Writing Life Stories

10 Prepositional Phrases to Inspire Your Writing

Hello Writers!

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Photo taken by Lenee Cobb

One of my long-standing techniques to rid myself of writer’s block has been to pen a prepositional phrase (or two) to warm up my imagination. If you should use any of these as a spark, please link to your blog and share with us under the comment section. Feel free to add adjectives or anything else to make it your own.

Also, let me (us) know what you think of my technique.

To read more click here.

 

Writing Life Stories Session II: Demonstrate Your Understanding by Showing

June 16, 2015–As I mentioned in this post, We are Characters within Our Tales, I spent time this session speaking about the storyteller as a character. Some other subjects covered included vulnerability, understanding, embarrassing moments, and writing from an age perspective.

Those mischievous camp counselors. At it again.  Photo by Mike Alderson
Those mischievous camp counselors. At it again. Photo by Mike Alderson

When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable within our life stories, by showing and not telling, we help our reader understand. How important is this? To me, it is extremely important. I don’t want my readers, be they children, grandchildren, great grandchildren or someone in the general public to get the idea I’m perfect or that I exhibit any characteristic that they might feel they have to live up to.

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We are Characters within Our Tales

I’m feeling a little mischievous.

I arrived home from teaching my Life Stories class, took the dog for a “break,” ate lunch, and sat down here to scope out what assignments come next and what other bloggers might have said and done in my absence. Here on WordPress, a lot can happen in a short amount of time and this afternoon was no exception.

Maybe it was the sandwich I ate or the breeze that’s cooling things down but I’m feeling feisty. Yet, if I’m honest,  I suspect my attitude comes from giving the Life Stories class.

Today I spoke about how the storyteller/writer is a character within the story told and I used a couple of examples from different people. Here’s  an excerpt from one of my own Life Stories . . . it’s still a little rough.

A Rainforest Campsite. Photo by Lenee Cobb
A Rainforest Campsite. Photo by Lenee Cobb

Taken from The Kodiak Bear story:

By the time we skewered our third marshmallow, things had quieted back down.

Headlights cut through the darkness. A loud engine again intruded upon the silence and this time, instead of continuing past our little off-road, the vehicle stopped directly above us. Consternation clouded our faces as we waited to see what would happen next. A door opened, a dome light went on, and people’s voices were saying things we could not quite understand. Things were tossed upon the ground. We felt the thwumps of these things as they hit the forest floor. Within two minutes, the doors slammed shut and the vehicle turned around and left. A lone flashlight snapped on and beamed down the hill upon us. It was intrusive and we frowned back at the torchbearer. We turned away but watched out of the corner of our eyes as that beam swung back and forth, ever closer to us, on its way down our little off-road.

The light holder beamed into our campsite. “Hello!” He said. The arm that did not command the beam was stuffed full of camp gear. He was followed by a lithe shadow, which also offered a friendly greeting. We nodded and murmured a greeting of our own, but only because we felt we had to.

We watched these two gangly teens go about setting up their camp while we toasted our marshmallows. They were a talkative pair. “My name is _______. This is my friend, ________. My parents dropped us off here so they could camp alone. I am 15, my friend ___ is 14. I have camped before.”

Hmmmm, I thought, David’s age.

“We come up here every year. Blah blah blah.”

They knew there were three of us and that we were a family: sister, brother, and sister’s kid.

They set their tent up first. Then they hiked back up the hill, gathered even more gear, and brought it down. This included one battery-powered ghetto blaster. They picked out a cassette and plugged it in. Instantly, any quiet integrity of being in the out-of-doors vanished.

Punk rock blasted the forest darkness with loud inharmonious notes of “First I pop a blue pill, and then I pop a pink pill and then . . .”

I was pissed. Even good music was frowned upon by me out here, but this, this was not music. This was noise pollution! Offensive to everyone and everything. Small wonder their parents had dropped them off to fend for themselves for the weekend. It was intolerable. Then, I’ll be darned if those two boys didn’t turn the danged thing up full bore and leave their site to “go get some firewood.”

“David,” I said, “We gotta do something.”

“I agree sis, but what?”

“We gotta figure out a way to either shut these guys up and/or chase them far away.”

“I know. I can sneak up behind them and do my cat call. That should be enough to perk their ears and get them to turn off that damned music.”

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Who is the target audience for your life stories?
By Leneé Cobb

An endearing memory on Sequim Bay. Photo by Grandma Lenee
An endearing memory on Sequim Bay. Photo by Grandma Lenee

I’m going to write about something we covered in class, something I cover in every class I give: When it comes to your life story (stories,) who is your target audience? The fact that I noticed a fellow blogger, one I enjoy following as a matter of fact, typed the words “target audience” in her blog’s title, and blogging 101’s assignment for day fours subject matter deals with target audience makes the timing pretty sweet for me.

It never fails to amuse me how, when folks attempt to write their life stories down, a great many of them fail to consider their target audience.

Let me ask a few questions, questions you need to know the answers to when writing your life stories.

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Writing Life Stories: Session1. June 9 2015

The neighborhood  fills with growing families. Photographer was either Greg Jameson or Lenee Cobb. We were both very determined to get some good shots. Those parents were difficult to capture.
The neighborhood fills with growing families. Photographer was either Greg Jameson or Lenee Cobb. We were both very determined to get some good shots. Those parents were difficult to capture. Remember to write about the home and neighborhood you lived in when your children were born.

Greetings to everyone who signed up for the latest four-week Writing Life Stories class! Oh, it’s been a warm week and it was nice to have the door of the classroom open. We had an interesting first day getting to know each other a little bit and there are certainly some feisty and experienced writers in this group!

We spoke today about the dangers of fractured memories and about the risk there is of taking something we heard as the literal truth—out of context for what it originally meant.

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Photo by Duane Cobb trail cam
Photo by Duane Cobb trail cam

Cougar Tales Part One
By Leneé Cobb
May 17–2015

Ghostwalker. That’s a good name for a big cat. Very descriptive. Cougars are on my mind today. I spent some time this morning trying to recall the name of a book I once read about cougars and finally remembered the title: The Ghost Walker by R.D. Lawrence. Amazon has it. I recommend it.

We have a lot of cougars where we live, at the base of the Olympic Mountains between two small waterways. Game follows the water and predators follow the game. We left the lower half of our property, which edges the northeast waterway that I named Ka-trickle Creek, unlogged and untamed so that the wildlife would have someplace to drink and rest and graze in peace.

Gone are the days our horses grazed the grassy areas. Those horses kept watchful eyes on the wildlife passing through.

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Gitchie Goomie
by Lenee Cobb

This story is an excerpt of Moonwalks and Unknowns.

Port Williams Beach 1991

Tonight the moon is full and I cannot sleep. It is so beautiful and inviting outside. Time to hunt or hide. Time to ponder upon the ancients. Manganese blues, crystal stars, and unicorns. When youth is restored through wonder, and age is measured in memory. The thrill of being alive to wonder. The dare of present Unknowns.

It is early spring. I am thirty-four and my brother Tom has come to visit. Port Williams Beach lies on the western shores of Sequim Bay. He and I park the car and step out into the swirling fog. Sharp brine beckons me with an ancient familiarity: sautéed in mystery and seasoned with fear.

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Class is in Session

May 5th, 2015

Big leaf Maple flowers. Photo by Lenee Cobb
Big leaf Maple flowers. Photo by Lenee Cobb

Spring is a great time of year to begin new projects and writing our life stories should be one.

This last Tuesday marked the beginning for the latest Writing Life Stories class sessions I’m giving at Shipley Center in Sequim. It certainly is good to meet you all.

We learned a bit about . . .
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If You Miss the Train I’m On

By Lenee Cobb

You will know that I am gone; you can hear the whistle blow 500 miles.

I sit outside on the patio at my parent’s condominium in Lakewood in the wee hours of the morning crying. It is raining softly. Daddy is now 84. Mom is a few years younger. Daddy had a stroke last month and mom had one last week. It is summertime and their window is open above the patio. I can hear them snoring comfortably through it. After all the years of rambling around the country, my parents finally planted a garden. The only reason this garden is here is that they are old now, too old to follow places their youth allowed them to go. They both hate not being able to pick up and just go—anywhere.

The garage wall serves as the patios back wall. There is a dim light sending mere whispers . . .

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Guilt in a Box

by Lenee Cobb

I saved up my money and bought them and then, I killed them all. The king. The queen. All their subjects. The entire kingdom. Never had I felt so low. So guilty.

Murderer.

Why didn’t the advertisement in the back of the Archie comic book warn me about this? They should never allow an eleven-and-a-half-year-old to have this kind of responsibility. How was I ever going to convince my parents I was old enough to babysit myself and my little brothers if I killed all my monkeys?

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Writing Life Stories: Last Session

This class began as a series of sessions lasting four weeks. Students voted to continue the classes longer than originally planned.

It’s been a wonderful couple of months coaching writers in the Life Stories class. A new session begins this next Tuesday. As promised, this last session dealt with predators and editors, who owns the rights to your work, and different methods of formatting your life stories. Everyone said they learned a lot and I hope they did. I’ll miss each and every one of the participants.

One aspect I’d like the class to remember is braiding. We must weave the stories of our great grandparents, aunts, uncles, Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, into our own, strand by strand.

I’ve collected stories about the meetings and subsequent love affairs and marriages within my family.

Here’s one:Sweethearts. Photographer: unknown.

Aunt Wilma & Uncle Francis

During WWII, Aunt Hilda joined the military. She would take Wilma with her to the dances and according to our mom, “Wilma danced with a lot of fella’s who were home on leave.”

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Writing Life Stories Session VIII

Spring’s hit us here in the Pacific Northwest and we’re all feeling it. Between work, house cleaning, yard work, and hiking, schedules are busy. Remember this coming Tuesday deals with the final product you want to create with your stories.

Last Tuesday’s class dealt more with the writing process, avoiding adverbs, and more about how to show and not tell. Each week the class grows more adept at storytelling and more productive as writers.

We also discussed writing about questions our descendants would want our answers on like what is the hardest thing you’ve learned about yourself and why bad things happen to good people. Our answers don’t and shouldn’t . . .

Click here to read more

Writing Life Stories: Session VII

Trespassing upon Memories. Photographer: Lenee Cobb
Trespassing upon Memories. Photographer: Lenee Cobb

We started off this session by diving into memory triggers and then we did it again halfway through the session. We came up with a hoard of ideas.

We covered more about the different methods we can use to show and not tell: ways to use dialogue, and even ways to make the villains in our lives understandable and even sympathetic to our readers.

I believe it is important, when telling our life stories, to delve a little deeper into the psyche, what we now perceive as the psyche, of the villains within our pasts.

Click here to read more

Life Stories Session VI

The past couple weeks we’ve spent much class time coming up with memory triggers as we read the assignments handed in. There were a number of tales I’d enjoy reading in first person present and I do hope a few attending the class will decide to experiment writing that way.

I decided to have some fun and write an assignment from the Writing 101 class that way. It might not be perfect but it was quickly done. You can click on the link: The Stray Sod for an example of what we discussed on our Life Stories class.

I mentioned including a classmates paper here, one which she gave me permission to include. Her paper is a perfect example of writing about a past that many would find difficult and frightening to live through once, let alone relive.

Yes, I’ve made notes and you can read them along with her story here: Cat and Mouse by Lydia.

Click here to read more.

Life Stories Session IV

Memories survive. Photographer: Leneé Cobb
Memories survive. Photographer: Leneé Cobb

This was supposed to be the last class; however, via class vote and the agreement of Shipley Center, the

Writing Life Stories class will continue. Participants are realizing the great benefits they garner each week from sharing their work with each other.

Click here to read more

Session III

Jerry Williams, my dad, is the good-looking guy in the center of the photo facing the gal.  Check out the machine in t he background. Twin Falls, Idaho High School crowd.
Jerry Williams, my dad, is the good-looking guy in the center of the photo facing the gal. Check out the machine in t he background. Twin Falls, Idaho High School crowd.

This is the week of better understanding, the week the light bulb switches to on for many within this writing class.

Once again, our resident Storyteller, Jean Cameron, played our hearts with another poignant tale from her life. Thank you so much Jean for illustrating the art of storytelling and allowing us into your life.
The seeds planted by past classes as memory triggers took hold within the fertile soil of our minds and worked their magic.

Roots begin to grow and spread, little by little, tunneling their way downwards into deep recesses and across expanses of our personal histories. Ideas sprout, rising past the soil and into the light. Episodes of actually writing our experiences increase, one leaf, then two, three, and more.

Click here to read more

Are you worried your life is too boring to write about?

Do you think you are interesting or boring? Why?

We are talking about life histories here, your life’s stories.

There are people who, when they think about writing their life histories, conclude no one would be interested in reading anything they’d have to say. This is a common fallacy. It must be common because I’ve heard it uttered many times; and I’m just one person. Let’s explore some reasons why people feel this way and what can be done about it.
To read more click here.

Life Stories Session Two

This week was fun and enlightening. We spoke of shadow people. (See the post here.)
And we also were entertained by a someone well able to handle the limelight, Jean Cameron. Jean is our resident Storyteller, a woman gifted in the art of storytelling in front of an audience.
To read more click here.

The Writer’s Need for Approval and Reasons Why It’s Often Unattainable
3/10/15 by Leneé Cobb
One day, I overheard my new mother-in-law talking to someone on the phone: “She’s one of those artsy fartsy types. Fancies herself a painter or writer or some damned thing.”

Perhaps some of you can relate.

To read more, click.

Class in Session

3/11/15

It’s Wednesday afternoon. The class for Writing Life Stories took place yesterday. Welcome again to everyone who made it! Besides introductions, we covered: Writers are performing artists, Why write, Approval, Beginning memory triggers, and touched on Writing flavors. These aspects of writing I plan to write more about here, on the Blog, so I hope readers stay tuned for those.

Once upon a time .  .  . Artist: Lenee Cobb
Once upon a time . . .
Artist: Lenee Cobb

One of the special things that we learned during the introductions is that one of the classmates belongs to a group of performing artists known locally as The Story People of Clallam County. This thrilled me, as the instructor, because I’ve attended three Forest Storytelling Festivals and also a few of the monthly gatherings of the locals, and realize what boost these artists can give to writers. These folks master the craft of stand-up storytelling.

As she proclaimed her affiliation I took a deeper look into her eyes and spotted a familiar glimmer, the glimmer a true Storyteller gets. You know that glimmer they get? My grandpa’s eyes would do that even after he went blind. That glimmer that comes from the soul rather than sight. I know that glimmer well.

To read more, click.

Classes Forming

3/5/15

Pussy willows and buds: Mini-Magnolia. Photo by Lenee Cobb
Pussy willows and buds: Mini-Magnolia. Photo by Lenee Cobb

Hello all writers, especially those of you residing in Sequim!

Classes for WRITING YOUR LIFE STORY begin Tuesday March 10th at 1p.m. (and every Tuesday thereafter during March) at Shipley Center. That’s right, four classes that run for 2 hours each. That’s enough time to cover a lot of subject matter.

I’ll be blogging about things we’ll cover in those classes, so check back here on a weekly basis. Please send me any questions you have. I’d love to hear from you. I’m thrilled to be able to offer these classes and look forward to meeting some of you in person soon.

To read more click.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Life Stories

  1. Some people just use a notebook. Some write the rough on their blog. (If you write it on your blog it would still have to be formatted into a word processing program when there’s enough for a book. I don’t recommend anyone write their whole book on their blog, leave cool nuggets that are new for the readers for incentive to buy the book.) Some use Word. Some use Scrivener. Whatever gets the job done.

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