Nonno in the Mining Camp

Nonno in the Mining Camp

Guest Blogger–G. June Smith, Scriveners, NJ.

The Unexpected Benefits of Writing Groups

Writing groups establish ties over time and geographical distance. Gladys shared many of her vignettes-in-progress at our New Jersey Scrivener meetings. She was originally writing for herself and her family. Time and her personal passion to write this book led to layers being added–her own poems, talks with family members. This personal manuscript expanded to fulfill a larger idea. It’s my pleasure to welcome my colleague, Gladys Smith, as a guest blogger.

“I want to tell you that it means a lot to me that you want to read my “book.” You were there at the beginning, and I am honored to have such a friend who understands how personally important a work like this is to the writer.” G. June Smith

Who is Your Target Audience? G. June Smith

This family history/memoir is called Along Spiral Threads. It is composed of vignettes (little stories), real family yarns (as far as I know) that I have reconstructed by adding details and dialogue as close to the actual as possible. My older sister provided the basic material for many of the stories for the time before I was born or too young to remember. Then, when there were “holes” in the fabric of the stories, I filled in, using my instinct, intuition, and imagination.

And, when I needed factual details, I spent countless hours on the Internet to locate data such as actual dates. For example, it took about two weeks to find the actual date that the Northern Lights were seen as far south as New Jersey.

Also, even my Mother in heaven helped. One time I was writing about my maternal grandfather before he brought the family to America from Italy. I was deep in meditation about how to frame the story to “tell” the reader without my actually telling how he must have felt and thought. Well, all of a sudden, in my mind, this little dog showed up in his arms as I was writing, and so, there the dog stayed, “someone” to whom my grandfather could speak his heart and mind. Many times inspiration happened that way; I became just the instrument by which the story landed on paper. You probably recognize that process yourself quite well.

In addition, I introduced each story with one of my original poems, many of them some thirty years old. It was with great care that I selected a poem so that it would resonate with the story it accompanied by point or counterpoint. My hope was that the imagery in the poems would give power to the stories, and the nuances in the stories would provide color to the poems.

But, as work on the book progressed, I became increasingly aware of how different a chronicle was emerging from the one I had thought I was writing. I had thought I was writing a linear record of my life as the sickly third child of four in a second-generation Italian-American family. But, after a long night of introspection following an intense review of many poems and a decisive talk with my sister, I came to an epiphany. The book could not be solely my story, or simply reconstructions of family life events. It needed the texture of the interwoven memories and visions of the generations of our family, in its blood, bones, joys, and laments.

Further, I realized that our stories are the records of the experiences of our lives, and we need to tell these stories to help us seek out the keys to the design of our journey in the world. Our stories give voice to our feelings of shock, grief, and terror, or pride, joy, and love, and sometimes, they just help us get through the day. And, our stories are a means for sharing with others, so that we can all comprehend the journey is not a solitary one. And so, our stories become us. For all these reasons, may you be inspired to tell your own stories.