My memoir CRAZY BRAVE is here. It's official birthdate is July 9th. It took me fourteen years to birth it, fourteen years in which I pulled out stacks of journals, made timelines, decided to make it a memoir in short stories. My life didn't make neat short stories. David Sedaris can do it, make tight, crafted vignettes with a biting and perceptive humor. And as much as I love humor (I've watched most of the comedy acts on Netflix) my writing voice veers toward the earthy mystical. In the past I tried to lure the spirit of my voice (writing, saxophone, speaking, singing) to a more pop style. It refuses. It has a dignity all its own, and it is constructed of a web of time and memory beyond this right now human mind.

A memoir teaches you to write it.

Then I made a collage of poetry, vignettes, short stories....it was....almost...working...I could have slid it through in that manner. But it wasn't right. Not yet. 

So I started over. I let the story start where it wanted and go where it wanted. I had wanted to corral it in safe places. It wanted to explore all that had silenced me. I gave in to the story. And then I rewrote, revised, many, many times. The last revision was in my mother's sewing room in Oklahoma, where I was living as she was dying last summer. I returned to help her. 

At night I would revise. I cut a hundred pages to make it tight. I read the next to the last revision to my friend Pam Kingsbury who lives in the northwest corner of Alabama, near Muscle Shoals, for three nights in a row, around ten o'clock at night. I have to hear it read aloud, to feel the spirit of it, how it wants to go...

And now it's almost here. 

I give thanks to the spirit of the story. I never know where it will lead me. 

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I was nervous about my family reading CRAZY BRAVE. Yesterday, my stepsister, who was the daughter of the stepfather in the memoir told me that she noticed I had been very careful, that I had held back. The stories about her father and what happened to all of us were much worse. 

I still haven't heard from other family members. My sister Margaret gave it her approval. 

A sister-in-law was concerned for me. She thinks people will think I made it all up. But I have witnesses, I said. She's still concerned. No one ever believed her. She told me other stories I hadn't heard, as did a sister-in-law who was a close confidant of my mother, her mother-in-law.

CRAZY BRAVE keeps attracting more stories. I want it to inspire others to claim their story, no matter the path of it, no matter the failures and successes. 

This isn't just my story but it echoes the story of many others in the world. 


linda said...

I really liked reading this entry about the memoir and the process. I've always been intrigued by the distinction between a writer's voice and the voices the writer likes to read/listen to. I'm looking forward to reading Crazy Brave!

NativeSonKY said...


I'm a 53 year old man in Kentucky who took 2 semesters of college a couple of years back when I was unemployed. I took a Native American Literature course and during the semester a couple of your stories were required reading. I will have to go back and re-read those stories now that I found your blog. I look forward to both the re-reads, and reading the blog.

John in Kentucky

kitchu said...

Today when I met you, and was spellbound and speechless after listening to you read and sing to us, I left thinking these were the words that were trapped inside of me: "I want to say everything to you, but nothing is coming out of me". Our stories parallel and cross in so many sections, I was moved to tears listening.

Thank you again for coming to our small little town. I am glad to have found you, however late in my life.