Thanks For All the Fish!

We made it to the end of the month, you and me! I blogged every day in June and successfully completed the Freelance Success 2014 30-Day Blogathon. Thank you for reading, or at least hanging in there. (I only got one “unsubscribe” during the month.)Leslie Lang, Writer, Memoir, Biography, Content Marketing, Hawaii

My goal was to take some of the things out of my head and get them onto my website. I wrote some articles about how much I love the genre of memoir and biography, and a little about some of my work in this area:

And about my other specialization, content marketing, including what that is and some examples of work I’ve done:

And I wrote about books and the power of words:

and a little about Hawai‘i, too:

I will now give you a bit of a break and will stop pelting daily emails at you — though this did get my blogging muscles back in order, I must say, and I will probably be blogging here more often than I had been.

Therefore: “So long!” but only for now, and Thanks for all the fish! (If you don’t know the reference, you should probably read the book.)

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Hitting ‘Send’ on Book Manuscript

Leslie Lang, Writer, Talk Story Press, Publishing, Memoir, Family History, BookTonight I am uploading a family history/memoir manuscript I just completed for a client. We’re publishing it at Amazon’s CreateSpace, which is such a wonderful option for a book like this. He and his wife wanted to put together his mother’s ancestors’ story, an interesting one of a young couple leaving their familiar Hiroshima, Japan to come and work on the former sugar plantations of Hawai‘i.

The back cover explains that this family’s journey “took them from harsh conditions on a small farm in 19th-century Hiroshima to what became a modest but comfortable long-time family home in Hawai‘i. In earlier years, it’s a story of hard work and sacrifice, and in more recent ones, of appreciation and family connection. Always, it’s a story of perseverance in order to build a better future for the ones to come.”

As always (it almost sounds trite, how often I say this, but it isn’t), I loved getting to know this family a bit and learning what makes them tick. This young couple who left Japan in their 20s came to Hawai‘i, worked very hard and sacrificed some more, and built a good foundation for a lot of descendants who are very nice people. The power of family is strong.

These descendants are now, more than 100 years later, about to have a huge family reunion, and will have this book for those who want to know more about how their family came to be. There’s information in this book that I’d wager most of them – or maybe even all of them – don’t know. We dug pretty deep to find some of it.

Family members who want one or more copies of the book will be able to order it directly from Amazon.com. And this means my clients won’t have to buy boxes of books, keep them in their garage and hope they sell. Instead the books will be printed on demand and distributed by Amazon.com, which doesn’t charge you upfront for the service but merely keeps a small portion of each purchase (and it’s very reasonable).

Such satisfying work!

 

 

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‘Writing the Hawaii Memoir’ is Published

Awhile back I was asked to contribute to an upcoming book called “Writing the Hawaii Memoir,” by Darien Gee, and today I received a copy of the book in the mail.

I love the cover, designed to make it look like a Hawaiian composition book. Isn’t it great?  Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Memoir, Biography, Family History, Editor, Hawaii

The subtitle is “Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story,” and Darien did a great job putting it together.

From Watermark Publishing:

“Your life is so interesting—You should write a book!”

Sound familiar? Thinking of writing your memoir or family history but don’t know where to start? In this invaluable how-to book with tips from more than 20 Hawaii writers and 25-plus writing exercises, you’ll learn how to:

– Brainstorm different themes and ideas
– Build a “bento box” and explore other ways to organize your memoir
– Overcome writer’s block and other challenges
– Deal with issues of libel, “talking stink” and copyright infringement
– Choose the best way to publish your book
– Stay encouraged and motivatedLeslie Lang, writer, biographer, memoir, ghostwriter, Hawaii, editor

Contributing writers include: Billy Bergin, Pamela Varma Brown, Bob Buss, Lee Cataluna, Ben Cayetano, Stuart Homes Coleman, Craig Howes, Patricia Jennings, Frances Kakugawa, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Beth-Ann Kozlovich, Leslie Lang, Gail Miyasaki, Warren Nishimoto, Mark Panek, Laurie Rubin, Phil Slott, Christine Thomas, David Ulrich, Chris Vandercook and Cedric Yamanaka.

Darien is great. She’s the nationally bestselling author of six novels, three written under the pen name Mia King. Her books are translated into fourteen languages and the Doubleday, Literary Guild, Rhapsody and Book of the Month Club book clubs all chose them. She also writes about writing and creativity in her column, “Writer’s Corner,” which appears every week in North Hawaii News, and she teaches writing classes in private seminars and community college programs. She lives on this island and though we haven’t yet met in person, we’ve been acquainted and “chatted” for years now. 

The book looks great and I am eager to read it. I can tell that it’s not fluff — this will be a truly useful book for anyone delving into writing about their life. Darien is an excellent writer and she knows her stuff.

Here’s one of my contributions to the book:

“Include details, and go deeper. How did the thing you’re remembering look, feel, sound, smell or taste? What did it always remind you of? How did your great-aunt always describe it? Looking back, did it fall into some sort of pattern or theme of your life? What is important about it?” – LESLIE LANG

If you’re interested, you can order the book here.

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Driving to a Hawaiian Volcano

Here’s an article I wrote about the volcanoes here on the Big Island awhile back. It also hints at a little bit of my own family’s history.

We really live in a remarkable place.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, HawaiiOn Hawaii’s Big Island: Powerful Pele’s Playground

By Leslie Lang on 08/30/13

My grandmother used to tell me about her Hawaiian great-grandfather, who drove long-ago tourists up to the Volcano in a horse-drawn carriage.

Back in the late 1800s, the journey from Hilo took two days, with an overnight stop to rest the horses and travelers. But once they arrived, the landscape undoubtedly looked very much as it does now.

Still an otherworldly land worth visiting, the unique Volcano area is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Sprawling, huffing and erupting within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea and Mauna Loa exhibit nature’s drama in action. But while change and creation, and birth and destruction, are part of the park’s inherent nature, I can still see what my ancestors very likely saw: a moonscape in places, where ghostlike trees hold their ground as ethereal steam swirls from a landscape pocked with vents….

Read the rest here

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The Magic of Letters

I was already a huge believer in reading and writing and the power of it all — but have a look or listen to this woman from Nepal, who was a child bride and didn’t learn to read until she was 21, and tell me it’s not magic.

The story she tells — her story — is enormous and beautiful. Now that is somehow who has learned to appreciate the power of the alphabet. Wow. Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Memoir, Content Marketing, Hawaii

It’s another This I Believe story from over at NPR. What an amazing collection of essays they are gathering, saving, sharing.  People have the most incredible stories. I think everybody probably has one. This woman’s story really struck me.

From her essay, which someone else read in English:

…Before learning how to write, my life was like the nearby Indrasarovar Lake, always stagnant. I had the pain of child marriage, my husband did not support me, abject poverty was my way of life and I didn’t have any skill or courage to do anything. But I saw that the number of people learning to read and write was growing — and their lives were improving. I then realized it was neither wealth nor beauty that I lacked, but letters…

Powerful.

There’s a TED talk by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors, in which she discusses passion and also women. Specifically, the plight of women in much of the non-privileged world — and it made me think about this one Nepalese woman’s words.

Allende’s talk is really worth a listen. It’s humorous (she says someone asked Sophia Loren how she can look so sexy in her 70s, and she replied something like, “Posture. My spine is always straight. And I don’t make old people noises”) and also poignant and important. Listen to it here.

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What Do You Tell Your Children?

I hope you tell your children, or nieces or nephew or grandchildren, stories about their family that came before them. Leslie Lang, Writer, Memoir, Biography, Hawaii

Research shows how important it is for children to hear those stories, and how much better they do if they know them. I love talking about my childhood and my parents and grandparents and beyond, and tell stories about those times whenever an opportunity suggests itself. It connects the generations that didn’t know each other, somehow, and is very satisfying for me, too!

Children Benefit if They Know About Their Relatives, Study Finds

From Journal of Family Life

Children who know stories about relatives who came before them show higher levels of emotional well-being, according to Emory University researchers who analyzed dinner time conversations and other measures of how well families work.

The research, by Emory psychologists Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, and former Emory graduate student Jennifer Bohanek, was recently published in Emory’s online Journal of Family Life.

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers said in the paper “Do You Know? The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being“.

Read the rest here

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Memoir: Do You Tell?

I’m participating in a “Blogathon,” posting every day for the month of June, if you’re wondering why all the posts. It’s Day 18.

I have been blogging about my two writing focuses: content marketing, and memoir. Today, I am thinking about memoir after stumbling upon a memoir page at Slate.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Author, Ghoswriter, Hawaii, Content MarketingIt’s from a past “Memoir Week,” and has links to articles where writers answer the question, How do you choose to alert people who appear in your books that you are writing about them—or do you not alert them at all? If you do, do you discuss the book with family members and friends while the work is in progress? How do you deal with complaints from people who may remember events differently than you?

Interesting.

From “All About Me?” at Slate:

What has been most striking to us at Slate is how many memoirs these days are anything but coming-of-age stories; instead, they tackle issues and subjects larger than the self. Elizabeth Rubin and Mike Vazquez dissect the story of Ishmael Beah, who became a child soldier in Sierra Leone at the age of 12. Ann Hulbert looks at two memoirs about autism and asks why autism has become a metaphor for our times. Stephen Metcalf studies the scarlet history of the biography. Jess Row returns to Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior to see how this seminal memoir holds up. And Meghan O’Rourke and Dan Chiasson discuss the role of autobiography in poetry 40 years after Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath helped start a vogue in confessional poetry.

We’ll also offer a series of short essays by memoirists on the experience of publishing a book about their lives. Sean Wilsey reflects on his stepmother’s threat of a lawsuit following the publication of his memoir, Oh the Glory of It All. Mary Karr recollects telling her friends she was writing about them in The Liar’s Club and Cherry. Alison Bechdel meditates on how memoirs hurt your family. Plus: Frank McCourt on being the most hated man in Ireland; Rich Cohen on his family’s feud over the Sweet’N Low fortune; and much, much more. Enjoy.

Click here to get to that page to browse authors’ varied thoughts about writing memoir.

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A Farm Dies Once a Year

Leslie Lang, Ghostwriter, Memoir, Writer, HawaiiThe new memoir A Farm Dies Once a Year, by Arlo Crawford, is, according to the Washington Post, “elegant and richly detailed.”

Amazon.com describes it as an intimate, gorgeously observed memoir about family and farming that forms a powerful lesson in the hard-earned risks that make life worth living:

The summer he was thirty-one, Arlo Crawford returned home for the summer harvest at New Morning Farm—seventy-five acres tucked in a hollow in south-central Pennsylvania where his parents had been growing organic vegetables for almost forty years.

Like many summers before, Arlo returned to the family farm’s familiar rhythms—rise, eat, bend, pick, sort, sweat, sleep. But this time he was also there to change his direction, like his father years ago. In the 1970s, well before the explosion of the farm-to-table and slow food movement, Arlo’s father, Jim, left behind law school and Vietnam, and decided to give farming a try. Arlo’s return also prompts a reexamination of a past tragedy: the murder of a neighboring farmer twenty years before. A chronicle of one full season on a farm, with all its small triumphs and inevitable setbacks, A Farm Dies Once a Year is a meditation on work—the true nature of it, and on taking pride in it—and a son’s reckoning with a father’s legacy. Above all, it is a striking portrait of how one man builds, sows, and harvests his way into a new understanding of the risks necessary to a life well-lived.

There’s an excerpt from the memoir at Medium. It’s well-written and lovely.

From the Washington Post review:

In recounting a season on the farm, at first he seems more observer than protagonist. This viewpoint results in part from his charmingly modest voice, as he attends to the people and plants around him. But the method proves a smart narrative choice. Crawford comes to the farm, in part, because he feels himself drifting through life. He doesn’t plan to become a farmer, but he wants to reconnect with his parents, the land and his childhood. As he takes control of his life, the narrative becomes more his own.

SFgate.com says:

It’s terrific stuff – a great setting, a motley set of characters. There’s even a murder mystery embedded within his parents’ backstory to keep things humming along.

I’m going to read it. Love the cover, too – what do you think of it?

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Mary Karr: ‘For Our People to Do Anything to Generate Income That Won’t Land You in Prison, It’s a Win’

What an interesting read, this Paris Review interview with Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club: A Memoir. It’s not a new article; I just stumbled upon it. An excerpt from the interview:

INTERVIEWER

Did you tell your family you were going to write about them?Leslie Lang, Author, Writer, Hawaii

KARR

I’d warned my mother and sister in advance that I wanted to cover the period of Mother’s psychotic break and her divorce from Daddy. She’d inherited a sum of cash that was vast by our standards, and she bought a bar and married the bartender—her sixth husband. She was an outlaw, and really didn’t give a rat’s ass what the neighbors thought. She drank hard and packed a pistol. When I tested the waters about doing a memoir of the period, she told me, Hell, go for it. She and my sister probably figured nobody’d read the book but me and whomever I was sleeping with. Also, my mother was a portrait painter. She understood point of view. My sister, who’s a very sophisticated reader, signed off too. For our people to do anything to generate income that won’t land you in prison, it’s a win.

The memoir came out in 1995 and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year. It sold half a million copies, and was highly acclaimed, ending up as an annual “best book” at the New York Times, The New Yorker, People, and Time. Entertainment Weekly rated it number four in the top one hundred books of the last twenty-five years.

Slate ran an article by Karr called, The Liars’ Club, How I told my friends I was writing about my childhood – and what they said in return.

Another interview excerpt:

KARR

People who didn’t live pre-Internet can’t grasp how devoid of ideas life in my hometown was. The only bookstores sold Bibles the size of coffee tables and dashboard Virgin Marys that glowed in the dark. I stopped in the middle of the SAT to memorize a poem, because I thought, This is a great work of art and I’ll never see it again.

INTERVIEWER

Was this a practice test?

KARR

No, it was the SAT itself—maybe the literature test. I just put my pencil down and started memorizing. Later I came across the poem in a library. It was “Storm Windows,” by Howard Nemerov. I wrote him a fan letter, to which he replied on Washington University stationery—it was like the Holy Grail, a note from a living poet. When I was twenty I met him at a reading he gave in the Twin Cities, and he said, You’re that little girl from Texas!

Great read. Like the memoir itself.

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