Thursday, April 11, 2013

Laying a Chicken Memoir

 I am supposed to be attending Camp NaNoWriMo (short for "National Novel Writing Month") in April.  My goal was to write 10,000 words of my memoir.  No pressure.  A nice virtual camp.

A funny thing happened on the way to the memoir.  I got diverted by my chickens, and I haven't even owned any in almost 30 years.

I had a working title (created only after a bunch of agonizing) called "Life Among the Chickens". 

My working discription was"A woman who grew up in the urban New York City of the 1950s and 1960's finds herself homesteading in rural Arkansas in the early 1980's, learning along the way about chickens, outhouses and what really matters in life."

Well, this is all true (I did grow up in New York City, I did find myself homesteading in Arkansas in the early 1980's and it was certainly an interesting experience) but what I keep asking myself is:

What about my life would people really care about?  In other words, what makes my life so special?  It's nice to think we are all special in our own ways, but that doesn't produce a great story.  I'm not thinking "best seller" here but "why does my life have meaning?"

I really don't know right now.  And then I made things worse for myself.  I somehow lost about half my manuscript (I thought I had backed it up by emailing it to myself, but apparently not) so my true word count is about half of what appears on NaNoWriMo.  Shame on me.

Next (can you see the excuses piling up?) I've been sick the last two days.  During the worse of it, I was on the couch (while a plumber was working on our plumbing, in the middle of me having a stomach virus) watching You Tube videos of elevated subways running through my neighborhood.

No wait.  It was a fascinating experience. At least it was for the twilight zone of being sick.  Those chickens seemed far, far away...about 1400 miles worth of far away.

Finally, I discovered that "chicken memoirs"seem to be "in" right now.  A quick look online found these memoirs, and I froze because if this is what it takes to be published, I'm doomed.  The chicken memoir has been done.  And done.  And done.  Just four examples:

1.  "Still Life with Chickens:  Starting Over in a House by the Sea" by Catherine Goldhammer

Problem:  no sea anywhere near Arkansas.

2.  "Chicken and Egg:  A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes" by Janice Cole.

Problem: My idea of cooking is popping a Healthy Choice frozen meal into the microwave.  Don't think there are too many recipes for frozen dinners.

3.  "Barnheart The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One's Own" by Jenna Woginrich.

Well, this one is sort-of me, which brings up the question:  do I have anything new to share? Well, there was the hissy-fit I threw when the Springdale, Arkansas library wouldn't issue me a library card in my own name but that in itself does not a memoir make.  And, my experience in Arkansas cured me of farming, or whatever it was that I was doing out there.

4.  And finally, "Once Upon a Flock" - Life with My Soulful Chickens" by Lauren Scheuer.
The Boomer Muse blog said of the Soulful Chickens book:

"The happiest book I've read lately happens to be one of the top 10 most anticipated memoirs of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and it's about chickens. Yes, but you won't see any chickens baked, broiled or stir fried in Once Upon a Flock: Life With My Soulful Chicken by illustrator Lauren Scheuer."
Good grief, one of the top 10 most anticipated memoirs of 2013!

In other words, the market is being flooded with chicken memoirs!  Who would have thought....

So, I can do one of two things:  either write to please myself OR, change the emphasis and keep plowing forward.  But either way, I do have to get back to the memoir.  I just can't chicken out.

What is your best excuse for not writing?


  1. Goodness, you are a riot! Even your post disclaimer!
    Great post. Sorry to hear about you being sick and all the other (ahem...excuses). Seriously though, you should have a back up of your back up. Like a thumb drive or something. I've just started doing chickens myself so I will be sure to visit again to check on your progress. Thanks for mentioning NaNoWriMo. Definitely will explore!

    1. I do have a thumb drive, which is residing somewhere in my laptop case. You are right, I should use it! I honestly posted this to get writing again. I will conquer!

  2. I don't know if there's a best excuse because I guess the whole point is to not have an excuse. It's to try to be disciplined enough to write a little every day. What I do know is that during the times we are really inspired and excited about writing we really need to write a lot. So that when the times come and they will surely come, that we don't feel like writing or something comes up that prevents us from writing, we don't have to feel so horrible.

    1. You are, of course, right. I have the habit of daily blogging (going on two years now) and I "won" NaNoWriMo in November (that means I wrote at least 50,000 words in the 30 days of November) so I should know I can do the less pressure filled Camp. I think the problem now is that I am second guessing myself rather than just turning on the writing tap and putting down whatever comes out. NaNoWriMo is all about getting words on paper (or on cyberpaper) and worrying about editing later. I think I've forgotten that.

  3. how about "The Feathered Nest" :) you can think of something creative for a title, you got this!
    the name NaNoWriMo...sounds like it is from the movie Nell, "Nah, No Write More, lol! kinda funny for a writing challenge ;)

  4. eek! I can't imagine losing half a manuscript!
    Best wishes with it though, I feel I can never say I don't have the time again after a friend of mine has written 7 YA books now and has 10 kids, works part time and is even a single mum for the last year!

  5. Alana,
    JUST DO IT. Write the chicken memoir. You can do it. I have a memoir in me, too, nearly 100,000-words worth rough-drafted, in fact, in a file in my computer (NaNoWriMo and then some) and I got cold feet at editing it. I read a blog the other day that asserted that if you were a one-woman show (Have you read anything MamaRed has written?) that you need to focus on the most important thing: perhaps that, for you, is to write your chicken memoir! Do it!

  6. There is a famous poem by William Carlos Williams about white chickens and a red wheel barrow. It's very simple and I'm not sure why it's famous, but it's about chickens.

  7. In my humble opinion, you should keep writing for yourself. Once you start trying to please others, it becomes less authentic. And I think one of your great writing talents, from what I've read in a very short time, is your authenticity (and your great humor). Both shine through and make me want to read more.


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