Writing Challenge: day 38

For the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge today, I spent a couple of hour talking with my Dad. We went over the maps of Key West and I have a better idea where the key places are. I’d made a list of all the settings I could think of for this story that we went through. He is a visual person like I am. I didn’t realize that until Saturday when he told me that most of his memories of the Navy are visual images of places. We are getting together again either tomorrow or Thursday and start working through just how they taught each of the lessons plans for the Underwater Swimmers School. (The day depends on if the battery he needs to take up to the cabin comes in tomorrow or not.)

We are exploring the idea of hiring a mentor or writing coach for this project. He really wants it to be good since he is taking it to the next U/WSS reunion in May. And I just don’t have the knowledge and skills to do it on my own. We talked about just hiring someone else to write it but with 17 more years of Navy history to do, it makes more sense to help me to gain the skills and then it will have a more consistent voice through the whole project. Have any of you ever worked with a writing coach?

Writing Challenge: day 37

Day 11 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. Today, I’m trying to learn the difference between showing and telling. Lynn shared a quote by Lee Gutkind from You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.

Writing in scenes represents the difference between showing and telling.  The lazy, uninspired writer will tell the reader about a subject, place, or personality, but the creative nonfiction writer will show that subject, place, or personality, vividly, memorably – and in action. In scenes.

I think I understand but when I go to do the assignment, I’m not so sure. The task is to take a highlighter to a chapter of my favorite family history book. I don’t know that I have one so I print out the essay “Aunt” from one of the previous lessons instead. But it seems like I’m highlighting almost everything. I understand that the suggestion for nonfiction is 50-70% scenes. So I’m not sure that I’ve learned today’s lesson properly and not sure how to go about learning it better. Maybe a google search will help.

The first few things I found googling “show don’t tell lesson” were for grade school kids. It helped some. I also found I lesson Review Fuse, that I think helped some more. This is going to take some work and practice. Part of today’s lesson was to go over my writing for show not tell stuff. I don’t have much writing to go over yet but I did the free-writing from a few days ago that I posted here. I mostly did dialog with very little showing beyond that. I have so much to learn!

Writing Challenge: day 36

It seems I’m finally up to speed on the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge, finally only spending a day to complete each assignment. Today I moved on to 10. Lynn had a guest author for today’s inspiration, Julie Cahill Tarr. You can find her blog here. Julie suggests that entering a family history writing contest is a great way to help motivate us to write on family stories. I’m not ready to jump on that bandwagon but maybe after I finish this challenge I will consider it. Here are the contests that Julie suggested:

  •  Ohio Genealogical Society,  OGS Writing Competition – Do not have to be a member; entries must fit the criteria of OGS quarterly or newsletter.

Today’s writing exercise was to come up with five lessons that you have learned from your family history and write an essay about it. Here are some of the life lessons I came up with from my Dad’s time in Key West at the Underwater Swimmers School.

  • You never know where a new opportunity will take you.
  • The grass isn’t always as green on the other side of the fence as it looks.
  • A seemingly simple lesson can help you the rest of your life.
  • I’m more like my Dad than I realized.
  • The power and importance of a team.
  • You don’t really know what amazing things someone else has done in their life.
  • It is tough to live with no regrets even if they are just little missed opportunities.
  • The importance of trust.
I did some free-writing about how much I’m like my Dad in athletic ability and fear and anxiety.

Writing Challenge: day 35

Another day and on to new day for the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. On day 9, Lynn talks about re-constructing the past and the dilemma of writing about something you haven’t witnessed. It isn’t right to just make stuff up and call it non-fiction. I haven’t gotten a complete grasp on this myself yet. I like what Lynn said:

It is impossible for us to know the exact details of an event that occurred in our ancestor’s life without having witnessed it. Even if you did witness it or other relatives witnessed it, our perception is skewed. One person’s perception of an event can differ from another’s. There are many truths to a story, and many versions of the same story.  Witnesses can often see the same event in two varying ways.  So even with witness in hand we can’t know for sure what the truth is. We all witness an event through our own perceptions, bias and experiences. However, what we can’t deny are the facts.

While we can’t make stuff up we can be creative in the way we present the facts while we are truthful, accurate and respectful of those involved. Sounds like a tall order. I have no idea yet how I’m going to accomplish that tasks.

For today’s writing exercise I did some more free-writing. Lynn suggests choosing an internal want and then an event that may represent that inner desire. While she applied this to ourselves I decided to try applying it to my Dad. So I wrote about my Dad’s desires to be part of something bigger and I focused on the events that led up to him being a part of setting up the Underwater Swimmers School, what he calls being a “plank owner.” I think I’m getting a little more comfortable with free-writing.

Writing Challenge: day 34

I can hardly believe that I’m moving on to day 7 after only one day on day 6 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. Today’s assignment was about the internal conflicts and desires as opposed to yesterday was about the outer story. I didn’t know that and at first I thought I’d done yesterday wrong but I think I wasn’t too far off after all. Lynn had us take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. The first column I wrote down events from the timeline I did for my Dad’s Underwater Swimmers School experience. The next column was for his external wants and desires (the stuff I worked on yesterday) and the last column I listed my Dad’s internal wants and desires.

Here are the internal wants and desires that I wrote down:

  • be happy
  • have fun
  • self-worth
  • add value to society
  • do the right thing
  • help others
  • have more options for the future
  • be part of a team
  • belong
  • feel loved and accepted
  • be valued
  • self-confidence
  • be something more than just a sailor

On Lynn’s suggestion, I did some more free-writing. Today’s topic was from my Dad’s wants and desires. I picked his feelings of inadequacy and feeling like he was “just a sailor”. I decided to do it long hand today since yesterday’s writing it straight into WordPress didn’t help me to not stop and edit some as I went. There is no backspace on a sheet of paper. It went better, I think. It is funny how crooked my lines get when writing on a blank piece of paper. Takes me back to childhood for some reason and writing crooked lines then. I’ll spare you (and myself) having to read the ramblings I wrote today. But maybe some of it will make its way on to my blog at some future date.


Writing Challenge: day 33

Yeah for day 6 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. Today’s assignment was finding the conflict in the story. There are four basic types of conflict:

  1. man vs. man
  2. man vs. nature
  3. man vs. society
  4. man vs. himself

I think for my Dad’s story it is mostly about him vs. himself.Though their is an aspect of man vs. nature in keeping the students safe.

Next question from today lesson is what did my Dad want or desire. I know from his letters he really wanted to have a family. He felt alone and saw others with family and yearned for that. The problem with that is that he doesn’t want this story to be about his personal life. The purpose of this book is to tell the story of his Navy life. So I need to focus on another want. In thinking I came up with a twist on the wish for a family. I think one of the reasons he wanted to have a family was to be part of something important, something that matters. I believe being part of the setting up of the Underwater Swimmers School was important and it really mattered to the Navy and helping their men be better prepared for their jobs.

Last question for today: what is at stake for my Dad? I think he was at a point in his life where he wasn’t sure about his future. Did he want to stay in the Navy or get out and do something in the civilian sector. His future was at stake and his confidence was just starting to grow in his abilities and worth as an individual. He went on to greater confidence and success. He stayed in the Navy for another 10 years after the Underwater Swimmers School.

Lynn has a free writing exercise as part of today’s challenge. I found myself doing way too much editing as I went along. So I have room to grow in really being free in my free writing. The assignment was to writing about a tense situation. I chose to write about my Dad being challenged by a couple of fellow sailors just after he got back to Key West in 1956 after being in Maryland for a refresher course.

Finally back from Maryland? I bet your all soft and flabby after all that classroom work.

Yeah, bet we can bet you now, after 3 months of hanging around in D.C. We have been practicing the mile. Maybe we’ll give Banner a run for his money in a little while.

Let me get settled in for a few days and then I’ll take a run with you guys.

That out of shape, are you Red? Too much time at the submarine races?

Come one fellows, I just got back after a long drive. Give me a break.

You’re just scared that you’ve gotten old and fat with all that civilian cooking.

We have a course all laid out, were heading out now for our run, come on old man.

All right fellows, we will see who is slow and flabby. Just let me change, give me a second.

Out on the street the three of them line up for the race of the century.

What exactly is your mile course?

Aw, you can just follow us, there is no way your going to keep us with us.

No, I want to know the route.

OK, we go straight down Southard street until we get to Simonton, turn left there, then on to Caroline then back to Front street, take the curve onto Emma and then back down Southard to here. But you will be eating our dust.

Ready, Set, Go.

The three young sailors take off without too much jocking for possition. There stay pretty even through the turn onto Simonton but then Ray starts to inch ahead.

(There is no way I’m letting these yahoos beat me, no matter how much it hurts.)

They aren’t too worried though sure that Ray is pushing too hard. They know this course and just how to pace it to come out strong at the end. But to their surprise by they time they round the corner onto Carloline he is continuing to pull ahead.

(They aren’t near as good a milers as they thing they are. I just might be able to really show them up.)

He should have petered out by now.

By the time they cross Whitehead, Ray has rounded the corner onto Front Street. Now they know that they are in trouble and try to pick up their pace, but they just don’t have it.By this time all three of them having burning muscles and their legs want to quite but their pride is at stake.

Half way down Emma, Ray decides it is time to kick it to the end and puts on and extra burst of speed.

Time to really push it, Don’t let them think they have any sort of chance to catch you.

He reaches the starting point way ahead of the other too. While his lungs are hurting and his legs are jelly his heart is joyous. He showed those two fellows who is soft and flabby. As Bob and Dick straggle in their bluster is gone and they have new found respect for Hoglund and his speed. But in their minds they are also plotting for a rematch after harder training. over the next few weeks. But the other part of their brains realize that they are no match for Ray and his speed and stamina.

Good job guys, better luck next time.

Yeah, they mumble, good race between gasps of breath.

Ray walks off trying not to show how hard he had to work for that win.

Writing Challenge: day 32

I did more reading as part of day 6 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. So, so much to learn, but taking it one day at a time. Here are links to what I read:

My local library doesn’t have a copy of Story, but they do have Storycraft, so I put it on hold so I can read it. The thing I got from the article on Jack Hart is the choosing the right form for the story is very important. I’m hoping that Storycraft will help me to know if the traditional story arc is the right approach for my Dad’s Navy experience.

Writing Challenge: day 31

I decided I should move on to day 6 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. While my map of Key West still is wanting for details, that will take time working with my Dad and they are home in Idaho now. Day 6 is about the story arc with Shar DeBarolo Carmack as the guest author. Lots of good info and some interesting stories were linked in today’s lesson. Here the two I read today:

It is good for me to read more family stories. Most of my reading in the past has been fiction or academic type books not family narratives. I’m hoping I’ll be inspired as to the type of voice my Dad’s Navy experience should have. Yet another day of this challenge that reminds me how little I really know about what I’m trying to do.

Writing Challenge: day 30

US Naval Station Key West, Florida circa 1950

US Naval Station
Key West, Florida
circa 1950

Today was mostly a ditto of yesterday as part of day 5 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. I worked on the map of the Naval Station and did some research on the house my parents lived in, 2405 Staples Avenue. Not sure if it is still there or not. Street view only shows a bunch of vegetation. The house is step back from the road. The real estate websites general descriptions fit for it but they say it was built in 1958 and one of them said it was a single story. I’m doubting the accuracy though. The satellite view wasn’t any help either. My guess is that it is still there. I had trouble focusing today but at least I did something to move in the right direction.

Writing Challenge: day 29

US Naval Station Key West, Florida circa 1950

US Naval Station
Key West, Florida
circa 1950

Today I spent my time working on printing enlarged maps as part of day 5 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge. I got them printed out 13″ x 19″ and added a little color for the water and cleaned up some of the writing on the Naval Station map. I also expanded some of the streets and want to included more of the streets. I still need to talk to my Dad and place all the pertinent places in his story. I’m kind of excited with the idea of getting myself oriented to Key West and my Dad’s life there in the 50’s. I’ll share the map when I get it finished.

Key West, Florida circa 1950

Key West, Florida
circa 1950