May 062015
 
Emotional furniture of your memories of your first home

As you write about memories of your first home (or any other place), include some emotional furniture.

When I first heard the prompt “Write about your memories of your first home,” my first reaction was, “Oh yeah, write about the place I can’t remember.” I wasn’t alone. The woman next to me offered aloud, “My first home after I got married?” She grew up as a military brat. She couldn’t even remember the number of home she had lived in, much less any details about the first one.

Of course, she was right. There’s several ways to adapt this prompt into something that will resonate with you and your readers. The point is to get your memories to paper and to connect with others through your stories. For instance, in addition to writing about your actual first home, Continue reading »

Feb 172015
 
Cookie Cutter stereotype

Stereotypes can leave you with a cookie cutter character. However, they can help you frame a delicious appealing description.

Are stereotypes bad for stories? Do we want our readers to type cast us—or the loved ones we write about—as simple stereotypes? Or do stereotypes help us build a setting for a story?

Breaking the Stereotypes: Steel Magnolias and Cast Iron Camellias

Stereotypes seem like a cop-out when it comes to describing people, because they are. However, when you use them as a starting point they can be very helpful. Comparing yourself to common stereotypes can help you define who you are. For instance, growing up in the south, I’ve known my share of “steel magnolias” and “cast iron camellias.” Continue reading »

Jan 192015
 
The rest of the story is missing

Stories are not meant to start or end in the middle.

How many times are we missing the rest of the story?

We miss it every time a stranger waltzes into our lives and touches us in some way, then quickly exits.

I used to love listening to Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story radio vignettes. His ability to take a fact that we all knew—took for granted even—and present it with renewed and fresh meaning captured my imagination. It even altered my teenage know-it-all Weltanschau a little too. Continue reading »

Mar 132013
 

Scrapbookers have taken the concept of photo captions to a whole other level. Whereas most writers and bloggers don’t have the time to literally take a page (or layout) from their books, there’s no arguing that a creative use of captions with your photographs or illustrations can also enhance your writing.

Re-Using Past Captions

Photo caption of old photo of baby looking surprised

Why the very idea!

If you’re scanning photos out of an old photo album, consider preserving the original caption in some way. To preserve it digitally, you can scan the album pages with the original caption, use the caption as part of the scanned file’s name, or use the captioning utility of your photo-organizing software. That way, when you use that image in you writing, you’ll have access to the caption the origin owner of the photo album used. Likewise, when scanning, don’t forget to keep track of any inscriptions you find on the back of the photo. These often work quite well as a caption as well.

If you’re blogging for the blogosphere, i.e., hoping to attract readers outside of your family and close friends, there’s another reason to use descriptive file names. Stephanie Chandler, author of Own Your Niche points out, “…the actual file name for each image provides yet another opportunity to improve keyword concentration. For example, instead of inserting an image simply named photo.jpg, rename the image to something like corporate-leadership-book-joe-author.jpg.”[1]

Creative Photo Captions Tell Stories

Photo caption of an old photo of a young woman petting a mule

Photo Caption: Early on, my mother showed her penchant for big-eared guys

There will, of course, be times that you find a picture you’d like to use, about which you know no details or background. In these cases, creativity will be your guide. For instance, I found a photo of my mother as a young woman petting a mule, but I didn’t know what year it was or whose mule it was. As I was scanning the photo for a project for my sister, I reflected on the fact that my sister always lamented inheriting our father’s big ears. (He was always easy to identify in any group shot.) Although the page I was working on for my sister was more about life on the farm, I captioned that image as “Early on in life, Ellen shows her penchant for big-eared guys.” My sister appreciated the captioned humor.

Of course, you don’t always have to use captions. Sometimes a picture really is worth a 1000 words.

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

 


[1] Stephanie Chandler, “Author Websites: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics Part 1.” AuthorityPublishing.com, August 22, 2011, http://authoritypublishing.com/internet-marketing/author-websites-search-engine-optimization-seo-basics-part-1.

Mar 062013
 

Write about a friend or how Friends ConspireWhy you should write about a friend

It’s more than appropriate to write about a friend in your memory stories. Family members are not the only ones who play a starring role in memories. There are times—when family is far away, when the nest is empty, or when family is gone—that good friends fill the gaps.

Friends can become as close as family members. Many of us have friends that have stood by us throughout the years, sharing good times, bringing meals, and mopping up tears in times of sorrow. They are fixtures in our lives. Many are responsible for our emotional and spiritual well-being.

My grandmother wrote a loving poem in honor of her friend Ellen, which she called “Ellen of Virginia.” Much of her poem had to do with how heartbreaking it would be if her friend Ellen ever left Virginia. For my mother, also named Ellen, this was a very moving piece. She had always harbored doubts about leaving her home state of Virginia and living so far from her parents. My mom was gratified to know that when she wasn’t able to be with her mother, a dear friend was.

Writing About a Friend Tells about You

When you write about a friend and your feeling for that person, it gives loved ones  insight into your development, regardless of whether it was a childhood or adult friendship. You don’t need to write about every friend you have, but consider writing about those friendship experiences that have helped mold you.

Write about a friend who is as close as a sister

Beth, in the center, isn’t my biological sister, but note that we had matching night-gowns.

Write about a Friend to Deepen Connections

Another reason to write about a friend: Our loved ones tend to love the people who we love. They can develop an affection for a near stranger, based only on that person’s relationship to you.

For example, my mother had a friend named Nancy Green. I’ve never met Nancy, but I have a deep fondness for her. This grows not only out of the fact that they shared a childhood, but also from their shared passion for art and the fact that they managed to stay close for five decades.

Likewise, I have strong connections to some of the youth for whom my mother advocated as a child protection worker. I never knew their names, but, because my mom cared so deeply about them, I think about them from time to time and pray that they have found their paths to happiness.

Not a Competition

Before you start deliberating about which friend is “best,” realize that this is not a competition or ranking. It’s simply your feelings about someone and they role they play or have played in your life. You can write about one special friendship or many.

How to Write About a Friend

Try writing down your memories of and reflections on a dear friend.
Include

• Physical attributes
• Personality attributes
• How you met
• Bonds that you shared
• Why you treasure your friend

It can rhyme, be in simple prose, or an essay. The point is to convey some sense of this person to those who do (or did) not know him/her well.

Want to read an example of a writing about a dear friend? Read Laura of Laurens. 

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

Feb 202013
 
Family roots

Roots: hidden, fragile, tangled, and often more than just a little bit dirty.

It was only after I stumbled over some of them that I started paying attention to my family roots. Now I spend a lot of my time looking for more of them.

My family tree looks nothing like the iconic oak with its rounded top and balanced, far-reaching branches.  One side is all filled out and well-rounded. We have information on our ancestors going back to about 1500.The other side is largely missing. “Roots” seems more applicable—hidden, fragile, tangled, and often more than just a little bit dirty. On my father’s side of the tree, we had precious little information, owing not the least to the fact that our grandmother was an orphan. Or so she claimed.

Its silhouette looks more like a willow that loses limbs in every storm than the archetypal oak.  The opposite was true of my mother’s side of the family;

For the intact, maternal side of our tree, my sister and I had two great sources of information. One was our amazing Aunt Ann and her thirty plus years of pre-internet genealogical research. The other was our grandmother’s Treasure Chest of Memories.

My Grandmother’s Treasure Chest of Memories:

Treasure Chest of Memories author Hazel Crymes

My grandmother with my cousin Harry circa 1983.

Written in a script illegible to all but my mother, her Treasure Chest of Memories was an old spiral notebook filled with a lifetime of her writings. Her entries ranged from humorous anecdotes to highly personal ruminations, good recipes, and wisdom she had gathered along the way.

As she approached the end stage of her breast cancer, Grandma decided to pass her Treasure Chest on to the next generation(s). My cousin Harry swore on all of our behalves that it would never be published, rather be kept only in the family. My mother painstakingly transcribed Grandma’s handwriting and presented each of her siblings and every grandchild with a folder of typed writings—our own copy of Grandma’s Treasure Chest.

A treasure it is! Grandma died in 1983, the year I graduated from college. I was not able to enjoy a woman-to-woman relationship with her in life, but through her memories, I connect with her, again and again, throughout the differing phases of my life.

In honor of my grandmother, Hazel Savoy Crymes, I hope to provide resources and inspiration to others, so that they, too, can  create a treasure of incalculable value for the ones they love.

Make your own Treasure Chest of Memories

Go ahead.  Share your treasures!