GENEALOGY AND MEMOIR GO HAND IN HAND IN MY BOOK

The Ink in My Blood

Shadows of those who have gone before
Stand in a line back to days of yore,
But how many ancestors share my blood,
From the darkest of ages, and even the flood?

What, of their pasts, still abides in me?
What can I claim from my family tree?
My eyes and my nose from my mother and dad,
But what of the muses they all may have had?

Who was it prompted my way with the pen?
A lover of words — who might that have been?
Who looked at the world as frankly as I,
Forever observing and questioning why?

My muse comes from all those of whom I’m a part,
From the ink in my blood to the words in my heart.

So, do genealogy and memoir go hand in hand? They do in my book, both literally and figuratively speaking. Genealogy can inspire the desire to write a memoir, and a truthful memoir cannot be written without some knowledge of the past, though how far into the past the memoirist cares to “dig” is entirely in his or her own hands.

When I delved into genealogy years ago, there were no online helps, so finding one little snippet, clue, or interesting fact about an ancestor after hours of research was like finding a precious nugget of gold. Fortunately, for me, both sides of my family settled and remained in the same Illinois county where I was born, raised, and still live. That fact alone gave me the advantage of researching both branches of my family tree at the same time, from census reports on microfilm to obituaries and events recorded in old newspapers, county records, and more. An added benefit along the way was that I learned a great deal about myself, specifically from which ancestors on both sides of my family I inherited my insatiable drive for sharing memories; and how that drive spurred me on to helping others do the same.

Snippets from Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present:

“… tracing my family tree has taught me, both as researcher and descendant, not to be satisfied with flat, boring, pages of names, dates and events that merely fill a book with a family name printed on its cover.”

“Photographs show, words tell—or so it would seem. But sometimes the opposite is true, especially when it comes to describing a person’s character. A photograph might tell us exactly what an ancestor looked like, while leaving his character as flat as a tintype. Words, on the other hand, can show us who he was by describing, in detail, not only his nature, but his accomplishments and mannerisms, as well as his likes and dislikes … thus making us aware that the character or ancestor in question has definitely touched a part of our lives.”

When names, dates and photos didn’t satisfy my curiosity about some of my ancestors – particularly the grandparents I had never known – and what they were really like, I turned to the snaps, scraps and snippets “tools” introduced in my book and gathered enough true facts to write about them:

Grandpa Simon

You sleep beside her now, unaware of
the chill that penetrates your bones.
You wasted away before I was born,
your soul threatened by consumption
long before your body ever was, though
your children would never admit
you spent little time at home,
opting instead for a riverside shack at
the foot of town, with a
riverboat whose planked hull
soaked up no small portion of the
river itself and whose decks were
forever drenched with
nets of hauled-in fish.

Come autumn, you’d
make your way downriver to
sleep in dank darkness and
live off the bounty of
your hunting skills.
Your brother, at a century’s age, still
marveled at your eagerness to serve up
feasts of mallards for visitors to
your floating domain.

When you took sick, Dad went to
collect the cumbersome nets and
strings of hand-carved decoys from
your boat in the slough; brought them home
to hang from basement rafters, alongside
his own waders, in the house you built
before he was born.

For an in depth look at my snaps, scraps & snippets tools; how they brought the previous poem about; and how they can work for you as well, read Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, available now at amazon.com. (Note: For orders outside the U.S., please go to amazon.com and not the Add to Cart button on my author page.)

Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present has been placed in the English department library of Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois; and in the library of Kevin Stein, Poet Laureate of Illinois.

*

For a further glimpse into Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, and into my new book, Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Advertisements

START SMALL, I TOLD HER

A longtime friend who was reading Snaps, Scraps & Snippets jokingly suggested that I write her life story. When I said, “You write it,” she gazed at me with questioning eyes and asked where she should begin.

“Start small,” I told her. “Start with the dime store. If you start too big, you are liable to get bogged down and never finish your story. Starting small allows you to quit any time or continue as you like.”

Only days before, she had reminded me of how she had worked in one of our town’s three dime stores during our high school years. Now I reminded her of that conversation and how she had mentioned all the neat things dime stories carried back then, right down to the kitchen utensils that were always displayed way at the back of the store. Together, then, we mused over how housewives of the day could go directly to the back of the dime store and find inexpensive items that made hours spent in the kitchen a little more enjoyable. As we talked, my *mind’s camera captured images of the rest of the store, with its worn wooden floors, and of counters where trinkets and loose items were separated by glass partitions. For a moment, I was tempted to write her story after all – at least this part of it.

Her next question was how to start writing. “Pretend you are talking to me,” I told her. “Tell me what you remember about that store; about those trinkets; about working there. As you write about those particular details, more and more thoughts may come to mind, maybe of other jobs you had during high school, or of something you bought in that store that brings back yet another memory. Write about any and all of the things you want to talk about. But start small. Start with the dime store,” I told her.

*For more on the “mind’s camera” and its capabilities, read Snaps, Scraps & Snippets, available now on Amazon and at bn.com.

*

For a further glimpse into Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present and  into my new book, Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com. I’d love to hear from you!

BIRTHING A BOOK

From inspiration to publication:

Birthing a Book

From the moment of conception,

it consumes my heart and soul

and grows inside me day by day.

I carry it for months,

nurturing it;

loving it;

feeding it only the best I have to offer,

for it balks at anything less.

Too soon, it struggles to be free;

causes false labor pains; but, no,

it is not fully developed

and must be kept under cover

until it is ready to be presented

to those who will either love it

or shun it.

I talk to it, pamper it, get angry with it;

even threaten to abort it,

but it’s become too much a part of me now,

and I wonder, What will it look like?

I can only dream.

Will it have my voice?

I can only imagine.

At last, it demands release

and makes its way into the world,

leaving me empty and anxious,

trying to fill the void as I pray

that it will grow to do great things;

patiently waiting to see

how it will be

accepted,

handled,

and held,

my new

“baby.”

© 2014 Lois J. Funk

*

For a glimpse into my books, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, and Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com. I’d love to hear from you!