50-5 – Writing Through the Years


With my memoir writing workshop beginning again for the spring, I am being inspired to write more than ever. During the last four weeks I’ve been taking a contemplative retreat that has not only let me delve deeper into myself, but subconsciously has allowed me to see how much my writing is a part of all of me. This season’s memoir workshop has the theme of Emotions, and our first two prompts have been Joy and Hope.

In thinking back to my history as a writer, I am reminded of my first fan fictions. I hadn’t known until recent years that what I had written in high school had a genre and that it was called fan fiction. They were all self-insert, Mary Sues, but you do have to start somewhere.

Star Trek and Green Arrow were probably the shortest lived as far as fan fiction writing; more like an ongoing daydream that storied in my head. My fan writings really began with a back and forth letter writing between two characters in The White Shadow. I wrote in a composition notebook and I remember tearing out the pages and folding them in half, filing them somewhere where they remain hidden or lost forever. I was the only one who ever read them, and I can only hope that I will continue to be the only one to read them.

That was probably pre-high school. High school brought on Duran Duran fic and cosplay. Click, whirr is the sound that a camera makes, at least according to Nick Rhodes. I was the wayward photographer, and we often wrote alternate chapters, passing them back and forth through college. I wrote a terrible murder mystery involving the band on tour. Well, I guess it wasn’t that terrible. But it definitely wasn’t that good.

I took creative writing and journalism in high school. They provided a good mix, and they are probably the reason that I eventually took this memoir class in 2012. All writing is good practice. Prompts and free writes are gifts to any genre.

In the years that followed, different experiences led to different writings. Dungeons & Dragons led to Top Secret and other role playing games. I wrote about my TS character, Monique Jonquille, a French spy getting into dangerous situations and making her way in the world of intrigue and espionage. That was the kind of research that I had to do in person; no internet, but that was the kind of stuff that gets your browser history investigated. I spent hours in the library. No, I am not a serial killer; I’m a writer.

As a child I kept a diary – very pink with very large letters and i’s dotted with hearts. I never really kept a real journal like people do today, except when I travel or go on retreat. On my first trip to the UK I kept a daily journal, recording what we’d done for the day, what we planned to do. I drew the constellations, and the little phrases that my friend and I came up with as a secret language.

My friend and I used that journal, and our time traveling by the train to write our next D&D adventure. That would be my first running a game, and I still remember most of our plans. I also still have the glass bottle that we used for one of the rituals. Green glass with a copper metal screw cap. I can’t remember the name of the alcohol, but I do remember that it tasted like cough syrup. Yuck.

The SCA led to medieval research as well as editing and publishing a newsletter. Fiction came then also, much better than my teenage stuff, but not much more than more self-inserts. Wales, camping, travel, archery, costuming, medieval history, languages, so many things to learn. It’s like being a contestant on Jeopardy – you know a little about a lot of things, and most of it sticks with you. I was a Jane of all trades.

As I teacher I wrote curriculums and published an educational newsletter. I did both without a computer. Boy, how times have changed.

After my son was born, I began to write for a parenting newspaper. I muddled through but in reality it gave me the impetus to see what I was really good at: essays. Anecdotes, thoughts written out, how-to’s, travel advice and travel yarns. I might even have a couple of books in me if I can muster up the confidence to let myself be myself and just let the writing take over.

I returned to fan fiction, although at the time in 2008, I thought it was all new to me. it really was like learning a new language – fan fiction was a new language with its shorthand and tags. Harry Potter was my first and still my true fan fiction love. I’ve moved on and adapted to Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, as well as meta – the analysis, discussion, and opinion of the source material. My meta has focused on Supernatural and The Walking Dead, although I have thrown in an Orphan Black or two.

Fan fiction is almost mainstream today. It’s a community. It’s a support group. It’s feedback. It’s family.

It’s not at all what I could have envisioned in the 1980s of my middle and high school years or even of my college years. When your calling envelops you, you can get buried under or you can start folding the pleats and making sense of the ensuing enveloping.

When I began looking into a major for college, I wanted to be a writer. I wasn’t sure how to study that, but it was what I wanted. My mother felt that I should do something else; writing would always be there for me. I studied political science and pre-law, and I made a great group of friends from that course of study. And I still continued to write: science-fiction, fantasy, poetry, lists of all manner and topic.

In some ways, this writing thing feels too late. In others, I feel that it is never too late, but it is hard to hold onto that feeling. It takes a lot of energy to hold onto that.

I took a social science class that had to do with history, genealogy, and the family. We had to write a paper about our family. The year I started college my great-grandmother had died that spring; my Bubbi as everyone called her. I chose to write about the four generations of women in my family: my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and me. I interviewed my grandmother and my mother, and they helped me with my Bubbi’s answers. I went through my mother’s answers more than once, and every time I re-read it I’m always surprised that she wanted to be a writer. Why wold she tell me to do something else if that was her dream? I don’t think it was anything bad, it was just not a way to make a living. It could be a hobby, but not a real job.

Well, I’m trying to teach my kids to follow their dreams. Yes, even the one who wants to be a youtuber. There’s something to be said for doing what you love.

As I near my fiftieth birthday, I wonder what my next writing switch will be, what I will evolve into next. It’s fascinating from this end of it.



It’s a little bit funny that joy is the first prompt of this season’s memoir writing free-write. I am in  the middle of reading both James Martin’s book, Between Heaven & Mirth and Pope Francis’ most recent exhortation, The Joy of Love. I swear if he uses the word conjugal one more time, I will throw my Kindle from a window.

Joy is one of those words that I look at as somewhat old-fashioned. I can be happy, fun, excited, well, good, but joy sounds like it means harp-playing angels and arrow-twanging cupids.

There are also certain words that I hear in certain voices and joy is one of them. Whenever I hear the word joy in my head, it is in Mira Furlan’s voice. She is a Czech actress who played the Minbari ambassador in the Babylon 5 television series. There’s nothing particularly special about the way she says it, but it’s been the way I hear that word since her narration of the opening. Without knowing it, she layers it with context, emotion, and meaning. My priest always welcomes new people with “great joy” and the first time he said it I flashed to the sound of Mira’s voice from twenty-five or so years ago.

Despite my current readings, I am neither joyful nor mirthful. I’m subdued, and joy is not subdued. I think joy happens in retrospect; as a memory of something too wonderful for mere words.

Joy is substance, joy is flavor, joy is the smell of rain, and the tweet of the 5am birdies. It’s the glow of the moon on my face or my hand when I reach towards the window in the night. Joy is your sleeping child or running unexpectedly into a friend during errands. Joy is my lilac tree in the yard and the smell of hyacinth.

Where do you find your joy?

Prompt – Joy


This was supposed to be posted on Friday, but with Prince’s unexpected death and the beginning of Passover, I delayed it until this morning. Future prompts will appear on Fridays.

Now that my writing class has started up again, I’m going to share our prompts with you and hopefully encourage you to do your own free writes. Remember that free writes are ten to fifteen minutes of stream of consciousness writing related to the prompt. I sometimes call it spewing. We all have our words for things.

The class is six weeks, but with homework this prompt exercise should go on for about twelve weeks.

Share your writings by linking them in the comments.

Our theme for these next few weeks is Emotions.

Today’s prompt begins with Joy.

Have fun!