by Paige Adams Strickland
I began writing one summer morning in late July of 2002. My kids were involved in a 3-hour drama camp, and I had “found” time to get back to a hobby I’d mostly put on the back burner due to work, lack of time and sleep plus too many interruptions. I’d recently reunited with my birth father and his family, and my daughters, who were 9 and 12 at the time, had lots of questions about who was who among my assorted relations. It began as a way to explain to them who my adoptive and birth family members were. It became a way to recreate some family members for whom I still grieved and wished my children could have known.
I perused many thousands of old slide trays, which my (adoptive) mom kept in a closet. I dusted off and assembled the old projector and screen and watched each photo from the late 1950s-1980s click by: My life before my eyes. I digitally recorded every photo, and my husband converted them to DVDs. It was a huge project, but every picture was like a seed.
Throughout the rest of the summer, until school started, I wrote every weekday. I only had a spiral, college-lined notebook to use while sitting in coffee shops and outdoor plazas while my daughters practiced skits and short monologues at Playhouse In The Park from 9:00 am-noon. While they studied script writing, I cranked out the first third of my story and began to realize that I had something more than a hand-written life saga for my kids. My muse from 11th grade creative writing class had returned with a vengeance as my hand-written reminiscences formed a legitimate plot with a cast of characters, with vignettes building up to a bigger story.
During the first quarter of the school year, I wrote very little that was new, but I converted my pages of notebook papers to a Word document on my first desktop computer. I revised, added and deleted along the way. In the car, I kept post-it notes if ideas occurred to me while driving. I listed songs that I associated with certain people and events in my life and created a “soundtrack” to help keep me in the writing zone. During the school year, most of my work happened late at night or over holiday breaks. Since I work as a substitute, I had a lot of childhood memories triggered from observing students in every age bracket, setting and school subject.
I Google-searched for accurate names and dates if I needed to review an historical event that shaped a time in my life, plus old car makes and models. I created a “cast list” with people’s actual names and then assigned most people in my story a false name for privacy reasons.
I shared a lot of excerpts with my writing groups. I had one on-line plus a local group of creative friends, which, oddly enough, was organized by a birth cousin I’d located. How cool to find a cousin who was also a kindred spirit for reading and writing!
I’d received writing advice from multiple sources: Just write, don’t worry. Edit later. I followed this notion through every chapter. I put it all out there and cut later. In fact, I have a folder on my computer called, “Outtakes” for sections I chose to eliminate, not because they were bad, but because they weren’t needed to move the story along.
Plugging forward and stealing writing time went on until the summer of 2008, when I finally completed my first draft. I continued to self-edit plus share with my daughters for the next few years. I still only had summers free to properly write without huge interruptions and still have sufficient blocks of time.
In the summer of 2012, I hired a local editor to read my manuscript. She said my book was / is worthy of traditional publishing, but I had no luck getting recognized by agents. The economy was unsteady and electronic publishing had taken off, so I chose to not waste any more time and independently published my memoir.
It was both a challenge and a joy to write this book, and I encourage everyone to explore life-story writing if they feel it could be healing, helpful for genealogy or just filling a need for creative expression.
Paige Adams Strickland is a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is married with two daughters.
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Akin-Truth-Memoir-Adoption-Identity/dp/0989948811 Kindle and paperback versions
About the Author: Paige Adams Strickland, a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio, is married with two daughters. Her first book, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, is about growing up in the 1960s-80s (Baby-Scoop Era) and searching for her first identity. It is also the story of her adoptive family and in particular her father’s struggles to figure out his place in the world while Paige strives to find hers. After hours she enjoys family and friends, pets, reading, Zumba™ Fitness, gardening and baseball.
Finding Paige online:
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