Category Archives: Memoir

A New Start

As I happily and hopefully write my query letters, I have come to a crossroads. Different agents ask for different information. In a form some use, there is a place to fill in your website and blog address. Until I sent out Uncharted to an editor, I had always thought of my website as a place to display my paintings and my blogging extended that.

While the editor did her work, I reorganized my website to highlight writing more than painting. I failed to improve my blogging and now I realize my posts are less than stellar. Inviting agents to look at uninspired writing is a problem. It’s been more conversational than informational. I paid little attention to spelling (relying mostly on spellcheck), punctuation, and sentence structure. It’s now time to “up my game.”

La Bourgogne, May 1887

That leads me to my change of focus. I plan on writing about a variety of topics with greater deliberation. I did a lot of historical research when writing Uncharted about the places I mentioned in the book. Most of it I didn’t use. I looked for lesser-known historical tidbits that would add some depth to the places we traveled. I’m particularly intrigued by questionable “facts.” Those bits teeter between legend and history. Pirate stories are a fine example of the blurring that happens.

Travel will always jump into the mix. In fact, a month from now I will be in Montbéliard, France. Why? It is the town my great-grandmother came from and a mystery solved. Until recently, all we knew was that she came from France. I’m headed there to learn more about that side of our family and perhaps feed my desire to write some historical fiction about her story. It’s the genre I love to read most, so why not write it?

Perhaps as interesting as the places we’ll be traveling to is our mode of transportation getting there. We will travel to Europe on the Queen Mary 2. I can’t explain why, but I want to stand on the deck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a thousand miles from anywhere.

In a strange twist of fate, we will depart New York Harbor, on May 26. My great-grandmother, Suzanne Viennot, arrived in New York Harbor on May 26, 1887, aboard La Bourgogne. I only wish I could have shared all I’m learning with my mother and her siblings. They always wanted to know more about their grandmother from France. Their mother was only three years old when Suzanne died. No one has been able to tell Suzanne Viennot’s story until now. I’m anxious to learn all I can and then begin to write about her.

New Project

Everyday I research agents. It feels like full-time work. I look to see if they are open to queries and interested in memoirs. Based on books they have already gotten published I am looking for a good fit. Very few publishers are open to direct submissions, everything goes through agents. Even getting an agent to accept you doesn’t guarantee publication but I’m pretty determined so I keep plugging away and writing my query letters.

In the meantime I started another project very near and dear to my heart. It’s a children’s book about Tigger. The original idea was to call it Travels with Tigger (thanks Sue). That plan got foiled when a member of our group said, Disney will never let you get away with that. Oh dear, I never thought of that.

I’ve completed my first draft and I’m still on the fence as to what new name to give Tigger. The name fit him so well. It’s meant to be a picture book to be read to young children. A picture book is from 500-1000 words. I have 1000 in mine. There isn’t a lot of ground you can cover with that and so I’m thinking it could be a series.

As for illustrations, I’m a landscape painter, not an illustrator. I know publishers supply artists but I have all kinds of ideas for what I’d like it to look like. Of course I’m getting way ahead of myself but that’s what I do best – dream.


The weather is in the eighties now and very nice. I hope it’s warming for you up there in New England. The end of this month I will be in New Jersey for my nephew’s wedding. I’ve forgotten what April weather is like there. Regardless of the weather, I’m really looking forward to seeing family.

Anyhow, any suggestions for Tigger’s new name are welcome.

Happy Easter!

Break Time

My friends in Manatee Writers group encouraged me to write an article for our newsletter about where I am and how I got here, pertaining to my memoir. I thought I’d use that for this month’s blog since you have come along with me on this journey as well.

Before I throw myself into the next phase I need a break to properly ready myself for the work I need to do. Uncharted has been about four years in the making and I’ve grown a tad weary.

This is a picture of my very first acceptance letter for two poems to be published in an anthology. “Magic of the Muse” is the book behind the letter where my poems appeared. The other anthology “The Monadnock Reader,” has a poem and a couple of photos I took. It was published many years ago when I lived in Peterborough.

All my estimates on how long different aspects of this project would take have been wrong. I’m not going to try at this juncture to say how much longer this journey will be but I can recap how I got to this point. 

In August 2018 I started writing about our upcoming boating adventure. It wasn’t much and I still like the idea I started with but the opening paragraph I ultimately wound up with is nothing close to my original thought.  When I read Ernest Hemingway re-wrote the beginning of Farwell to Arms thirty-nine times I felt somewhat vindicated.

In preparation and in parallel I read memoirs and books on writing, writing in general, writing creative non-fiction, and writing about your life. 

In 2020 I began writing more consistently, being trapped by the pandemic helped with the discipline I initially lacked. Before that, I wrestled with where to start. It kept me paralyzed for quite a while. I grew impatient with myself and soldiered on, regardless of how badly I felt the book started. My first draft, more like my outline, was completed towards the end of 2020. It was then I joined the Manatee Writers group. 

After a number of critiques, I realized my book needed a great deal more work. It was then I discovered where to start. After a year and a half more of working through my chapters with our writing group, I sent a copy of my completed draft to people whom I mentioned in the book.

Fortunately, two new members joined our group when I was completing my last chapters. They expressed an interest in being beta readers and I happily obliged them. Additionally, I asked the readers of my blog if anyone was interested in being a beta reader. From that solicitation, I got two more volunteers. The insights the beta readers provided were very helpful. It helped me to add more information in some parts and tone it down in others. 

After a final round of edits with the help of my grammar-conscious husband, I was ready for an editor. I gave myself a deadline, finish my edits by the end of the year and then hand it over to an editor.

Back to my inability to judge how long any aspect of this project would take I contacted an editor a year before I was ready for her. Finding an editor in my case was easy. For years I worked as a graphic designer for BYTE magazine, a McGraw-Hill publication, in Peterborough, New Hampshire. At that time there were numerous magazines published there, and with them a multitude of editors. As luck would have it, I saw one of the editors I knew listed in a classified ad in the back of Writers Digest magazine.

One more round of edits, per Nan Fornal’s suggestions, and I declared my book as complete as I could make it. While she was doing the editing I reworked my website. I thought if any agent thought about representing me, she’d certainly google me. I wanted my site to look its best as well

Next, the hard part, finding an agent. Not all publishers require an agent but most do and so that is the route I am choosing to take. The process of finding an agent is another series of steps. Before contacting an agent, you need a query letter, which amounts to a sales pitch. You need to include the genre, word count, bio, and synopsis in your query. Databases of agents are available from several online sources. I am using After attending an online workshop about querying I worked on my letter. Now I need to research agents that are open for submissions and interested in my genre.

Wish me luck!