Get Rid of Page Four

I love my Read and Critique Class.  I really do. Every Saturday afternoon as I drive home from class singing along with Adele or the soundtrack of Les Miserables, I  review in my mind the critiques I received from my fellow writers in the class.  

My mind swirls with all the comments.

“Love this first paragraph.” “Great grounding!” “Ugh, I was confused in page two. Who’s Nick?”  “Your descriptions are spot on, but this one is so over the top.” “You can get rid of page four.” “I hate your mother.” “You do dialogue so well.” “This is so repetitive.” 

By the time I get home, I am too weak to even look through the notes my classmates have scribbled all over my pages. I set my pages on my desk and leave them.

 I’ll save that for tomorrow. Or maybe never.

My husband can tell if my critiques were positive or negative by my face and body language when I walk in the door and he asks, “Did they like your scene?”

Writing is tough. Writing is painful.  Especially Memoir.

I love it. I hate it.  

We writers need a strong shell. Simply showing your work to other writers is frightening. Reading it out loud to them is even more petrifying.  All of our insecurities about our writing ability and storytelling skill are ramped up when we read the story of our lives in front of our peers. 

Will they judge our technique, will they understand it, and will they relate and sympathize with the story? What if they hate it? What if they laugh when it’s not supposed to be humorous? Should I even try to write?

All I know is that as hard as it is, it is also the best thing we writers can do–join a class or workshop with other writers and share our words with others taking the same path who are as vulnerable as we are. I promise, each class gets easier. Our writing improves. We keep writing and growing. And, if you are lucky, you find kindred souls to reach out to when you doubt yourself, who will be there for you in those dark moments.  And there will be dark moments.

Now I must stop and go over my notes from yesterday and, either way, positive or negative, they will force me to think outside of my box.  Perhaps I’ll make a tweak here and a change there. All I know for sure is that I will be a stronger writer, my scenes will improve and my book will be better because of my amazing read and critique class. 

Originally from Biloxi, Mississippi, Laura L. Engel has lived in Southern California for 50 years. She and her husband, Gene are the proud parents of six grown children and their spouses and “Grammy and PaPa” to nine exceptional grandchildren. Recently retired after 35 years as a regional sales representative for a national title insurance company, Laura left the corporate world and plunged headlong into writing her memoir in 2017. She has completed the Memoir Writing Certificate Program with Marni Freedman and currently serves as President of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. She has won a place in the San Diego Memoir Showcase twice with scenes from her memoir. Her scene, “Secret Son,” was published in the anthology, Shaking The Tree, in 2018. Along with SDMWA, Laura is also a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Thought Leaders Who Write in San Diego, and Writers Ink. Recently Laura was interviewed by Dani Shapiro for her Family Secrets Podcast.

Laura’s  memoir in progress is You’ll Forget This Ever Happened ..The Story of a Mother’s Love and Secret She Never Forgot. Please visit Laura’s website:  https://www.lauralengel.com and listen to her podcast at: https://www.familysecretspodcast.com/podcasts/the-secret-son.htm

FB…@ laura l. engel author

IG…. @storytellerlaura

Summer Dreaming

Writers from the San Diego Memoir Showcase 2018
Laura Engel with the writers and producers from the 2018 San Diego Memoir Showcase.

San Diego Memoir Showcase

I’m in my home office getting ready to hit ‘submit’ on the computer screen. Submitting my work for our local Memoir Showcase is as scary for me today as it was that first time I submitted work in June of 2017. At that time my memoir was simply an outline, a dream. 

The Pain

I have weeded through several scenes saved in my documents, trimmed and edited a few and now decided on the ones to submit. But there are other scenes I read through and ponder. Here is the scene that, while writing it, I often had to stop typing and go outside to stare at the sky. Huge gulping sobs came from deep inside of me as I trembled on my patio. I was inconsolable. I had written about the birth of my first son in the sweltering heat of New Orleans in 1967. Remembering that night, alone and petrified, knowing I would have to leave my baby there was overwhelming. Writing it was excruciating. My heart ached for that young girl.

A New Perspective

Another scene makes me cringe while reading it.  This scene with my ex-husband on a miserable hot steamy night in Mississippi brought me to my knees when I first wrote it. I remember unchecked tears streaming down my face as I tapped away at my keyboard, my shoulders feeling as if someone was beating on them. His angry face still as real today as it was on that night over fifty years ago. A black fury overcame me as I pushed away from my desk. How dare he treat me like that? I questioned all these years later. I wanted to hug that sad young woman who thought this was to be her life forever.

The Bliss

Ah, and here is the scene when I meet my beloved second husband.  Once again, the day was in late summer. The sun is hot, my sons are there racing for soccer balls, and my life is about to change in ways I would never have been able to predict. I love this scene and remember as I typed it how my heartbeat reliving those first words, those first moments that would result in love so beyond reason that it would knock to me to my knees and take me to heights I had never dreamed. I rewrote that scene over and over and loved my husband more with each revised piece. I wanted to tell that young woman ‘you are thinking with your heart, and it is the smartest thing you will ever do.’

Finding the Humor

Another scene makes me laugh out loud. Me, in my thirties, flying across the Coronado bridge in my yellow Volkswagen bug stuffed to the brim with our five kids along with towels and beach toys for a day at the beach. As I typed, I remembered the wind in our hair as we sailed over the bridge singing at the top of our lungs along with the Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive.” I can feel the golden sun burning my shoulders as I l sit in my bikini on an old quilt surrounded by my ocean wet giggling kids.  I see my children gobbling sandy sandwiches and cookies, all talking at once. Tears for what once was run down my cheeks. Oh, to have one of those days again. That summer was my halcyon summer, and I didn’t even know it. 

Reliving Memories

Okay, time to stop reminiscing, reading through my writing, living again as that young and sometimes fearless woman. I could sit here and do that for days. After all, there are seventy summers and countless tiny scenes that, patched together, make as colorful a quilt as any glorious midsummer sunset I have ever seen.

As I write memories, I relive them. I feel the sun. I feel the love, the sadness, the joy. The heft of my newborn sons in my arms, my Grammy’s fleeting kiss on my cheek, the chilly indifference from my mother, my crippling fear of my ex-husband crawl through me again. 

  I smell the scents of summer, my sons’ wet hair, Coppertone, freshly mowed grass, chicken sizzling on the grill. I bite into the first peach of the summer again, taste the salt of my lover’s skin, sip sun tea. I hear the crash of waves at the beach, my sons’ young voices calling “Mom,” our dog barking, my Daddy’s voice, my beloved husband whispering he’ll “love me forever” the first time. 

Submit

I marvel at the gift of writing those memories. Time does stand still, if for a short spell, because when I write it, I relive it. Is that not the best gift of all? I will continue writing my story as there are many more summers to revisit, some wretched, but most splendid.

Okay, here goes. I click on submit. Good luck to me and good luck to all the writers who submitted.

The author, Laural L. Engel

Laura L. Engel’s Bio

Recently retired after 35 years as a regional sales representative for a national title insurance company, Laura left the corporate world and plunged headlong into writing her memoir in 2017. She has completed the Memoir Writing Certificate Program with Master Writing Coach Marni Freedman and currently serves as President of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. She has won a place in the San Diego Memoir Showcase twice with scenes from her memoir. Her scene, “Secret Son,” was published in the anthology, Shaking The Tree: Brazen. Short.Memoir, in 2018. Along with SDMWA, Laura is also a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Thought Leaders Who Write in San Diego, and San Diego Writers, Ink. Recently Laura was interviewed by Dani Shapiro for her Family Secrets Podcast.

Laura’s memoir in progress is You’ll Forget This Ever Happened.: The Story of a Mother’s Love and Secret She Never Forgot. For more information, please visit Laura’s website and listen to her Dani Shapiro podcast by clicking here.

You can follow Laura on Facebook at Laura l. Engel Author and on Instagram at @storytellerlaura