Archive for Personal Memoir

Client Success: Lynne Byrd Celebrates Community Visionary and Best Friend

“I knew Joyce and her friends very well,” Lynne Barfield Byrd shared of her best friend Joyce Amacher, the community visionary who passed away in February 2017 and is featured in Lynne’s latest book The Queen of Dunwoody.  Lynne and Joyce became fast friends when Lynne’s son and Joyce’s daughter dated and eventually married.  They grew closer as co-grandparents of two little girls, co-authors of The Story of Dunwoody: 1971-2001, and co-founders of the Dunwoody Preservation Trust.  “Joyce and I worked hard to identify the descendants of pioneer families and save the remaining historic homes in Dunwoody.”

“The book began with tributes from her friends along with remembrances of people who worked with her to make Dunwoody a great place to live.” Lynne, the author of three books and a historian who has placed three Dunwoody homes on the National Register of Historic Places, started the book’s research by interviewing Joyce’s husband of over fifty years.  “I had some pleasant surprises when talking with Bill.  He’s a reticent kind of man, but he straightened me out on a lot of details.”

The Queen of Dunwoody is the story of Joyce Amacher, an Atlanta native who moved to Dunwoody in 1968 where she and her husband raised their family and she focused her talents and passion on community enrichment, fighting the effects of urban sprawl while advocating for architectural design standards.

As a visionary leader, Joyce knew the talents of other community members, encouraging them to contribute their best.  She served as charter member and one-time President of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, the volunteer governing body until Dunwoody became a city in 2008. When the county planned to expand Ashford Dunwoody Road into a 4-lane, she was influential in gaining permission and funds to beautify the road with a tree-filled median.  In 1998 after a devastating tornado, she led efforts to replant the Dunwoody Forest.  She and Lynne spearheaded efforts to purchase and restore the Cheek-Spruill House, known as the Farmhouse.

In writing and compiling this book, Lynne credits encouragers like her husband Noah who organized over 100 photos for this full-color publication, as well as a local group of first-time writers called “The Wow Girls.”

And this is the second book Lynne has completed with me.  “I was fortunate to meet Wayne South Smith at his workshop at the Dunwoody library in 2013.  Wayne was the editor and project manager on my first book, a memoir called The Sweetness and the Pits: Remembrances of a Georgia Peach. I never could have done it by myself and probably would have given up trying without his help.  It was wonderful to work with him again on The Queen of Dunwoody.  Wayne is the most patient and encouraging person a writer could work with.”

The Queen of Dunwoody will launch at the historic Donaldson-Bannister House on May 5, 2018 from 2-4pm.  Proceeds from sales will be evenly divided between Joyce’s three favorite non-profits:  The Dunwoody Preservation Trust, The Dunwoody Garden Club, and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association.

Client Success: Barbara Gray Armstrong Honors Family & Cultural History

Barbara.Armstrong.book.signing1“I got the idea to write my book when I thought about how little my children knew about my birth family, my early life, and American history, such as slavery and the civil rights era,” shared author Barbara Gray Armstrong. In Honoring My Journey, she has written a rich family memoir woven into a larger, societal context to tell a story both personal and universal.

“I am not a product of poverty or of wealth. I came from people who were working people, many educated, who wanted a piece of the American pie.” Among stories of African-Americans who lived during this time of widespread bigotry, discrimination and denied rights, Armstrong shares, “Mine is not a unique story, yet it is a story seldom depicted in literature or media. It seems as we have to be on either extreme end of the spectrum to be recognized.”

Coming of age in the Jim Crow South during the 1950s and 60s, Armstrong shares stories about her life with her parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives. She includes information on great-grandparents born during slavery and her own experience of working as a nanny for a white family, among others.

Some research came from her elders; the rest is her learned and observed truth. She adds, “Of course, truth is certainly subjective when writing about family and friends. I tried to be fair to the characters, even though most of them are dead.”

Barbara.Armstrong.Honoring.My.JourneyHer process from the first essay to publication took four years. “The experience was mostly positive. There were many days and even months I couldn’t write. Sometimes I felt confused about the family relationships I included. Other times, I agonized over whether to include an experience. Sometimes, I even felt that writing the book was a job, and that was when I would put it away for a while.”

“My family was not quite sure what I would write or how revealing I would be. I’m not sure they believed I was serious. However, they allowed me space and respected the idea that I was writing. Still, I needed someone to keep me on my toes.”

She experienced my work with writers in forums and a public library seminar. “I observed Wayne’s spirit, attitude, and demeanor. I decided he was who I needed so I could really commit to doing the writing.”

We developed an easy rapport, even when faced with challenges. “We could talk about living in the South, race matters, family, politics, religion, and whatever came with ease. The most challenging was when he wanted me to edit something I wanted to hold on to. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen.”

She experienced an even bigger lesson after gaining momentum with her first essays: she misplaced the thumb drive that held her writing. “After searching for weeks, I realized it must not have been how I was to proceed. I started listening to my inner voice and was able to start writing again.”

After final edits, and then cover and interior photo designs by her daughter Monique L. Armstrong, she published with Abbott Press in October 2014. Sales have sparked through sharing copies with friends and at book events, Wayne.South.Smith.and.Barbara.Armstrongincluding a combination book launch/birthday party at the Decatur Marriott. With over 50 family and friends in attendance, she shared stories of the writing experience alongside readings from the book. As more read the book, former relationships have reignited and feedback continues to pour in.

To anyone considering writing, Armstrong says, “As with anything that comes up in your mind and heart to do, go for it. Make the effort and open up to learning.”

And share it.

Honoring My Journey is available in hardback, soft cover and e-book. To purchase, along with more information about the book and the author, please visit www.honoringmyjourney.com

Honoring Service

flag.4Dad carefully unrolled the recently acquired panoramic photos of his and his brother’s graduations from basic training during World War II. A tiny arrow was placed above both of their heads on the respective photos to identify them from the near hundred men.

“That’s Bo?” I asked with quiet respect. “I don’t know that I’ve seen any pictures of him.”

My 84-year old father nodded in a mixture of pride and sadness.

As he shared stories, Dad handed me a small, tattered brown folder. Inside were personal and official letters. I removed a faded telegram.

“…Private Clarence Martin Smith, Jr will be accompanied by Private. . .to the funeral home in Thomasville to arrive on December Two Four. . .”   The strict language marched as formal as a precision military formation, yet devoid of emotion.

Most of my life I’ve known Bo got an infection from a wisdom tooth extraction on base. On the transport ship to Europe, he reported ill to the infirmary on a morning before Thanksgiving, was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, and died before the next sunrise as the ship churned across the Atlantic. The family waited over a month for the return of his body. He was buried on Christmas day.

I gently blew open another envelope’s ragged end and retrieved the fragile paper inside. Seeing Bo’s handwriting and reading his words for the first time was like hearing his voice. Bo plainly wrote to his Momma about where he was, what he was doing, and how much he loved her and his family. There was also one page written just to Dad encouraging him to get a particular piece of farm equipment running and an added mention about their sweethearts. I asked Dad some questions, some of which he couldn’t remember the answers, some he simply couldn’t muster the words.

Gently folding and returning the letter to its resting place, I felt a rush of sadness—reading Bo’s words and holding his letter in my hand as I stared at his benevolent, timid expression in the photo was like meeting him and burying him in the same moment.

As I looked into Dad’s eyes full of respect for these precious artifacts, for what was and for what might have been, my heart began to grasp the depth of his loss. Through the tremble in his voice as he bravely fought to hold off the flood he’d kept in check for so many decades, I fought alongside him as he allowed me to be present with his love and loss.

It’s not a duty, but a freedom to choose to honor all who serve. With Dad, I am also grateful to witness and benefit from his choice to live every moment of his life in service to God, country, and family. He inspires me to strive to higher service in my own.

Chart A Course To Write Your Memoir

Like clients Kirby and Jonathan, you can write and publish your memoir.
Consider the Memoir class as getting your feet wet, the Creative Writers Workshop as training, and personal writer’s coaching & editing as the swim toward the finish line.

 

Start Somewhere.

nyad.espncdn.com.1 - CopyDiana Nyad, 64, an American long distance swimmer, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without using a shark cage in September 2013.  She attempted the 110-mile swim in 1978, then three more times during 2011-2012 without success.  Undaunted, she kept trying.

Some take to writing easily, while others need encouragement.  All could become successful writers.

I’ve seen those who keep dipping their toes rippling the surface ‘thinking’ about writing while others tread water.  These waste mental and physical efforts.  With practice and determination, others jump in to navigate their past and write their memoir.

Get in the Water.

SWIMMING-CUBA-US-NYADOn earlier tries, Nyad was stung by jellyfish, harassed by harsh currents and battered by storms forcing her to quit.  Still, her quest wasn’t over.  She changed tactics, updated equipment, and kept trying.  Obstacles were just lessons to examine and conquer.

Many hindrances can slow writers, but our self-doubts can sink us.  My greatest lesson in how to deal with doubt came from my swimming practice.

Whenever excuses weigh me down, and I really, really don’t want to swim, my motto is ‘get in the water.’  This never fails: I begin with the assurance I can stop whenever I want.  All the negative messages float into my mind like stinging jellyfish or attack my gut like sharks.  I endure and keep swimming.

Interestingly, whatever was blocking me – sinus issues, achey body, ornery mood – improves or dissipates.  Each time, I accomplish my goal of swimming my usual number of laps.

Jump headfirst into your writing.  Enjoy the weightlessness of freedom, the unburdened feeling of writing what comes from your pool of memories.  See what surfaces.

Swim with Friends.

diana-nyad-florida-to-cuba-swimNyad, like any seasoned athlete, dove to mental and emotional depths to acquire physical strength to complete her goal.  She didn’t swim alone; she had community onshore, as well as a boat load of folks for moral support and to watch her back.

In teaching memoir for years, I’ve seen group after group coalesce and support one another to dive deep into consciousness and bring up treasures.

Join the Memoir class, a guided group of no more than six participants. The expedition is more fun, even more enlightening, with others.

Go for the Goal!

nyad.cbsmiami - Copy“I have three messages,” Nyad said on the beach after her historic swim (Associated Press).  “One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”

Compassionate, honest fellow writers are crucial to your success; they want you to win! This happens with every Creative Writers Workshop I’ve led, a group of no more than 4 writers.

As your writing coach, I mentor you to chart your writing’s course and hold you accountable as you move from writing and revising to editing and publishing.

With friends and a dedicated coach on your team, you can more easily write and complete your memoir.

nyad.gmanewstv - Copy
Memoir Class

Creative Writers Workshop

Personal Writer’s Coaching & Editing, by appointment

 
References: Associated Press; Mike Smollins.
Photos:CBS/Miami; ESPN/CDN; GMA News TV; IlPostIt