Key West: update

I found an introductory SCUBA class. It lasts about an hour and costs $25. Not bad. I think I’d better wait for my seasonal allergies to pass before I jump into the pool. Popping my ears doesn’t work to well when my noses is stuffed. Plus the last week or so my allergies are driving me crazy. Too much time outside one day sets me up for a really bad day the next day.

I’ve had mixed success on writing 500 words per day. I was good last Wednesday, but Thursday and Friday not a word was written. Monday I did my 500 words and worked on a list of possible stories that might be included in the book. On Tuesday I got my 500 words in but it was a late night rush to get it done. I did better today having just finished my writing along with some research on the building of the railroad into Key West and the Castro revolution.

One thing I found helpful this week, that I finally did last time I chatted with my Dad about Key West. I used my phone to record the conversation so I could refer back to it and not worry about taking notes. I also took a short video clip with my camera of how to clear the water out of your face mask. I highly recommend it. Both have been helpful. With today’s technology it is super easy to do.

Key West: a new challenge

practicing in the pool at U/WSS in Key West

Yesterday I spent some time chatting with my Dad about his memories from the Underwater Swimmers School. As he was explaining how different parts of the SCUBA equipment work he came up with and idea that is both exciting and scary. He wants me to take a SCUBA class. That is not something that I’ve ever thought of having on my bucket list. While the thought is kind of scary and invokes claustrophobic images in my head, I think it would really give me some insight into this history and even other volumes of my Dad’s Navy experience. So I’ve add finding a class to my to do list for the week.

I’ve been working on writing at least 500 words on this project everyday. It is rather haphazard now but I’m doing it and that is a very good thing. My parents are heading back to Idaho tomorrow. I’d hoped they would stay down until the end of next week so I could get with my Dad some more but my Mom really want to get back home. They will be back in a couple of weeks.

I had no idea where this story project was going to take me when I started. It is stretching me in so many ways I never imagined. It is good to learn and do new things especially as I get older. I don’t want to get so old that I’m not willing to try to do new things. What ways have your family story projects helped you to learn new things?

Writing Challenge: day 53

Today, day 23 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge was about revisions. Since my writing experience is very limited I hadn’t really thought about the differences between revisions, editing and proof reading. I learned recently about content editing and editing for grammar etc. I like the term proof reading. My mom is a good proof reader but she isn’t much help in editing content or revisions. At 91 even proof reading is getting hard for her. Lynn explains that revising is about the big picture of the story, editing is on a sentence level and proof reading the last step to catch grammatical and punctuation errors as well as spelling mistakes. It takes dozens of rewrites to get to the editing stage. Here are Lynn’s suggestions on what to look at in the early stages of revision:

  1.  Does each scene serve the story?
  2.  What is the real subject of this story? Is the theme visible to the reader?
  3.  Where does the story ring out?
  4.  What seems superfluous and does not enhance the story?
  5.  Does your back story get to the point, is it necessary to the story, or does it arrive too early?
  6.  Is the beginning, the ending?
  7.  Is the beginning deadweight, does your story start several hundred or thousands of words in?
  8.  Are your characterizations strong and does your ancestor act with purpose?
  9.  Does your plot make sense? Does everything lead to the climax?
  10.  Are the stakes clear, do they create tension and hold the readers interest to the end.

Another tip she gave was when it is hard to cut some favorite part that really needs to go, put it into a file for future reference. She suggests calling this file, “Fragments” or “Bits and Pieces” or “Story Starters.”

Today’s free writing exercise was to write about a small incident in an ancestors life that shows their courage and kindness. Not sure if I ended up with the right kind of incident but too late now. My Dad doesn’t show much emotion but I think he is more sentimental than he realizes. The first time he met my Mom she through some corn kernels at him. He picked them up and put them in his pocket. That night when he should have thrown them away he kept them. After they were engaged he decided to save them and then plant them someday and tell his children the story about the corn. When I was 5 or 6 they planted that corn. I don’t remember the corn planting but I love the story. With lots of revisions etc. it could make a really good story. Maybe it would work to start the story on the day he is planting the corn and flashback 10 years to the day they met. Maybe I’m starting to think like a writer. Not sure but I’ve never thought about it that way before.

Writing Challenge: day 52

Day 22 of the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge was titled “The Beginning of the End. Lynn included lots of tips on how to think about the end of your family story from the start. The end answers the questions that were asked in the beginning. A good ending contains most of the following elements:

  • Climax
  • Transformation
  • Faces Antagonist for the Final Time
  • Conflict and Tension Fades
  • Full Circle
  • Falling Action
  • Unanswered Questions
  • Does the conflict or opposition re-emerge for your ancestor?

Today’s free writing exercise was about exploring conflict. The assignment was to write about a tense situation I’ve been in or witnessed. The idea is that in writing about our own conflicts and reactions to conflict we can gain insight into our ancestor’s conflicts. I decided to write about an interaction with my oldest sister. She is an untreated paranoid schizophrenic. (I can’t believe I spelled that right the first try.) This makes interactions with her very difficult at times. Last week I actually responded to her in a way that diffused the situation. I want to remember that tactic and try it again in the future and thought writing about it might help. I tried to use some dialogue but didn’t get much descriptive stuff in there. Our family culture is about avoiding conflict but with this sister old rules no longer apply. How does your family culture handle conflict?

Writing Challenge: day 51

On to day 21. Wow, just seven days to go after today. Today’s writing challenge from the Armchair Genealogist‘s was about the tone of the story and conveying the right mood. I’ve thought about this some for my Dad’s history in Key West and I know I want to convey his personality and the way he likes to tease and his dry sense of humor. Not sure how I’m going to do that yet but it feels like a big part of who he is. I think he will like if it isn’t too serious in tone even though a big part of what he did was making sure the students were safe in potentially life threatening situations. And he took his role very seriously and personally. One suggestion Lynn had, was to read styles of writing that you would like to emulate. I’ve got lots of reading ahead of me. I haven’t read any histories yet that have the kind of tone I’m hoping for. Maybe if I look for some military type family stories I might find it. Any suggestions?

Another point in today’s lesson was that it takes time to develop the voice or the mood of a story so don’t worry if it isn’t there on the first few revisions. It takes time for it to come together and then the challenge is making it consistent. So I’ll be referring back to this lesson in the future.

Writing Challenge: day 50

Today’s writing challenge from the Armchair Genealogist‘s was by guest author Lisa Alzo. Here are Lisa’s five tips for beating writer’s block:

  1. Start typing
  2. Mind map
  3. Read
  4. Pretend you’re telling the story to a favorite relative or best friend
  5. Take a break

I haven’t done enough writing to have writer’s block yet but these sound like good tactics to me. You can read more about Lisa on her blog The Accidental Genealogist. More tomorrow, it has been a long day with only the minimum attention given to my writing project.

Writing Challenge: day 49

Today’s topic from the Armchair Genealogist‘s writing challenge (day 19) was using flashbacks effectively. As usual Lynn has some good points to remember:

  1. Find a trigger to ignite the flashback
  2. Does it advance the story?
  3. Keep it brief
  4. Use in moderation
  5. Find a trigger to bring the character back to the present

The writing exercise was to practice writing a flashback scene from a past memory. I decided to write about our pet dog Shadow and used finding his old sticker brush in the garage a couple of weeks ago when we were cleaning. This stuff is always harder to do than it looks. The trigger wasn’t too hard but I don’t think I really did a flashback, it seemed like more of just reminiscing about Shadow. I’ll have to pay close attention to how authors write flashbacks in the future and learn more about the differences.

With the steady progress I’m making each day, I’ll have the challenge finished before the end of August. Then I’ll have to get really into actually writing this history. But I’m learning things everyday so I think it is worth the time.