” All discomfort comes from suppressing your true identity.” Byrant H. McGill
I’m very pleased to feature Memoir Author Paige Strickland in this guest post about finding the story that would become her memoir. Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity has recently been launched as an e-book through Amazon and The Apple iBookstore.
Searching for My Roots…
My memoir came about from many different directions, the primary being my mother’s thousands of slides packed away in a closet. One time I went to stay with her for a month, while she was recovering from surgery, and my kids and I set up the old projector and screen. We sorted the slide trays in chronological order, and began clicking away. I set up my digital camcorder and recorded nearly every photo, (minus the thumb-shots and blurs). It was fun to share the old stories about family, pets, vacations and holidays, and laugh together at bad 1970s fashion. During those evenings of reminiscing, the idea hit me to write down my thoughts.
A few years later, when my children were older, and I had free time all summer, I began to write. It started out as a family history for my kids to know who was who on the family tree, and how my adoptive and birth relatives tied together, but the more I wrote, the more I realized I had something more.
I had a child development account, a coming of age tale, a love story, and also a father-daughter relationship theme as my dad’s gregarious and often dominant personality emerged in the memoir, just as it did when he was living.
Once I had a timeline for my story, I began to fill in events. Working by day in education always beings back memories for me of when I was a student, so if I thought of ideas during the workday, I made post-it notes, lists on my phone and snapped quick photos as reminders. Then when I had free time to write, I could work from the memos I’d created. I rarely sat down and thought, “Uh…what do I do now?” since I usually had a backlog of nuggets to go back and work in and items to add as I plowed forward.
In some ways, ideas came for my story as I grew up listening to and absorbing the family lore my grandmothers would narrate and from looking through their old black and white photos in big albums with large, black pages. It wasn’t a biological history, but it was the one I had, and they were happy to share it all with me. More ideas came after my children began to ask questions. They’ve never known a time prior to my reunion with my sisters on my birth mother’s side, but they were with me to meet my birth father’s family and were old enough to know what was going on, but still not sure how everyone was “family”.
During my adoption search process, I kept a three-ring binder filled with photos and copies of documents I found while lurking through libraries and courthouses. I had every piece of correspondence, articles, lists and facts I’d accumulated plus addresses. While writing I referred back to the information I’d gathered to keep my story line accurate.
A cousin on my birth mother’s side, who lives in my town, is also an aspiring writer. (Well, OK she IS a writer!), and she and her husband held monthly writing group meetings for a number of years. I began to go to her get-togethers to spend time getting to know her but also to share excerpts and receive feedback from group members. I found it very encouraging and it helped me to grow as a writer. (My cousin, one half sister and I grew up in the same era, only 15-20 minutes apart and writing!)
By the time I concluded my first draft, even before professional editing, I found that I had a book with a broad and marketable appeal to members of the adoption triangle, especially adoptees born during the “Baby-Scoop Era”, teachers, therapists, social workers, older teens and young adults.
My adoption story addresses many issues about trust, finding identity, grief and fear, as I relate stories about growing up adopted in an era when the concept was more taboo and less understood. The process of gathering ideas and compiling everything in memoir form was a huge, time-consuming task, but one I felt compelled to accomplish and enjoyed doing.
Thank you Paige for sharing your determined and persistent journey to memoir. You show the importance of research–photos, stories passed down, organizing documents from libraries and courthouses–in doing justice to our stories. And perhaps the most important, to start writing stories down and to keep writing. Persistence pays off.
Author Bio and Contact Information:
Akin to the Truth is currently available in the Kindle edition at Amazon and the Apple iBookStore. The print edition is due out in November.
How about you? How do you go about finding your story?
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
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