Monday, January 18, 2010

Memoir Monday: Anne Frank

This picture of Margot, Otto, Anne, and Edith Frank was taken in Amsterdam (1941) right before they went into hiding.

After having to admit that somehow I managed to get this far in my life and had never read Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, I went out a bought a copy. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how moved I was by it. What happened to all those innocent people at the hands of Adolf Hitler was horrific, and yet you can't help but be inspired by the words and insights of this teenage girl.

I am not going to do a lengthy review or even summarize it (too much). It's been done a thousand times over by almost every high school and college student in the world. We all know what it's about, and if you don't you should run right out and grab a copy.

I will say this...

Anne Frank's diary from the 25 months she, her family, and 4 others spent in hiding gives a chilling account of the effects of World War II. But there are so many other lessons to be learned from this book, depending on what perspective you read it from. Preteens and teens can relate to the angst and loneliness Anne writes about and adults are reminded that these feelings of wanting to be understood and loved are real, universal, and timeless.

As my Memoir Mondays are focused on the craft of writing, I will talk about Anne Frank's diary from the prospective of a writer. What could a teen age girl from World War II teach about writing? You would be amazed. Had she lived, Anne Frank would have written many beautiful stories and undoubtedly would have achieved her dream of being a journalist.

Here's what I learned about Anne Frank as a writer.
  1. Anne had all of the important characteristics needed to be a successful writer.

  • A curiosity of human nature (but also an innate ability to understand the negative and positive aspects of human nature)

  • Ability to observe (both herself & others)

  • Humour

  • Able to honestly report her observations

  • An eagerness to learn

  • A willingness to work hard

  • Incredible Resiliency

2. Anne, as young as she was, could combine all of these in her writing and yet was always trying to understand more to improve. Having all of these characteristics, usually found in adults, and the heart and innocence of a child made Anne Frank the voice of World War II victims and an inspiration to the world.

Her dream of being a journalist was not achieved, but her wish to go on living after her death continues to come true through her diary. She understood and respected the power of the written word at a very young age and because of that gave the world a gift that will last for many lifetimes.

My favorite example of her understanding of this power is also the reason she gives for starting a diary. She talks about her longing for a true friend and decides to treat her diary as if she were communicating with a friend (Kitty). Anne expresses her belief that writing thoughts on paper was better than telling someone and mentions the old saying, "paper is more patient than man."

I did not start this book expecting to include it in my Memoir Monday series. I expected a sobering account of a terrible time in our world's history. I certainly found that, but as I read I also found myself amazed with Anne Frank's ability to capture so much more. She was more than a young Jewish girl who died at the orders of a psychopath. She was a teenager trying to figure out what it meant to be a daughter, sister, friend, and most importantly who she would become as an adult. She helped reinforce my own belief, that learning is a lifelong process no matter how long your life is.

Thanks for stopping by for Memoir Monday. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on Anne Frank's diary. The book touched me in so many ways, heartbreaking and inspiring. I hope that if you haven't read it you make some time this year to. You won't regret it.

Kristin : )

Monday, January 11, 2010

Memoir Monday: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Hi everyone and welcome to another Memoir Monday, actually the first Memoir Monday of 2010. I have chosen a very good book to start the new year with. It's the perfect blend of relaxing and creative advice. So, take a deep breath and join me in discussing...

This is the perfect title for this book. Where previous Memoir Mondays included authors who discussed and shared their own writing paths, Bradbury allows us into his heart and soul. He shows you exactly where his stories and ideas come from and teaches how we can all tap into our own creative fountains.

Bradbury offers an exercise to get you thinking and creating. He says to write down a list of things you love and hate. What do you want most in the world? What do you fear? This is where you will find your stories. He does this list in title form (The Attic, The Jar). Then he goes back through the list and adds details to the ones that move him most. Finally, he focuses on the idea that calls to him the loudest, the one that stirs the most emotion.

He recommends a few other daily exercises to keep your mind in shape.

  • Read Poetry everyday. He says that all reading (magazines, novels, nonfiction, etc) is needed, but poetry helps flex your creative muscles. It expands your senses, keeps you aware, and holds ideas.
  • Write at least 1000 words a day
  • Write a short story every week

The last one is really where the Zen comes in. In order to get a lot of writing work done, you have to relax. The more relaxed you can get, the easier the words will flow. Stressing out over who will like or dislike your work, or how much money you will make from it, is a sure way to crush your muse and your creativity. Bradbury says don't think about any of that until the work is done. It doesn't matter what order you put them in, you can not write to your true abilities if you can't follow these: RELAX, WORK, and DON'T THINK.

I loved this quote...

"The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought." to finish this with his own advice. "In hesitation is thought." If you're thinking, you're not relaxed. If you're not relaxing, you're not working. It makes sense.

I am going to do my best to follow his advice in my own writing. What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with Ray Bradbury's advice and thoughts on the writing craft?

Thanks for stopping by for Memoir Monday. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

Hope the rest of your week is productive and creative.

Kristin : )

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Very Own Book Addict

Here's my mom, AKA Mema ... Some people even call her MaryAnn. This picture was taken on the train coming home from BEA 09. She is happy to be sitting after a long day of walking and book collecting. She is also happy with the surprise mini bottle of wine I brought for her.

As a writer I am always eager to learn more about the craft and about how other writers find and refresh their creativity. This desire led me to a semi regular series on my own blog called Memoir Mondays. Once or twice a month I choose an author's writing memoir to read and then talk about it. Thankfully my mother is a closet book addict. You laugh, but she has books lining almost every wall and piles a lawn gnome could climb and claim Kingship on. Her passion is cook books, so I get a steady flow of all of the rest of the bound treasures she finds in her day to day journeys. Many of these are memoirs and books about writing.

At first these bag filled with various books were overwhelming. How could I possibly find the time to read all of these? Between trying to nurture a new writing career and maintain a home and life with my husband and four children, I couldn't fathom squeezing another minute out of my days. Not to mention that my mother's taste is... well, eclectic to say the least. She gives me books I would never have picked out for myself.

But, I started flipping through them anyway. Next thing I know I'm reading them with honest interest. Now I can't wait for the next delivery from her. She opened my eyes and my mind to new subjects and authors that would have fallen through my previous reading radar. So, THANKS MOM :) and keep them coming please.

For Christmas my mother gave me another bag of books. Some new, some old...all great gifts. One of these was Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing.

Since it wasn't a memoir I decided to bring it with me onto Twitter to discuss. We had fun with his rules and I was invited to be a guest on Indie Times to blog about it more. It became a two part post. Stop by and take a look.

As for my next Memoir Monday. On January 11, 2010 I will be discussing Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing.
If you have read it, please stop by to discuss it with me. If you haven't, you should. Why not, you never know what new and exciting things you'll find in a book.

A question for you. Do you have a book addict in your life, or someone who has helped you expand your reading range? Tell me about them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Kristin : )