Family Lines

stories for you

Month: February 2018

Mass appeal

When someone doesn’t like your memoir

A man who is disappointed.“What if someone doesn’t like what I wrote?” asked a participant in my memoir writing class last week.

That’s just it – not everyone is going to like or agree with what you put in your life stories. However, it’s your story.

O. Henry, an American short story writer, said this about writing: I’ll give you the whole secret of short story writing, and here it is: Rule one, write stories that please yourself. There is no rule two. If you can’t write a story that pleases yourself, you’ll never please the public.

If you write truthfully from your memory, then you shouldn’t have any problem defending your point of view. Where things get messy, is if you make things up. James Frey first sold his book, A Million Little Pieces, as a memoir. It is not a memoir. He created another life about drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation and wrote about that. Now he calls his book “semi-fictional.”

Using creative license (exaggeration or invention) to make your Thumbs down.life more interesting doesn’t belong in memoir. You can’t invent people or events or settings for a more exciting read. If you want to spice things up, write a fiction novel.

Turning real life into art is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work and it takes guts to spill your thoughts and feelings on the page. Debbie Ehrstien is a survivor of sexual abuse and her recent book, The Dissociate, A memoir of secrets and survival of childhood sexual abuse is an example of dealing with a tough issue that many people want to keep buried.

Debbie wrote her book not as a therapy project (although she found writing was cathartic), but as a way to help others dealing with the same issues. She shared personal and emotional experiences rather than the details. Needless to say, she has her detractors and some bookstores refuse to have her book signings in their shops. It’s too bad as her message and goal is powerful: to stop childhood sexual abuse and tell survivors they are not alone.

Some memoirs are going to be hard to write than others. Some family members, friends or colleagues aren’t going to always like what you write – such is life. Don’t let them keep your words from the page.

An Olympic look back

Four years have rushed by and it’s the Olympics again. I worked behind the scenes at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games and enjoyed both the work and the atmosphere. Today, I’m taking a look back.

Olympic uniform.

Me in my Olympic/Paralympic work uniform – on my way to work.

Posted in Whistler, I was the Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service. I didn’t care for the term we VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) employees were given because of our blue uniforms – “Smurfs.” It wasn’t an endearing nickname although now I admit, it’s kind of funny.

Journalists in a room.

Journalists at the Nordic Media Centre in Whistler during the Olympics.

My job was to write stories about cross-country skiing and Nordic combined for the international journalists. (Nordic combined is an event that has athletes participate in a cross-county ski race in the morning and then a ski jumping competition in the afternoon.) Some reporters were new to winter sports and needed help understanding who was on the podium, who wasn’t and why. I told them.

Spectators watching ski jumping competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Ski jumping competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

We were right on site in Callaghan Valley were cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, biathlon and ski jumping events were happening. When I had a break, I got to watch some of the competition. Women will be skiing jumping in PyeongChang for the second time in Olympic history. Jason Myslicki was the lone Canadian at the 2010 Olympics in Nordic combined but won’t be in South Korea. His story of how he trained for Vancouver is a testament to the tenacity of Olympians. He basically relied on handouts and the generosity of other teams. (Read ‘Homeless’ Olympian relies on well-wishers.)

Part of the cross-country ski course at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Part of the cross-country ski course at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Cross-country skiing in 2010 saw Dario Cologna (Switzerland), Petter Northug (Norway) and Marcus Hellner (Sweden) as gold medalists. Charlotte Kalla (Sweden), Marit Bjorgen (Norway) and Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland) were also gold medalists. You will see some of these names in PyeongChang. Canadians who raced in Vancouver and who are going to South Korea include Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw.

Swiss flag.

Reuniting friends and a flag in Zurich.

While working in Whistler, I lived with five women from around the world. One roommate and friend from Switzerland gave me a Swiss flag and a request to reunite it before the 2014 Sochi Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games. A month before the Sochi Games, I got the chance. Read my blog piece here.

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