The Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge is on hold again today since I had a chance to talk with my Dad. I showed him the photo above and it does show the pool they started the students in and the Bachelor Officers Quarters and then to the left of that the building where the Underwater Swimmers School was located. He wants me to make a large print of it so that he can take it with him to the reunion next year.
We spent the rest of our time together going through photos from Florida Memory, where I found the photo above. It was interesting to hear him talk about his memory. I got more memories from his first time in Key West in about 1948 but that is for another part of the series of his Navy experience. It is interesting that Florida Memory has a big hole in their photos for the 1950’s. I’ve found a similar thing in written histories for Key West. It was after the scaled down after World War II and it seems not too much of interest happened there from a larger perspective.
By the time we got through the 700+ photos my Dad was done for the day. He has peripheral neuropathy and since he spent the day yesterday working at their cabin his feet were hurting way up his legs and he need to rest them. My mom was worn out too. She is seven years older than my Dad and really showing her age these days. So they plan to go over the lessons in the workbook will wait until another day.
For the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge today, I did some prep work for meeting with my Dad again tomorrow. After printing out a copy of the classroom workbook, I did some Google searches for aerial photos of Key West in the 1950’s. I found a few but this one is my favorite. On the far left edge in about the middle of the photo you can see what might be the building for the Underwater Swimmers School. If not it is just off the image. Below that you can see part of the swimming pool they used and to the right of that the baseball field where they did exercises. I think this will help jog my Dad’s memories and it really helps me to visualize things better.
I’m a little off from following the Writing Challenge this week, but I’ll get back to it soon. The purpose of following the challenge is to help me write this history and I’m working on that. The good thing is talking to my Dad and learning more about his experiences. I’ll get back on the lessons in the challenge when he isn’t so available or willing.
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?
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!
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:
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.
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.
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:
add value to society
do the right thing
have more options for the future
be part of a team
feel loved and accepted
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.