Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Making of a Memoir

I'm writing a new book. I just started a few weeks ago and I have 63 pages already.
Maybe I'm moving quickly because I already know the ending.
This time, instead of a novel, I'm writing a memoir.
During the Paris in July meme sponsored by Thyme for Tea and Bookbath, I realized that most of the French books that we readers recommended were memoirs. So, with my brain trust of running friends, we decided that I should write a memoir. Then we took it a step further, notched it up, and decided I should write about my time spent as a nanny. That's a combination of two tell-all books that people are sure to love.
So rather than a story about Americans who move to France and try desperately to fit into the local culture, I'll be writing about an American girl (me) thrust into the midst of a French family -- the awkwardness and the insights. So far, I'm titling it An American Nanny in France. An American Nanny in Paris sounds a little better, but we were only in Paris for a month, spending the other months in Corsica and at a family house near Bourges.
This looks like the perfect writing spot for me
with my notebook, my wine and the pool
shimmering before me.
I'll be changing the names of the French family members so that I can be very honest about everything that happened. I have written about some of these adventures on my blog before, so I guess I'll need to go back and change the names there too.
Anyway, I wanted to share with you my exciting news and tell you a story about how the memoir led to my mom and me laughing so hard that we cried.
I haven't written a memoir before, so I was kind of puzzled about recreating conversations and other important events. I have photos. I have a journal, which includes some conversations, but I also wrote in-depth letters to my mom and my brother Kevin while I was in France. I need those letters.
I saw Kevin last week and he said he didn't have the letters. He suggested I try Mom and Dad's house.
Of course, Mom and Dad have moved about five times since my trip 25 years ago.
I alerted Mom that I was searching for the letters and said we'd look when I arrived this weekend. she had already emptied out her mother's trunk (new in 1915) looking for the letters with no luck. She pulled out another bin that was filled with greeting cards and letters and memorabilia. We went through all the musty letters. We handed over golf score cards from years ago to my dad. We threw away the envelopes all those cards had come in.
Then my mom picked up a hand-made card from my little brother. "Happy Mother's Day, Mom," it said. "From Kevin Kincer" and that started us laughing that he felt the need to sign his last name to his mother.
Then my dad found, tucked in a birthday card to him from his mother some letters from me and my sister. They were letters we'd written to my grandmother and she apparently sent them back to him when she wasn't getting along with our family. Mom and I were laughing at that too -- how ludicrous.
Then Mom read aloud the letter my 9-year-old self had written. The basic gist of the letter was whether my grandmother had gotten my previous letters and why she hadn't written back when I was still waiting for a reply. I was quite insistent and pushy, even at 9 years old. As Mom read the letter, the tears were running out of her eyes and down our cheeks.
Sometimes you just have to be there to understand why the joke is funny. But we definitely enjoyed our time going through the old box of cards and letters.
The bad news is we didn't find the letters from France. The good news is that we have more boxes upstairs and can look forward to another day of going through old memorabilia. Maybe they'll make us laugh again.


judi said...

FUN!! -- on all accounts

Alyce said...

I hope you do find the letters eventually! The memoir sounds like it would be great fun to read!

Linda said...

I think that's a great idea. It's also the only sort of book I can write for some reason.

Just Me said...

I'm so excited Pauli! And I loved loved this post.

Lucia said...

I'm looking forward to it!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Hello Paulita .. Wow I cannot wait to read this book, very very interesting. I do hope that you manange to find your letters. It is so fun to find our little letters written to our parents. I have all the little notes that my boys wrote to me ,,when they were little and their cards too. I have gone through a lot and divided the letters and cards into 2 boxes.. one for each son. I also have tiny little gifts they gave me, only about two or three, one inparticular is when my youngest son made me a little corn dolly and a embroidered book marker. Keep up your good work, I am sure that you will find more amongst all the boxes. xx

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