Every Writer Should Write Memoirs.
News Flash: The Donkey’s Song stemmed from my memoir writing. That Donkey is me!
Yesterday, I asked my Memoir Mondays people to draw a map of their childhood neighborhoods. If you study my map closely, you can see that my childhood home was within walking distance of the foundation blocks of my entire life. Cotton fields surrounded my neighborhood. My grandparents lived on the block in front of my house. My schools were across the street from my grandparents, and my church was down the street from my house, in the other direction.
During the summer, I walked to my church each morning for two weeks, to attend Vacation Bible School. My memories of Bible School are mixed with the fragrance of the roses that were blooming along that path, the smell of freshly mown grass, and the morning dew that soaked my tennis shoes, as I walked.
Each winter, however, my church became a tiny Bethlehem, where the town’s children, donned with bathrobes, towels, and white sheets became the shepherds and the angels that greeted the Baby Jesus. Allow me to preface what I am saying with the fact that during the 1950s, people in my hometown didn’t travel very much. For years, I barely left the place where I grew up, and yet, I had a vivid imagination.
Think, if you will, how very thrilled I was by a story about a dark night in which a giant, miraculous star hung in the sky. In my child’s eye, that star was the most spectacular fireworks show possible, and because of that light, “Heaven and Nature” sang.
I often tell people that I grew up in the middle of a cotton patch, and that is not far from the truth. I wasn’t wealthy. My dad was a barber. My mother worked at City Hall, and when I was a child, I picked cotton. I only got new toys at Christmas. Christmas became the most momentous time of my year, and my memories of Christmas are also laced with the wonder of a special night, a magical light, and a Baby that changed the world. When He was born, the greatest fireworks display ever burst into the sky.
I AM THE DONKEY who sang at Christmas time!
The Donkey’s Song is MY story. I am the little, plain donkey who was bedazzled by the birth of a Baby King.
And for people who are writing their memoirs, here is the most salient point: I wrote The Donkey’s Song while I was writing about Christmas in my journal.
Many stories and books spring out of memoirs. Trust me about that. From Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women to Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, numerous works have sprung out of the memories that authors have recalled from their own lives.
Should Picture Book Writers Write Memoirs? Definitely.
Every writer should revisit and journal the memories from their own lives. After all, our own stories are the soil out of which every other story that we tell will grow. Harvest your memories. Harvest your past, and turn it into something fresh.