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Tag: memoir (page 10 of 15)

Thank you for the thank yous

Cards.

My wonderful thank you cards.

In January I gave a presentation on memoir writing to some students at Chris Akkerman School. I wondered how the kids would find writing their life stories and worried if they would find it boring.

That wasn’t the case. They had lots to share and many anecdotes to tell me from their relatively short lives so far. A few weeks later I received a large manila envelope with many, many colourful thank you cards, a few questions and, of course, some memoirs.

By Randeep:

Here is my little story.

The second time I went to India with my little sister (who was only three months old then) I met my devil cousin Aman. He was the most naughty boy ever and there is one thing that he did to me, which I will never forget.

He took my aunt’s old stinky perfume and sprayed it on me and called my mom and said I peed in my pants. Now after six years he is coming from India for two to three months for a visit. I wonder what will happen.

**

By Samad:

I didn’t have the chance to share my memoir during your presentation so I’m going to share it with you right now.

When I was in preschool we were going outside to play on a water-thingy that was filled up with air. I wasn’t able to go outside because I didn’t have my towel so I was sad. Everyone was playing outside while I was playing with toys inside with a teacher.

After I looked in my backpack again and I found my towel so my teacher asked me if I wanted to go outside. But guess what I said?

I said I didn’t want to go outside because I wanted to play with toys.

**

Poem by Komal

So beautiful

The best author ever

Oh! Isn’t she wonderful?

Really cool

Really awesome too.

**

By Manveer:

I have a lot of memories. Most of them are funny. One is when it was sports day. Sports day is where you play sports. On that day I wore my pants backwards the whole time.

**

My memoir by Sikhman:

The time I will never forget. It was in the summer when the greatest thing happened to me. We went to Edmonton. It was fun when we went. On the way to Edmonton we went to Sylvan Lake. In Edmonton we went to our hotel room and it was 9 p.m. and we got pizza and went to sleep. I got to sleep on a cool chair. The next day we went to Tim Horton’s for breakfast. Then last but not least, we went to West Edmonton Mall and went to Galaxyland

**

I want to share a memoir. By Komal:

I still remember when my grandfather died. I was looking all over for him and everyone said the same thing, “He’s at work.”

I was only one.

**

My memoir by Shrill:

I have to go to a place and when I go to it we always go in the middle of the night. We’re tired little people and we want to go to sleep.

**

Good luck bad luck penny

I was walking down the street and I found a penny. I thought it was lucky and I took it.

The next thing you know I had mud all over and my back was hurting because I slipped on a banana peel. So I threw the penny away.

Will the bad luck stop?

**

Puppy by Diya:

Once upon a time there was a little puppy. That little puppy’s name was Max. Max was a brave little puppy who went on adventures.

His adventures were awesome. He had some problems solving his problems. Then he went to the shelter. A girl name Lea bought him. Both were happy together.

**

Questions from the classes:

Harleen asked me what my favourite colour is: green.

Do you have a pet? What kind and what is her/his name?

I have a pet cat and her name is Thursday.

Do you have a brother or a sister?

I have two sisters.

Uditi asked me if it’s hard writing non-fiction books.

On one hand, it’s easy to write non-fiction because you’re writing about your life and you know what happened. But on the other hand, you can’t make stuff up like a fiction writer would. So I think it’s harder to write non-fiction.

Sneha wants to know if I have any book ideas for writing.

For non-fiction you could write about what fun things you do in school. You can also interview your parents or grandparents and find out what they used to do at school. You could also ask them to what they remember about being a kid.

For fiction you could write about having a super power. What does having this super power mean? Do you have to rescue everyone?

Some students said they’re keeping diaries (or a journal as Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid would call it.)

Harveer:

You have inspired me to keep my own diary. In my diary I could write memoirs of special days. I will also get pages and write a story and then staple the pages together and make a book. My cousin does that. He has about 10 books already.

Tarnpreet asked me:

Did you do any other jobs before you became an author?

Yes, I was a journalist before I became a memoir writer. Being a journalist is good training to becoming an author. As a reporter you learn how to interview people and how to write.

Do you like this job or not?

I love my job as a memoir writer. People have so many cool stories to tell me and I like collecting their tales so other people can read them too.

How many books have you written about yourself?

I wrote one book about myself. It’s about when I lived in the Northwest Territories a few years ago.

How many memoirs have you written?

I’ve written at least five memoirs for other people and hope to write many, many more.

Gurpreet and Aastra asked me if I’m really afraid of squirrels and not bugs or other animals.

Yes, squirrels scare me a lot as you heard in my story. Bugs and other animals don’t really bother me. I did come face-to-snout with a bear once. That was a scary situation.

I received so many compliments and if I ever need a boost I’ll read your thank-you cards over.

 

 

Six words memoir

Lake.

Where some of the lake monsters were born.

A six word memoir…can it be done? Yes, says SMITH Magazine. The magazine states six words make you get to the point. That six words are a catalyst for self-expression. That six words force you to be creatively creative.

I tend to think that while six words certainly hit the bone and pare down to the very essence of your anecdote, you miss some of the best parts. Those best parts, like description and emotion and well, the story, are left to be made up by other people’s imaginations. By leaving most of the tale unwritten, you have shaped a piece of fiction when you wanted to tell the truth. I thought I would try a few six word memoirs anyway.

Gusts send sand into my eyes.

Gap workers always have to fold.

Lake monsters live in my mind.

Even my eyebrows sweat in Africa.

Gap store.

I once worked at a Gap. And spent many an hour folding.

I’m not sure if any of the above “memoirs” worked and I am fighting the urge to include more details. But I won’t.

What’s your six word memoir?

A crisp spring

Calgary city view.

A spring afternoon in Calgary, March 21, 2014.

It’s supposed to be spring right now but it’s not. Definitely not. Winter is hugging us tight and is not going to let us go. Usually during chilly February evenings I like to warm up with a bowl full of apple crisp. Right out of the oven. It’s a great way to sweeten dark winter nights and with the snow still flying in March, I think it’s apple crisp time. Despite my terrible cooking and baking skills, it’s one thing I can make.

My mother made supper for the family on week nights when I was growing up in Nova Scotia. The five of us would sit at the table around 6:30 p.m. or 7, after my dad got home from work, to eat our meal. Sometimes we had baked sole, sometimes haddock, sometimes Shepard’s pie and sometimes chicken. We always got dessert.

My favourite treat wasn’t chocolate cake or ice cream or pudding – it was apple crisp. Even when it was piping hot I’d be shoveling into my mouth. Even though it scorched my tongue. Through the burning I’d taste sweet Annapolis Valley fruit, baked into a soft compote. The crisp was also a little bit crunchy – from the topping of oatmeal and butter and brown sugar. Mmmm. Delicious. There’s nothing better when the snow is falling outside and the wind is trying to get in the front door.

Supper table.

My family’s supper, lunch and breakfast table.

The recipe came from my mother’s 4H cookbook from where she grew up – Burris, Ontario. Now it’s been a family recipe for almost 40 years now. My mum taught me to make apple crisp when I was younger. No easy feat as I just don’t like being in the kitchen.

Peeling the apples was fine and my dog, Jasper, would wait for the trimmings. He would gobble them up and want more. I loved the crisp’s topping so much that I told myself when I lived on my own I would make a whole bowl of it and eat it all myself. (I’ve lived on my own for a while but haven’t indulged in a pound or two of topping in one sitting.)

I have prepared the dessert so often that I don’t even need to look at the instructions anymore. It’s often the dish I take to potlucks or serve at dinner parties and it’s surprising no one is sick of it yet. Unless they don’t have the heart to tell me.

It doesn’t matter where I’ve made the apple crisp – from The Gambia, West Africa to Sackville, New Brunswick to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories to Revelstoke, British Columbia, every time the aroma hits me I’m reminded of home, winter nights and my family.

Apple crisp (from memory)

  •  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C).
  • Peel and slice about 6 medium sized apples
  • Place the sliced apples in a 9×13 inch pan.
  • Spread 1 tablespoon of white sugar over the sliced apples

Topping

  • Combine 3 cups of oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour, pinch of salt, ¾ cup of melt butter and mix.
  • Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about ½ hour to 45 minutes

Over and out: Waterville Airport

People in an airplane.

Taking my family for a flight at the Waterville Airport, NS.

A tiny airport in Nova Scotia is closing and for many of you reading this blog it won’t mean a thing. But for me, it’s where I first learned to check the oil, feel the wings for dents and bruises, kick the tires and then…fly.

The Waterville/Kings County Municipal Airport has been operating since the late 1970s. The aerodrome is in a nice little spot with its runway right in the middle of the Annapolis Valley. Sometimes the high hills (or North and South Mountain as Bluenosers call them) capture the fog and keep it prisoner in the early morning. Eventually it escapes and seeks refuge in the Bay of Fundy, sitting just over North Mountain. A few years ago I got stuck in the air in that dawn summer mist but that’s another story. For now, I’ll let other memories soar.

A few years ago, in the beginning of this millennium, I moved back to Nova Scotia from Alberta to become a pilot. I had been working as a journalist at a television station and needed a change. (TV isn’t the glamorous job you think it is.) Since I was young, I had always wanted to fly. When I was seven I saw my uncle’s airplane parked at his Winnipeg house and that was that. I wanted to go up in the air.

Learning to fly was cheaper in Nova Scotia, half the cost of Calgary. I moved back in with my parents and got a job at one of the two flight schools at Waterville. I become a part-time receptionist and hired hand helping out with planes.

I spent hours at the flight centre and often had two lessons a day. My very first flight was on a sunny spring day. My instructor Mark and I squeezed into the cockpit of a two-seater Cessna 150, XBR (or X-Ray Bravo Romeo). There was almost no room to move in the 150 but as we rolled onto the runway, it didn’t seem to matter.

Cessna 150.

The first airplane I flew – Cessna 150 XBR – at the Waterville Airport, NS.

Mark took the Cessna up into the air and as soon as we were levelled off – he handed me the wheel.

“You have control,” he said.

“I have control,” I said and pointed the red striped plane north. I flew us to the training area near the house where I grew up. Once I spotted it, a green roof sticking out of the brown forest, I circled a few times, looking almost right into my bedroom. It was a strange thought that, just an hour ago, I was in that room. Bound to the floor. Now here I was, in the air, hanging over my home.

I flew back to Waterville, picking out the runway with ease. It’s right beside the extra-large Michelin tire plant, which is why the airport is now relocating as the factory is expanding. I didn’t land the plane that first flying lesson, Mark did that. Landing for me would come later and I would only learn after a few “crash landings.”

Flying for me wasn’t about the freedom I hear many other pilots describe. It wasn’t about being higher than the ravens and the hawks and the eagles. It wasn’t about escaping earth. For me it was about fulfilling a life time goal. It was about doing something I aspired to do and never thought I would ever have the chance. Getting my private pilot’s licence meant the future was wide open and I could do anything I wanted.

During the year I was learning to fly, 9/11 happened. The airline industry faltered and it was hard for people to find flying jobs. Since then I’ve been taking a few commercial training flights even though it’s expensive and time-consuming. One day I would like to complete that goal too. One day.

With the closure of the Waterville Airport comes the end of flying lessons, parachute courses, ground school and many other things connected to aviation. But it’s not the end of the memories of taking off runway 28 and shooting straight into the sky, a blue sky when the weather is perfect.

“I have control.”

Show, don’t tell

Me landing at the Waterville Airport, NS.

Me landing at the Waterville Airport, NS.

I’ve been teaching a memoir writing workshop and for one class we talked about emotional writing and how to convey sentiment without using words like angry or happy. These words tell – not show – how you feel. The best way to express feelings in writing is to actually describe how the emotions make you feel and what they are doing to you or your character.

Next we did a writing exercise where we took an emotion word and wrote about it without using the word. We wrote for 10 minutes, then shared our stories and guessed which emotion we 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 the soil. I’ve tried three times to touch down, one, two, three – how am I going to put this airplane back on the ground?

Stupid wind, you’re going to be the death of me.

Don’t underestimate the athlete

2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games.

Russian gold medalist in sit-ski at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games.

The Olympics may be over but the best is yet to come – the Paralympics. The Paralympics are by far the better show of athletic skill and heart. Despite this, these games are not well attended and there are hardly any Paralympic sports broadcast on Canadian TV.

In 2010 I was posted in Whistler, B.C. as a Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service. As part of the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games I got the chance to not only write about some of the competitions but take in the atmosphere of the global events held in our country.

During the Olympics, Whistler was filled with people. The medals plaza was stuffed to capacity with spectators every night and the streets of the mountain town were packed with revellers. The stands at cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined and biathlon were jammed with fans no matter the weather. That all changed during the Paralympics and I wondered why.

Paralympians work just as hard as Olympians. They’re all athletes training to be number one in their sport. They’re all dealing with outside pressures such as family and finances and work. They’re all attempting to realize a dream – standing on the podium and representing their country. Usually, only Olympians get to feel the glory. We hear about their fight to be the best. We hear their stories of making it to the top. You rarely hear about a Paralympian’s quest for gold. But when you do, you’ll cheer louder than ever like I did.

One of my roles at the Paralympics was to write stories about the athletes. I interviewed them and asked them questions that would be considered rude in other circumstances.

“What is your disability category?”

Andy Soule.

Andy Soule, U.S. Paralympian. Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andy_Soule,_2010_Paralympics.jpg

In Paralympic cross-country skiing and biathlon, there are standing events, sitting events and visually impaired events. One U.S. sit-ski and biathlon competitor had his legs amputated after being hit by an explosive while serving in Afghanistan. An athlete before he lost his limbs, Andy Soule told me he wanted to stay active after his injuries and when he was introduced to cross-country skiing, he was a natural. Five years after his life-changing event, he was at the 2010 Paralympics, and making history as the first American to win a bronze medal in biathlon in either the Olympic or the Paralympic Games.

Andy’s story was just one incredible story out of many. No doubt Olympians face adversity too but when some superstars had a bad race, they stormed past reporters and wouldn’t talk. Most Paralympians opened up about their experiences and shared their thoughts about the competition, making themselves available to the media – win or lose.

Even though the stands weren’t even half-full at the cross-country and biathlon, Paralympians couldn’t get over the amount of people cheering them on. The athletes said it was fantastic and they hadn’t ever seen crowds like that. I only wish that more people would realize how great the Paralympics are and look past the disabilities.

Moments

Photo of a harbour.

Click photo to read quote.
Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia.

The promise of a flag

Swiss flag.

Reuniting friends and a flag in Zurich.

You never know where life is going to take you. (This is a cliché and I always tell my memoir writing workshop participants never to use these sayings but today it’s OK.) Four years ago I was given a Swiss flag in Whistler and a request to reunite it with its owner in Switzerland when I could. And it happened a few weeks ago.

In 2010 I had the job of a lifetime as part of the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games.  Posted in Whistler, B.C. as a Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service, I met and worked with people from around the world. It was an interesting job, despite the long hours, and after my job was done for the day I hopped on a bus and headed for the swanky home I shared with five others.

Six women were packed into a condo near downtown Whistler. There was me, the Canadian, my roommate, the Norwegian, a Brit, another with dual Canadian and American citizenship, her American friend and a Swiss Ms. We all held different roles and therefore had different hours but somehow, we all became friends.

Opening ceremonies Vancouver Winter Games 2010. (Thanks for the photo Julia.)

Opening ceremonies Vancouver Winter Games 2010. (Thanks for the photo Julia.)

Flags from our representing countries were hung up around our living room (that was also one woman’s bedroom) during the opening ceremonies. There was a small party that night with other VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) employees, each person cheering loudly as his or her country walked into the B.C. Place Stadium. This was the only time I would be allowed to clap for Canada; otherwise I had to be impartial.

At the end of the Olympics some workers were staying on for the Paralympics, like me, while others were returning home. The Swiss Ms, Cornelia, gave me her Swiss flag and told me I had to bring it back to her. I had been to Switzerland a few years before but hadn’t considered a future trip.

“I’ll try to return it to you,” I said. But in my mind I thought there was no way I was travelling to Europe in the next year or so. There were other priorities like finding another job and a place to live. So I packed the red and white flag away in my things and since then, have been moving it around and around with me. Each time I packed and unpacked, from Whistler to various apartments in Revelstoke and Calgary, I would uncover the flag and be reminded of my promise.

After getting married almost two years ago, my husband and I decided to have a delayed honeymoon so we could save up money. When we were discussing options we talked about going to the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Switzerland! I could finally return Cornelia’s flag – right before the 2014 Sochi Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games.

Cornelia and I made plans to meet in Zurich on the first day of 2014 and that’s when I passed over the flag. Not with much pomp or ceremony but we did take a photo to mark the moment. During these past holidays not only did I get to catch up with my Swiss friend but I also got a chance to meet up with two other Whistler roommates I hadn’t seen since 2010. One was in Alberta over the Christmas holidays and the other had us over to her house for a thoroughly delicious moose supper in Oslo, Norway (the second part of our honeymoon destination.) You never know where life is going to take you.

 

Passing the torch at the Sochi Olympics

Olympic uniform.

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

The countdown is on for the start of the Sochi Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games. I know several people who will be working behind the scenes in Russia. I was one of them four years ago as part of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games and will miss being part of the team this time.

Posted in Whistler as a Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service, I met and worked with people from around the world. I was a cross-country ski and Nordic combined “expert.” My job was to write stories for the journalists waiting eagerly for copy. Some reporters were new to winter sports and needed help understanding who was on the podium, who wasn’t and why. I told them.

I liked my job and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Olympics/Paralympics even though I didn’t relish the relentless soup and sandwiches we had for lunch every day for a few months. I also 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 working at the Nordic Media Centre in Whistler during the Olympics.

The moments that stand out for me during my job at the Olympics/Paralympics aren’t ones involving the athletes and their gold finishes, it’s more the excitement of the Smurfs before the opening ceremonies. It’s about making new friends. It’s about Whistler being turned into a global village. It’s about being part of a legacy, even if the experience for me was brief.

Today’s blog piece isn’t so much a story as a look back for me. A reminiscence of a period and place that was truly invigorating and tiresome at the same time. Now it’s someone else’s job to watch every slip and slide and jump. To write the daily previews and reviews. To gather stories about athletes and coaches. Friday is the Olympic opening ceremonies so it’s time to pass the torch. Good luck.

Never too young

Kid writing.

Kids like writing their memories too. Photo source: http://www.mi9.com/640×480/cute-kid-writing_18063.html

“You don’t have to be famous or old to write a memoir. We all have life stories to share at any age.”

This is what I told Grade 5 students in Calgary last Wednesday.  I was giving a memoir presentation to five Grade 5 classes thanks to the 2014 Writers In Schools Program (WISP). It’s an initiative by the Canadian Authors Association – Alberta Branch that connects authors with young writers in schools across the province. I filled out an application in the fall and was chosen to go to Chris Akkerman School and talk about memoir writing.

Giving memoir writing workshops are no big deal for me – when I’m talking to adults. The adults who attend my classes are there because they want to write their life stories. They have paid for the course and are interested in learning the tools in which to write their personal tales. Kids are another matter.

Since I don’t have children I was a bit nervous about what to share and what to say. It’s been a long time since I was in elementary school and the world has changed a lot. Students these days live in a wired world. They’re plugged into computers, mobile phones and games. They’re constantly in touch with friends through a variety of social media and always looking for the next greatest thing online. They don’t want to a miss a thing. How do I connect to them and have them think about forming a relationship with the past?

Easy – through their memories.

Asking a simple question made the kids’ hands shoot up into the air.

“Who remembers one of their best days ever so far?”

Of course I couldn’t call on every student to describe their fun-filled moments but the ones I did point to had lots to tell me. And the stories weren’t about TV or the latest game. The anecdotes were about when their baby sister was born or when they travelled to a different country, the country where their parents had been born and raised.

All these experiences and memories were bursting to come out. The energy from the kids was positive and they were excited and bouncing around. But when it came to the last writing exercise — write their own memoir — they became so quiet and reflective. Some children took a minute or two to think about what they were going to write before putting pencil to paper.

It’s too bad I didn’t have time to hear all the stories but the ones I did hear were well-written and interesting. There was a happy story about going to Calaway Park on a summer day; there was a sad story about being sick on Halloween and almost missing trick-or-treating; and there was a scary story about a possible ghost sighting.

The students had such diverse experiences and everyone wanted to share their accounts of life from the perspective of a 10 or 11-year-old. I don’t think we need to worry too much about these students losing sight of history. They’re going to be a strong voice in the future with a definite connection to the past.

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