I instruct writing workshops and one thing I teach is a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to accomplish this in a piece is to remember to use the three o’s: objective, obstacle and outcome.
To get the point across I split a class into groups of three. Then I have everyone write an objective (beginning) and pass their paper on to the next person. That person then has to add the tale and write the obstacle (middle) of the first person’s story. After he or she is finished, they pass the story on to the next person, who concludes the story with the outcome.
The end result is usually a pretty cool story: even though it’s been written by three people. But the point is not to write a masterpiece but to show how easy it is to craft a story when there’s structure. Some amazing tales have come out of this exercise. Here is one:
Oct. 23 2013
It was supposed to be a nice day and he hoped the sun would keep shining. He had a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his mind. He loved his girl and it was time to make her his wife.
The only problem was she lived in Toronto and he lived in Calgary. Neither of them had enough money to visit each other in person, even though we were able to converse over e-mail. The man had heard that sometimes web dating didn’t work out because a lovely woman could turn out to be a burly guy. But in his heart, he knew his situation was different.
“That’s it!” he said to himself. “I have to get to Toronto. Nothing will stand in my way.”
He took the ring and pawned it. With the money from the trade he bought a ticket to Toronto. If she loves him as much as he loves her, she won’t care that he don’t have the bling.
How do I use technology for my business’ advantage?
Find out here: http://bit.ly/1F9WR2E.
Maple Leaf Gardens in 2009.
Don’t laugh at me but I like the Leafs. Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs. My team hasn’t done well all year and definitely aren’t in the running for the Stanley Cup so I’m rooting for my next favourite team, the Calgary Flames. (Update: they lost last night.) My husband is a diehard Montreal Canadians fan and I’m not going there.
I went to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. My second year, I lived in Cabbagetown, east of Yonge Street and about a 10 minute walk from class. Going to and fro I passed Maple Leaf Gardens, the large brick building that was the home of the Maple Leafs.
I didn’t favour one hockey team over another back then. The Maritimes don’t have an NHL team, so I never felt an affinity for one squad or another. But being in Toronto and having Maple Leaf Gardens nearby made me a Leafs fan. I used the see the players walking in and out from a game or practice. On cold winter nights that turned the outdoor light blue, joyous crowds would cram through the Gardens’ doors and hit the streets. I weaved my way through their happy (most of the time) braying and would hear their dissections of the winning goal.
Sometimes I saw players from the visiting team standing outside, like Wayne Gretzky and
Go Leafs! (Next year.)
Marty McSorley when they played for the L.A. Kings. They were getting ready to hop on the bus parked on Carlton Street. Headed home. Like me.
Those moments created a member of Leafs Nation. It wasn’t any specific hockey stat, player, or game. I actually haven’t seen them play other than on TV. But it doesn’t matter. I will never Leaf them. Although I’m crossing my fingers (and toes) they pick up their game next season.
My parents and I.
I don’t have a first memory of my mother. She’s always been there: picking me up, carrying me, holding my hand and teaching me about life. For the past few months, I’ve been collecting my mother’s stories. Now I’m learning about her life.
You’d think that I’d already know a lot about my mother. Of course I do. She told my sisters and I many stories about growing up in northwestern Ontario on a farm. Her anecdotes are rich with detail and humour and tie her family stories to us, the next generation. My niece and nephew have even created heritage projects in school using their grandmother’s (my mother’s) memoirs about her dad, a Second World War veteran. But it’s different hearing family stories when you’re young compared to when you’re 40.
At the age I am now, I have different questions. They lead to different insights. I see the sadness behind some of the funny stories. I understand the context. I hear the love in her voice when she talks about her parents, remembering them through the lens of maturity.
My mother’s memoirs are not close to being being done. I’ve interviewed her up to when she met my father, a quirkier story than I realized. My mother’s story isn’t done either because she has so much more life to live. She continues to be there for my sisters and I. We’ll always be her babies, she always tells us, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and every other mother too.
Have a treasured memory of your mom to share – but don’t have the time to write it down?
Talk to me.
Tell me your tale in half an hour, I’ll turn it into a story she’ll keep forever.
$50 (Payment required via Interac e-transfer.)
For more information, contact LeaStorry@ourfamilylines.ca or 403-700-5435.
At the podium for Friends and Mentors: Sharing Experiences. A behind-the-scenes look at TMC.
Yesterday I was at the Calgary library talking about my experiences teaching memoir writing workshops to participants from the Drop-In Centre, Alpha House and Women’s Centre. My presentation was one of five and part of the This Is My City Festival 2015.
I’m a volunteer with This is My City (TMC). TMC matches artists with people living at the margins of society and together we write, dance, sing and create art. I run memoir writing sessions and get to hear many different anecdotes from the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
The festival is free and there are many things to see and hear and do this upcoming week. From art exhibits to found poetry to a photo walk, you’re invited to join us: http://bit.ly/1FN3j1R. It’s a great way to see, hear, read and listen about the people most of us have forgotten.
TMC: Found Poetry.
A Starbucks caramel caffè macchiato.
We’ve all had those days or weeks or months or years. When things are tough. When things aren’t going smoothly. When everything you do ends up on the proverbial floor. Today though, I’m finding humour in the unfunny. Turning the tables on the rough stuff and looking through the gloominess and into the sunshine.
During a particularly bad week, I went to Starbucks. At least here I get exactly what I want: a non-fat, half-sweet chai latte with a tart and tasty slice of lemon loaf on the side. The barista who took my order was an acquaintance. I don’t know anything about her except her name and she’s a student. We made some small talk as I hand over my loaded gift card to be swiped.
“It says zero,” she says.
Oh… My face heats up like the milk being steamed for my drink. I madly check all my pockets looking for change, for a piece of plastic, anything. Nope. Nothing. I took the wrong gift card. And I didn’t have any money or a debit or credit card on me.
“This is embarrassing,” I say to the barista as I step towards the door. “I’ll have to skip the drink today.”
“It’s already made so don’t worry about it.”
Isn’t that nice.
I grab my drink and go to put a lid on it. When I look down at the hot beverage it’s not what I ordered. It’s a caramel caffè macchiato..and I don’t drink coffee. However, I really can’t send a free latte back. Oh well. There’s whip cream on top…and I like that.
Thursday and her friend Lisa.
I’m missing a family member today. Thursday, our cat, died last week. I wrote about how I met her a few weeks ago but I hadn’t had a chance to post her story. Here is it now.
She’s orange and white. Yes, a female and that’s unusual for an orange cat. Her name is Thursday and she’s 19 years old. And yes, that’s old for a cat found on the street several years ago.
Thursday has a beige bump on her nose that’s a different colour then the rest of her pink nose. She wears a shiny gold collar that’s a bit bold for a senior. When I first met Thursday five years ago, she was just the guy who I was dating’s cat.
Back then, she was plump and her fur was shiny. She ran here and there and jumped up and down. In the summer, she hung out on the balcony and watched the birds. She never tried to leap into the air and catch any of them. She’s too dignified for that. She’s not too elegant to beg for cheese though. She gets a piece every morning and evening and chows down on it quickly and then looks for more.
Five years ago, she didn’t really have much to do with me. She would glare at me from her spot on her favourite chair and then close her eyes again. Blocking me from her world.
When I moved in with my boyfriend Thursday would move away from me whenever I sat next to her on the chesterfield. She didn’t like me being in her space. She especially didn’t like me sitting beside her dad. That space was reserved for her and not me.
Getting treats on Christmas ’14.
Gradually as the months passed, she began to sit near me. Then next to me. Then on me. But only when her dad was not around. We spend many of our days together as I work from home a lot. She likes to supervise my writing and keeps me on deadline. Okay, her deadline. When it’s 6 p.m. she makes sure I know it’s time to give her treats and cheese.
Now she is having trouble springing onto the couch and is losing weight. Her fur no longer catches the light but is dull and coarse. When my husband and I sit on the couch Thursday wants cuddles from me. Even though her dad is right there. She loves me and I love her and I couldn’t imagine a day without her.
Me and my Cessna landing at the Waterville Airport, NS.
In my writing workshops, I talk about emotional writing and how to convey sentiment without using words like angry or happy. The best way to express feelings in writing is to actually describe what these emotions bring to you or your character’s face, body laanguage and voice.
Next, my participants do a writing exercise where we take an emotion word and write about the feeling without using the word. We write for 10 minutes and then share our stories. We then have to guess which emotion we each wrote about. Can you guess mine?
High up in my airplane, I can see the landing strip. But I can’t land. Every time I try to make it back to earth, the wind pushes me off course. Off to the side of the runway. I’ve tried three times to touch down.
One, two, three.
Sweat beads on my forehead. I’m getting hotter and hotter as the gusts use me as their toy. Their plaything to be thrown into the air and kept captive until they’re bored of me.
How am I going to put this plane back on the ground? Stupid wind. You’re going to be the death of me.