Monday, February 28, 2011

A Novel Approach to Telling Your Story

Pretend-You're-In-Hawaii Palms - photo by Carol Newman


Paul noticed that the book Three Cups of Tea had been removed from the Favorite Books list and wrote to ask me about it. "Needed the space," I told him. "Removed all older listings."

That book is still a favorite, a well-written inspirational story, so it seemed a shame to remove it , and others, from the Favorite Books list. But there was that space problem. So, a new blog is in the making. I won't tell you the name yet, because it isn't up yet, but it is all books; and you are invited to tell us about your favorite books, too. Meanwhile, Three Cups of Tea has been returned to the list and a couple of new books added.

Another reader note: last week's Writing Prompt was Write your life story in six paragraphs. Debbie wrote that this prompt especially helped her, and Niki wrote that she plans to use it to fulfill an obligation to write about her life for a high school reunion. She said she now knows what she will write: six paragraphs and "keep it decent."

Some time back Linda wrote that she shares the blog with her writing group where they use the writing prompts. If your writing group is writing life story/memoir, your members might want to use Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook.

Thank you Paul, Debbie, Niki, and Linda for letting me and your fellow writers know how you are using the Angel Blog.


I just read Honolulu, by Alan Brennert. I liked this book for so many reasons iI couldn't decide whether to write about it here or save it for the new book blog. As my Young Advisor often asks, "Why don't you argue with yourself?" I did just that and decided to include it both places. A win-win for both of me.

The book jacket says "Honolulu is a rich, unforgettable story of a young 'picture bride' who journeys to Hawai'i in 1914 in search of a better life." Born in Korea in the Year of the Rooster, the main character is named Regret by her father. The book covers the years from her birth in 1897 to her sixtieth birthday in 1957. It's a straightforward story, told chronologically, as Regret, who renames herself Jin, recounts her daily routine and experiences in a historically significant time and place. When I began reading, I expected to be transported to balmy sunwashed beaches. Forget that. I was totally caught up in the story we follow Jin to her first homes in a rural area of pineapple plantations -- with every ugly slave image the word plantation brings to mind and later to an area of the city set aside for prostitution, and on to a business section.  

How can this book be useful to you in writing your life story? Look at the way author Brennert incorporates details of daily family and social life into the story. Look at the way historical characters and events are incorporated into the story. Even the simplest details of how we were named, how we cook, dress, go to school (or not), work, respond to the daily news, and obtain our food and money can provide great depth and insight for our readers. If you are uncomfortable writing about yourself and your life, do what the author did with Jin. She is a vehicle to move us through historical events of the time. You can do the same with your story.


What were the various areas or sections of the town where you grew up? What did you think about the people and places in those specific areas. What was your town known for? For example, I grew up in the 40s and 50s in Lawton, Oklahoma, home of Ft. Sill, a large artillery post. Back then, the businesses on both sides of one block of our downtown were bars. The city block west gave way to pawn shops. The first of every month, payday, music and partying young soldiers spilled out of the bars onto the sidewalks and streets. By the end of the month, things were quieter in that block, but business had picked up in the block of pawn shops as the soldiers pawned cameras, radios, luggage, and jewelry as they tried to make it to the next pay day. Good or bad -- what were the things that set your hometown in a special time and place?

I have never been crazy about the taste of any brand of biscuit-type baking mix; but I admit, this recipe for coffee cake with coconut, nuts, and chocolate chips might win me over. Besides that, I like the name of the recipe. Puts me in mind of the tu-tu skirts popular now. Put on your tu-tu, swirl around the kitchen, and enjoy this coffee cake.  (Recently I was shocked to learn that some people dislike coconut (Hi Judy). If you are one such person, I would just omit the coconut and enjoy the swirl.)  This recipe is from Nancy's Kitchen

Swirled Chocolate Coffee Cake

1/3 c. flaked coconut
1/4 c. chopped nuts
1/4 c. sugar
3 tbsp. margarine or butter, divided
2 c. Bisquick baking mix
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2/3 c.milk
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips,melted
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 inch pan. Mix together coconut, nuts, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of the butter or margarine; reserved. In another bowl mix the baking mix, 1/4 cup sugar, the remaining butter or margarine, the egg and milk; beat vigorously 30 seconds. Spread into prepared pan. Spoon melted chocolate over batter; lightly swirl batter several times for marbled effect. Sprinkle with reserved coconut mixture. Bake until light brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Find more writing tips, prompts, resources, and life story writing information at
Start (or finish) writing your life story now with the help of Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook.

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