bit better. “
Now in a perfect movie, Hank would have done something profound, perhaps he would have bent down on one knee with a ruby anniversary ring. But nothing amazing happened. He ran home to get there faster and when I turned the corner, I heard his goofy laugh entertaining a group of trick-or-treaters. It was the same goofy laugh he used all those years entertaining our kids, who are now grown and gone for the most part. I bit my lip to keep from tearing up. It was Halloween, for heaven’s sake. Nothing extraordinary.
It’s time for you to tell your story. Don’t insist on telling it perfectly. Just enjoy taking 15 minutes to write about the moments and memories of your life. Your readers are waiting to say, “Ah-ha, that sounds like my life, too.” All you have to do is cherish the ordinary.

For this week's writing prompts, contact me here.

Easy memoir story arc

Are you frustrated with your memoir? Are there too many details and story threads? There are many writers who know their lives are worthy of a book, but pesky particulars get in the way. How do you sort out what to leave in or junk?
The answer is simple. All good stories have one easy plot line: The Protagonist overcomes fears and flaws to become a hero.
You are the hero of your memoir. The early part of your book must show your fears and flaws, the middle part shows you confronting – and flailing against – those fears and flaws, and the end is when you overcome them.
The problem for many memoirists is they think their personal struggle is not enough, so they focus on “Dad’s flaws,” “my boss’s flaws,” or “my sister’s flaws.” Those are obstacles, but your memoir story arc is about your personal fears and flaws, which may include “I cared too much about my Dad, my boss, or my sister.” 

Trust me, you truly are a hero who overcame fears and flaws to make the world better – and your readers are waiting to hear your story. Let’s push forward and bring your heroic story to life with this week’s easy prompt. Just write for 15 minutes and enjoy the time to tell your story. Just do the weekly exercises and all the pieces will come together.

Here is your prompt for the week: In my memoir, these are my fears that I will fight against and finally overcome....