When my sisters and I were very young, our parents took up woodworking as a hobby, crafting footstools, end tables, magazine tables, and the like, in one corner of our basement, while we played in an adjacent corner. I often stopped playing long enough to walk over and watch my dad turn a table leg on the lathe, or my mother put sandpaper to a table Dad had just put together. In Dad’s workshop, “smooth” was always the goal, and “going against the grain” was unheard of.
Years later, as a teenager, I was encouraged by English teachers to write. And later yet, when I stepped into the real world of writing, I found that popular authors warned, in so many words, about “going against the grain.” Write about what you know, they said, and, search for something similar on library shelves; then write something like it—but different. How confusing is that? Well, I surely wanted to write about what I knew, but as far as finding something similar to what I had in mind, I was at a loss.
As a result, when I started compiling Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, I was well aware that I was stepping out of bounds and off the beaten path by combining prose and poetry in a memoir, risking being tripped up by either of two gaping potholes: poetry is a hard sell in its own right; and, does the world really need another memoir by an unknown author—especially one who promotes poetry? Should I have stayed on the safer path by presenting another memoir in prose? Maybe, maybe not, but re-writing and repeating what had already been published seemed a little redundant and not at all interesting from my point of view. At the same time, the more nostalgic poetry I shared with readers and writers, the more I was questioned as to how I remembered so many things about my past and how I could turn such mundane things as wash day into enjoyable reading. Still others recalled and enjoyed some of the same experiences but didn’t know how to put them into words.
As I skirted the potholes, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets evolved into a “loose” memoir, with the added twist of “showing, not telling” how to retrieve and record one’s own memories. I had no idea how the book would work, or if it would work, but proof that it is working comes in the fact that readers are going back through it a second or third time, either because they fear they missed something during their first reading(s), or because they are using my snaps “tools” to write or “fix” their own work(s).
Perhaps the book’s qualities are best explained by the late teacher, friend, and editor of Pieces of Her Mind – Women Find Their Voice in Centuries Old Forms, who accepted twenty-one of my poems for that book and had no qualms about endorsing Snaps, Scraps & Snippets as follows:
‘Too often beginning writers are told to “show, not tell.” However, they are not told how to do that. Lois Funk, in Snaps, Scraps, and Snippets, uses the example of taking pictures and vignettes from her childhood and trips abroad to do exactly that. Every beginning writer (and some seasoned ones) should read this book. It is charming and endearing and uses the simplest of things – such as a sieve – to show one how to sort through the good and bad of one’s writing. I would definitely recommend this book for my beginning students. – Alvin Thomas Ethington, Editor, Pieces of Her Mind; staged playwright, published author, and a professional reviewer.’
As nonfiction how-to for poets, memoirists, genealogists and more, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets offers a new and simple approach to recording as many memories as a reader/writer cares to share with family, friends, or the world. So, if you have a story to tell and don’t know where to begin, learn how to use “guided freewriting” to dig into your memories and how to use a “sieve” to sort them out.
Please visit my website at http://loisjfunk.com.
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