Mother of six bakes cookies,
hides them in the washing machine.
As I study and experiment with different ways to tell stories, one method I'm experimenting with is telling a story in one sentence.
It seem like an easy task and in some ways it is, but the key is to use words that load your story with enough information to garner interest, build mystery, or add humor.
Of course I never knew my mother hid cookies in the washing machine.
It was a brilliant move.
After all, who was doing the wash?
Who was baking the cookies ... and maybe wanted to save one or two for herself?
And who didn't want to hear, "___ and ___ ate all the cookies and I didn't get any."?
Today is Bake Cookies Day. I've been baking a lot of cookies these last few weeks, and while I don't need to hide them, I do like to bundle them up and give them away.
The cookies in the photo above are Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies (note: I cut the 1-1/2 cup sugar measure to 1 cup in the batter and they're plenty sweet). Oatmeal Raisin are always popular and remain one of my all-time favorites (note: I don't add the cinnamon).
And this time of year, I do like a Pfefferneusse cookie, though I'm looking for a new, spicier recipe than the one I've been using ... if you have one would you share it? Thanks.
One sentence memoir
Are you a baker or a cook? How many stories could you bring to life in one sentence?
The request is always the same. Birthday pie, not cake. And this year, apple pie. If I had to choose, I'd probably go with mincemeat (the dried fruit version).
I might choose mincemeat as my pie of choice to eat, but when it's comes to making pie ... blueberry, pumpkin, mincemeat, cherry, or key lime, it's the apple that gets my attention.
It's the one overflowing with ingredients that can't be measured.
The one that makes me think of my mum peeling ribbons of peel with each apple. And my grandmother ... whose voice neared a whisper when she told me she used only half the white sugar measure, instead balancing it with half brown sugar, despite what the recipe called for.
And when I make the crust I think of my friend who is a baker. She adds a splash a vinegar. And another, who shared her mother's recipe that includes an egg.
I'd never added an egg to my pie crust. Yesterday I decided to give it a try.
What a pie! It's delicious. My best ever, I think.
The crust is flaky and tender and the filling as sweet as ever. It's the perfect blend of ingredients ... some that can be measured and so many others that can't.
Recipes we love, remember, and share offer endless story ideas.
Share your experiences with traditional foods, comfort foods, that recipe your friend won't share, or that recipe fail ... we all have them.
Share your stories in a narrative poem, short essay, or a chapter in that book you want to write.
But before you go, how do you like your apple pie ... with a side of vanilla ice cream, or maybe like "M", with a few slices of sharp cheddar?
A picture book memoir of Agatha, nose-to-the-ground, scent sniffing basset hound who loved to walk ... and stop and sniff.
A beautifully illustrated book for dog-lovers of all ages.
"... We love everything about it. Dogs, nature, and phenomenally innovative art! Well done."
My life's not that interesting.
That's what someone wrote in the comment section of a memoir survey I sent a while ago.
It's not what I expected, and I don't believe it's true.
After all, what makes an interesting life to one person may not be interesting to another. Is an interesting life one with lots of travel? A successful career? Life on a farm? Sailing around the world? Lots of dinner parties and dancing?
Any one of those things might fill your days, but I'm not sure that would guarantee a good memoir. What makes a good memoir is your take on the world ... how you see things, and why they matter.
Your perspective is what people want to read about.
I like to write about the unexpected, curious ways the commonplace can (and does) surprise and shape me.
Memoirs that offer a behind-the-scenes look at how someone created or experienced something can be reassuring, educational, and inspiring.
The stories that resonate with people are the ones they can relate to ... stories that remind them about something they've experienced ... or want to experience.
Where you go and what you see.
So don't worry about whether or not you have an interesting life. Where you go with your writing and memoir is more about what you see and how something made you feel; sharing what you learned, and the joys, and frustrations you experienced. That's what people want to read about.
The stories you tell could be about the pets you've had and what you learned from them, your first job, how you started your business, or what it was like that first and only time you went to summer camp. It's the common experiences, disappointments, successes, and life affirming joy that people are looking to connect with.
When I re-read some of the stories I've written, they remind me of different times in my life; a life filled with curiosity and attention to detail. And that's what matters, no matter where or how you live your life.
What did you see? How did it make you feel? What did you learn?
Write about that.
We never had a dog when I was growing up. There were a few cats, a snake even, but never a dog.
I can't even recall knowing any one dog all that well, but there came a day when I wanted one.
So I went looking for one, talked about getting one, did my research on bringing a dog home, and finally got one. A basset hound.
Why a basset hound? I think it was the ears. They have big, beautiful ears. Velvety ears. And they are solid dogs, well-tempered, and laid-back.
Unfortunately, they are not great about walking in a straight line, moving along from here to there ... at least not Agatha. Nope, she'd walk a few paces and stop. Sniff, move on, and stop again.
After reading the most popular and recommended books about having a dog, I understood the importance of daily exercise, and made sure we went out. Every day. We went in the woods and around the neighborhood, but it was always the same ... a herky-jerky trek from here to there.
Now, granted, I wanted a dog that was easy-going, but when it was time to get her out for some exercise, it became an exercise in frustration. For me and the dog.
The frustration, I realized, came from expecting Agatha to power walk, get moving, and do what I wanted her to do ... to go against her nature. Bassets are after all, scent hounds. Sniffing is what they do. Once I figured that out, I enjoyed our time outside.
What I learned
I learned to take myself for a walk first ... alone. And to accept what Agatha was teaching me ... to slow down and notice things.
In the coming weeks, I'll be releasing a new picture book, Things I Notice When I Walk The Dog.
It's a picture book memoir. Agatha's legacy ... and part of mine.
Think memoir's not for you?
If you think memoir is not for you, think again. People love stories and you've got some good noes.
Stories you can share in a collection or how-to book.
Remember, memoir is not an account of your entire life. It's the account of an experience or event where some kind of understanding, lesson, or insight occurred.
How did you get started doing what you do? What does someone entering the field you're in need to know? What do you wish you knew? Share it and help someone in the same position.
Have you completed a self-initiated challenge where you learned something you didn't expect?
What do you do in your spare time? Are you a mast chef, a marathon runner, or member of a band? What's that like? Let us know.
Your insights and experiences are unique. And that's why we want your take on how it's done and why it matters.
Once you get started, you'll be surprised a what you can share.
Writing about your experiences can feel self-indulgent or out of reach in the beginning, but you tell stories all the time. The challenge is putting them down on paper.
Want to ease into writing? Check out these new tools.
Helping you write stories worth sharing.
Story prompts, every week.