Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Life, Animated

You don’t realize how much of real life is squeezed into a Disney animated film. Life, Animated is a new documentary out by Roger Ross Williams about Owen Suskind a young man with Autism obsessed with Disney animated classics. Throughout the film Suskind and his father quotes lines from the movies that directly relate or are pertinent to Owen’s life: the fears, the highs, the lows. Even Owen himself sees parallels, how things always look worse before they get better, how the bad guy is all part of the hero’s journey, the necessary role of the sidekick. Owen’s life could be a Disney classic.

For someone who needs the help of social cues, these movies become tools for Owen to navigate his life.

As a 3-year-old Owen suddenly lost speech and retreated into a world of his own. A room without doors. His parents with the help of therapists and teacher searched for inroads, but ran into roadblocks. UNTIL one day, once upon a time, they discovered Owen repeating some lines from The Little Mermaid, appropriately the scene where Ariel makes a bargain with the Sea Witch, her voice for human legs. Who knew Disney was the cure! Could unravel the mystery inside Owen’s mind!

Stories such as Peter Pan, afraid to grow up, and the coming-of-age story of Lion King, and Pinocchio about becoming a “real” boy all feed into Owen’s own narrative. He’d stop and rewind and live through certain scenes before embarking on some tough choices or life benchmarks—such as moving out of the house, graduating high school: stuff that send all of us through emotional hiccups.

Even the romantic parts of Aladdin and Snow White pave the way for Owen to work through his first real boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is another example—his deformity of hunchback doesn’t go away, but he learns to live with it and amongst the barbaric village people who don’t know how to accept him. In fact reviewing the list of Disney films, with a few exceptions, are mostly about accepting the outsider, how to be a friend.

Life, Animated is truly inspiring, giving hope to individuals who struggle or work alongside of those who struggle with Autism.

Monday, July 25, 2016


We have been hosting a refugee family from Syria. With 7 kids.

I can’t begin to name them all. Three of the bunch are triplets. The majority were all born during the civil war. One was actually born in a refugee camp. Her name is Haneen meaning nostalgia. A yearning for yesteryear, for what they once had, for their homeland. They named her that so they would not forget. Looking back, yet moving forward. Remembering the good times, prayers for what lies ahead.

Don’t lose heart.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hot Flash Friday=Pain + Time

I was listening to an interview on Fresh Air with Garry Marshall (re-aired since he just passed) about his career writing comedy and for TV and movies. He is best known for developing and writing for Happy Days among others. He said something interesting: time + pain=comedy. We’re always looking for that elusive creative spark.

Sometimes it is simply butt in chair. Sitting down and writing. Spending time with your material. This is not sexy advice. We always wish for the “secret,” the inside scoop, the magic formula. But often it comes with a prosaic thud. Live life, write about life. That’s it.

He said when looking for material he went back to an embarrassing moment. As a boy he would never take off his shirt at the beach because once his mother said you have so many moles. I bet I can connect the dots. Thereafter he was self-conscious about his moles and freckles. Later he would turn this into a famous episode on the Dick Van Dyke Show, the one where Rob falls asleep on the couch and his son (Ritchie?) comes in and connects the dots with an ink pen. Laura discovers that Rob’s freckles form a facsimile of the Liberty Bell. He ends up appearing on “Reality” TV show, “Odd But True.”

This is exactly what I say in my flash memoir seminars: mine memories from your own life. Riff on stuff from your childhood, and sometimes the pain from the past becomes your most compelling material.

Let’s look at an example. A detail became the basis for a short short 100-word flash. A woman slipping her cellphone into her bra. I took that thought and crafted/flashed a piece called Granny’s Pockets about someone who grew up referring to boobs as pockets because her grandmother was constantly tucking things away down the front of her dress. I wrote it, researched 100-word story journals, submitted the piece, had it accepted, and ONLINE within a few hours. Really.

That was a record and gave me a real boost. (I boast.)

Right now write a flash based upon some fledgling memory from your childhood, suppressed pain, the stuff of nightmares and turn it into a narrative. Revisiting these memories might make for horror, comedy, or slice-of-life- anecdotal flash. Give it a try.
Odd but True

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Think, think again

When is a truck not a truck—
When it kills 84 revelers after a fireworks display
On a busy boulevard
When is a plane not a plane—
When it is used as a missile and
Flown into tall buildings
When is a train no longer a train—
When it becomes a bullet bomb
Mail, parcels, parties
Bible studies, peaceful protests
University classrooms
Can you think of any other ways
Where everyday life, the ordinary
Has been co-opted? Where something
Like eating at a restaurant, watching a soccer game,
Walking your dog, attending a concert
Have been turned into the most horrific
Moment of your life—
Can you imagine?
Think, think again . . . 
seaside promenade, palm trees, rollerbladers, ice creams stands=all take on new meaning

Monday, July 18, 2016

3 New Places to Submit Your Memories

This blog is all about memories and writing flash memoir. (If you need a quick guide to writing flash memoirs download my eBook
Anyway, here are 3 journals looking for flash memoirs:

Send Submissions to Souvenir.litjournal(at)

The Remembered Arts Journal

AND cash prizes awarded (entry fee required)
nothing over 500 words

Submit a piece this week!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hot Flash Friday=Recipe Memoir

I saw a call for submissions to an anthology called TheShell Game based upon borrowed forms. For example using the platform of a recipe as a springboard into writing about something else. Just like last week we experimented with the LIST memoir, you can use ready-made forms such as directions to a restaurant to meander into a rant on how the date went.

From the webpage:
Within the recent explosion of creative nonfiction, a curious new sub-genre is quietly emerging. Hybrids in the truest sense, "hermit crab" essays borrow their structures from ordinary, extra-literary sources (a recipe, a police report, a pack of cards, an obituary…) to use as a framework for a lyric meditation on the chosen subject. In the best examples, the borrowed structures are less contrived than inevitable, managing not only to give shape to the work but to illuminate and exemplify its subject.

Here’s one that spoke to me—remember in Ladies Home Journal the column: Can this Marriage Be Saved? Even as a kid I read it. Here is an interesting story from the Bellingham Review based upon this concept.

Can This Troubled Marriage Be Saved: A Quiz
Nancy McCabe

1. Which best describes your reasons for marrying him?
a. You have no idea. You were only twenty, too young to know what you were doing.
b. You have no idea. You were twenty, old enough to know better.
c. This is what you’re trying to figure out. You weren’t in love with him. You weren’t even attracted to him, even though he was a perfectly nice person, clean and wiry, his prematurely receding hairline and thick brows and goofy humor reminding you of a Muppet, sweet and cartoonish. You felt toward him a fraternal affection.
d. You were trying to somehow fill the emptiness that came over you at dusk the months after your first love disappeared.
e. Marriage seemed like a healthier refuge than drugs or drinking. You imagined escaping into it, like going to sleep and waking up a new person.
f. Your husband-to-be cried the day he confessed to sleeping with an old girlfriend. You were in bed with the flu, and you thought, oh, good. Now I don’t have to. He’d brought you milkshakes and roses; he’d played endless rounds of gin rummy. But now he was saying, “I’m so sorry.” You tried to shrug off the blankets, turn the pillow for a cool spot, but the bedclothes were weighed down by something: his head, burrowing into tousled sheets. That’s when you realized he was crying, pinning covers against your feverish skin. “It’s okay,” you said, patting his head.
g. You were saddened by his anguish, seeing in it your own anguish over your first love, seeing in it all the world’s unfulfilled longings.
h. He begged you to marry him, and you thought: he’s a good person. Someone in the world ought to get what he wants.
i. One evening you fell asleep while he was fondling your breasts, and you woke to find him wearing your bra tied to his head like a bonnet. And you thought: I could do worse than wake up every morning to someone who makes me laugh.
2. True or False: You sometimes feel like you don’t really exist.
Sometimes a recipe makes us remember—the people who handed it down to us, where we were when we made it, all the picnics or special suppers when we sat around a table and enjoyed the meal.

Right now write—a recipe memoir. A memoir based upon a borrowed form.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

About Memories

I’ve been think a lot lately about early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think it has to do with the recent death of Pat Summitt, former head coach of the Lady Vols at the University of Tennessee. She was only 64.

There is another reason I am saddened by her death: My father loved the Lady Vols. He watched every game he could on television.

After retiring my parents moved to a kind of “Stepford Wives” retirement community where every lawn was groomed, the houses perfect, and the residents (mostly white) golfed and drank martinis. Maybe it was a bit like Mad Men too, with a dark underside. Anyway this community lay along the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, so close to the basketball action for that state. On weekends you’d see cars with little flags whipping on the back of SUVs Go Lady Vols. The women were taken just as bit as seriously as the men.

And Pat Summitt was no joke, but the real deal. No one wanted to get between her and victory. She coached the team to eight NCAA championships. So thinking about Pat reminds me of my dad—and how surprised and pleased he might be that she has joined him in some eternal basketball court. Surprised that she was there already, but pleased to watch replays over and over again with her.

Since this blog is about memories, I also cannot help dwelling on the incredible tragedy of early-onset Alzheimer’s. It seems such an ironic disease to be visited upon someone with such potential. Truly a person of 59 or 60 should not be looking forward to a painful diminishing death—but to world travel, long dinners at fancy restaurants. At this moment in life after kids are grown and through college, and (fingers crossed) the house is paid for there is suddenly some wiggle room, time for oneself, possibly to reap the fruits of one’s labors.

Now life takes a sudden turn. Which is another reason I feel lucky to be able to cycle and in about 7 weeks begin a bike trip of a lifetime—JOGLE, from John O Groats to Land’s End.

A Marriage to Remember | Alzheimer's Disease Documentary | Op-Docs | The New York Times