In this installment of Wrote By Rote I'm pleased to welcome visiting memoir author Thelma Zirkelbach. You may have met Thelma during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in which she participated with her blog Windowsphere: A Circle of Hope. She's here today to talk about her memoir that was released earlier this year.
Stumbling Through the Dark is my memoir of my husband’s and my final year together. In October 2004 he complained of a sore throat. A month later he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and our world was never the same.
This disease was not supposed to happen. I was a romance writer then, and I expected to live happily ever after. Women usually outlive their spouses, but I had good reason to believe I would be the first to go. I was five years older than Ralph so I was certain he, who was much better at coping, would outlive me. But that was not to be.
Because I’m a writer, soon after his diagnosis, I decided to write a how-to book: How to help your partner survive cancer. It would be upbeat and optimistic and I would call it Leukemia Wife. As he got sicker and medical mishaps began occurring, I ditched that idea and planned an angry expose of the medical system. But writing about anger isn’t productive, and by the time he died, I knew I wanted to write a memoir about our final year and my early widowhood.
How do you write a memoir when your heart is breaking? The answer is, you write a memoir because your heart is breaking. Trouble was, I had no idea how to write one. So I went online and by great good luck found Gotham Writers Workshop. I enrolled in an on-line class in memoir writing, then another and another. Stumbling Through the Dark is the result.
Here are some things I learned about writing memoir:
1. The cardinal rule for fiction applies: Show, don’t tell.
2. Write in scenes with dialogue and description. Again, just like fiction.
3. In your story, reflect on what’s happening and on your feelings.
4. Add back story. How did you get to this place in your life? Don’t tell the back story all at once; let readers learn about you and the others in your story gradually.
5. Be honest. Don’t be afraid to let readers see your fear or guilt or pain but don’t forget to add lighter moments as well.
Writing this book has been both heartbreaking and joyful. I hope you’ll look it up on Amazon at Stumbling Through the Dark: A Husband and Wife's Final Year of Life Together or at Barnes and Noble. It’s available in both paperback and e-format. And if you read it, please leave a review. I love knowing what readers think.