Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What To Do If You Were Married to Michael Jackson


The first day of fall is a perfect time to begin or continue your memoir project. After all, what is a life story but a series of changing seasons? Time passing.

Like the begonias and hamlin grass pictured above, you still have plenty of color and energy. You can use it to write about the passage of time.

How can you indicate the passage of time in your story? Here are a few ways:

1. As you read other memoirs, notice how the writer indicated time passing. Use that method in your memoir. However, don't limit yourself to observing memoirs. Perhaps even more useful are the techniques used in novels, poems or nonfiction pieces. For example, I just finished reading a novel whose chapters were named for dates and years in which the events occurred. You can do that too.

2. Use transition words and sentences. Here are some examples: Since moving to Cincinnati, I had felt a new exhilaration. OR - After my promotion, I felt more secure financially. OR - When my birthday came, I knew I was ready to make a change.

3. Describe your changing feelings or appearance or mode of transportation. Here is an example: Now that I had a car, I suddenly felt like a free woman. OR - With my husband's departure, I realized I was on my own -- and that I liked it. 

4. Within individual chapters, passage of time can be indicated by extra spaces between paragraphs or by extra space and three asterisks or some other symbol.

5.  Give your readers credit for their good reading ability. They will be able to follow your story even if you jump around in time and place.

In Ann Joyner's memoir, Not Worth Saving: How a Severely Handicapped Boy Transformed Lives, she begins with her pregnancy with Matthew. Chapter Two takes up the story when Matthew is fifteen. The chapter begins: "The funeral we planned in 1984 did not take place. Matthew lived."

Are we lost or confused in the story? No, we know exactly where we are and we are turning the pages as fast as we can read. We want to know what happens next and what happened in the intervening years. She has us hooked.

By the way, Ann's book is available in the bookstore at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe, Leawood, Kansas, 66224. It is published by Nazarene Publishing House.  To order - http://thewell.cor.org/not-worth-saving


Make a little mind map of the times of your life. Just list a few. This is just for practice. To make a mind map draw a circle in the middle of a page. Inside the circle, write the words Times of My Life. Then make other circles around the center circle in which you list life changes. Draw a line from the center circle to surrounding circles. Surrounding circles may have other circles shooting off from them.

For example, a simple mind map might have Daughter, Wife, Mother in surrounding circles. Or it might have Elementary School, High School, College. Another possibility is Secretary, Manager, Vice President.

Now, just for practice, write a paragraph in which you take us from one to the other of the times. For example you might write: "I was sick of always being Elvis Presley's daughter. I was ready to be Michael Jackson's wife. However, it was not what I expected. Later, I looked back and wished I had stuck to being Justin's mother. It was fun in many ways."

And there you go. You are Justin Beiber's mother and telling us about your life at that time.


And now for an extra simple chocolate recipe because you need to use your time for writing.

Chocolate Layered Cupcake Pudding Parfaits.

The version of this I saw in The Kansas City Star had multiple steps with multiple from-scratch components. Basically, just cut a cupcake in half horizontally. Save the top of the cupcake for the top of your parfait. Layer pudding, cupcake, and whipped cream in a clear straight sided glass instead of a parfait glass. Top layer is cupcake top.

The Star version did not include this but the parfait could be embelished with a small cookie or cherry stuck into the top.

Pretty enough to serve to your mother-in-law yet quick and easy enough that you won't feel you wasted your time when your husband or kids inhale it and it is gone in a flash.

To purchase your own copy of Write Your Life Story Workbook, visit www.angelinyourinkwell.com/buy.html

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's Not What You Think


A couple of weeks ago, I was in Estes Park, Colorado on vacation. While there, Gentleman Friend and I spent a couple of hours watching the Hunter Jumper Horse Show. The arena has a small grandstand which held a smattering of other riders, horse owners, and friends and family of the riders.

Riders and horses were of varying skills. Some proceeded around the course at a slow pace; a few didn't try some of the jumps; and some, like the horse and rider pictured here, managed the jumps pretty well.

Photo by Carol Newman

Then a horse and rider entered the arena at a more lively pace than previous entrants. They galloped around the course making the jumps quickly and easily. They looked like sure fire winners. Then they came to the last jump. Something spooked the horse; he stopped, turned from side to side, put his head down, backed up and reversed direction.

At first the rider held the reins, but then his right foot came out of the stirrup and he slid down the horses neck and side. Still he held that inelegant posture until finally, as the horse became more agitated, the rider fell. He tumbled and rolled away.

Now riderless and facing away from the jump, the horse calmed.

The rider gathered the reins as the announcer proclaimed how many points the rider had lost. There was silence among the small crowd.

Then the announcer said, "But there is good news, the rider is up."

At that, the spectators applauded briefly.

And that is what struck me. It was apparent that a rider who falls and is uninjured and able to get up is applauded.

There was no shame in trying and failing miserably. That the rider was able to stand and remount was, in itself, honorable. Was an accomplishment in itself.

Of course, it reminded me of writing. Sometimes the muse balks, even for an experienced writer. Then we have a spell where the writing just doesn't happen. Sometimes what we write is a miserable failure.

When those things happen,  writers sometimes beat themselves up, and sometimes even quit writing.

Don't do it.

There is no shame in failing. There is no shame in creating graceless writing. Keep trying and applaud yourself for the effort. Applaud each other for the effort. Tomorrow is there for you to try again.

It's more than just getting on the horse again. It is applauding yourself and each other for the effort.


Write something about horses in your life.Here are some examples:  horse books you have read, horse movies, a horse you had when you were a child. Horses you have seen in a parade. Did you like cowboy movies when you were a child? Who was your favorite cowboy? Write about his horse. Or her horse. What about Dale Evans? Do you watch the Kentucky Derby? Go to a Derby party and drink mint juleps? Write about that.


Today's recipe is Baking Bites Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread from a cooking blog that is full of really great ideas.

Now I don't know what to do. I had planned to take Judy's delicious strawberry bread to a meeting, but now I think I will try this recipe. After all, it has chocolate. Hmm, how about chocolate chips in strawberry bread?

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread
Photo courtesy of  Baking Bites Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread
Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup milk, any kind
2 tbsp Kirsch (optional)
2 cups whole or halved sweet cherries, fresh or frozen
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 9×5-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, vegetable oil and egg until smooth. Whisk in vanilla and almond extracts, as well as the Kirsch, if using.

Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk.

Stir in the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. 

Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow loaf to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Read more: http://bakingbites.com/2014/07/cherry-chocolate-chip-bread/#ixzz39XqV9eyg

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Celebrate Your Life


For the Fourth of July I had a longing for a dish I had not made in years -- New Orleans Corn Pudding. The recipe is in an old cookbook I used often. Just looking at the cover reminded me of happy times. But when I opened the cover, I saw something I had almost forgotten.

The cookbook was a Christmas gift from my mother. Gentleman Friend and I were living in West Des Moines, Iowa expecting a baby. For that reason, we did not risk traveling winter highways to our families in southwest Oklahoma. This Christmas gift gave me a feeling of home.

This Fourth of July when I read the inscription, my thoughts traveled back to the places we had lived and the fun and friends we had known and the celebrations we had shared. Open House parties at every one of our new homes, a surprise birthday party for Gentleman Friend, a "Tears in the Beer" 30th birthday party for me complete with an icy keg of beer outside in the snow, a summer swim party for the girl with a winter birthday, and more -- many more.

I could chronicle our lives in parties and happy memories.

Sometimes people tell me they don't want to write about their lives because they were too sad. You know I am no Pollyanna; as my mother used to say, "Everyone has their own bag of rocks." Instead of counting the rocks, perhaps writing about life's celebrations would be a way of recalling and recording happy times and happy memories.


Make a short (or long) list of parties, holidays or celebrations you have hosted or attended. Pick any one. Write a couple of sentences about it. Tomorrow do it again. Soon you may be anticipating the writing and you can add to it.

Okay, I can't resist a little sermon here. Your life is such a precious gift, don't let it go unrecorded. Write it down -- if only for yourself.

CHOCOLATE INKWELL - Double yummy. Chocolate chip cookies stuffed with chocolate ganache. This recipe is by none other than Jessica Sullivan, the pastry chef at Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco. And wouldn't these be nice for a party?

Photo courtesy of www.foodandwine.com

Ganache-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

ganache stuffed chocolate chip cookies

Yields: 18 stuffed cookies


  • 1 cup(s) walnuts
  • 1 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 stick(s) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup(s) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup(s) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 4 ounce(s) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 tablespoon(s) heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon(s) light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoon(s) crème fraîche

  1. Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the nuts in a pie plate and toast for 8 minutes; let cool, then chop.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle (or using a hand-held mixer), cream the butter with the sugars and vanilla at medium speed, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Beat in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Spoon level tablespoons of the dough onto 2 ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm.
  3. Make the ganache: Put the chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil; pour over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Refrigerate the ganache, stirring occasionally, until thick and spreadable, 1 hour.
  4. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until golden; let cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  5. Sandwich the chocolate-chip cookies with the ganache and serve.

See the updated Resources Page.
See the new Helpful Books.

Photos by Carol Newman unless otherwise noted.

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Monday, July 14, 2014

There You Are


Young adviser and I have a favorite saying: Wherever you go, there you are. 

Recently I visited a friend in Anacortes, Washington. 

You can imagine how we spent most of our time in such a beautiful place -- outside and talking. 

One day as I was telling about the events that led up to Gentleman Friend and I settling in Leawood, Kansas, she said, "You must really love him." 

Valentine Roses - the flower of love

I laughed. It's true, of course, but why had she said that?

Because the events I had been relating constituted a story.A life of ups and downs. Together with Gentleman Friend.  A story of where I had been and how I got there and where I am now.

What I was telling her was a very literal story of where I had been -- where I had lived: Albuquerque, Des Moines, Middletown, Ohio-- and others in between.

Here is what we can learn from this. There is a story in location. How has it formed you? What did you learn? How are you the person you are because of where you have lived? Jerry, a member of our writing group has lived in Germany and France, and other places, too. Louise grew up in Russia. Ronnie is from Brooklyn. Stella has always lived in Kansas City, Kansas  -- yet it was a time of a historic flood and the impact of the meat packing industry on immigrants, families, and the city. Each person has wonderful stories that could only be lived in those particular places. Each person has been shaped by the culture, religion,  food, beliefs and economic and political situations in those places.

I like to say I have lived up and down Interstate 35 -- not very interesting at first glance. Yet, my friend found a story that brought a tug at her emotions.


Make a list or a mind map (a non-linear list) of the cities, states, countries, houses or apartments where you have lived. Write about the details and how you were shaped by them. Farm girl? City girl? Where were you then? Where are you now? Because -- wherever you go, there you are.


Today's recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, is perfect for summer -- Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Of course, you can use plain vanilla, but the author uses a combination of flavors. On her blog, she also has great photo illustrations of the procedure. Besides liking this particular recipe, I like this blog.

brownie ice cream sandwiches
Photo and recipe from www.smittenkitchen.com

For the brownies
3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

For the filling
2 to 3 cups ice cream

Heat oven to 350°F. Line two 8×8-inch square baking pans with parchment paper, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment and exposed sides of the pan or spray them with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, heat chocolate and butter together until about 3/4 of the way melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

Stir in sugar until fully combined, then eggs, one at a time and vanilla. Stir in salt until combined, then flour, until it just disappears.

Divide batter between two prepared pans and spread it evenly — an offset spatula will make this easier.

Bake on different racks for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once top to bottom and front to back, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out batter-free.

Transfer hot pans directly to freezer (you can put down dish towels or a cooling rack to protect shelves). Chill until cold and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove first pan from freezer, and, working quickly, cover with ice cream.  Use a spatula to smoosh it down and smooth the top.

Remove second brownie pan from freezer. Run a knife between edges of brownie and pan to make sure it’s not sticking anywhere and use parchment sling to life the brownie out of the pan, remove the parchment and place it on top of the ice cream.

Place the empty brownie pan on top of the brownie lid, to weight it, and press down a little.

Keeping the weighting pan on top, return brownie-ice cream stack to freezer until fully firm, another 30 minutes.

Run a knife around brownie stack again to make sure it’s not stuck, and use the parchment sling to transfer the ice cream sandwich block to a cutting board. Cut into squares —  cut it into 16 (4×4) or make 25 (5×5)

You can store the cut sandwiches in an airtight container or bag in the freezer as-is, or individually wrapped in squares of waxed paper. They should keep for at least two months in the freezer, but good luck with that.

More good stuff about memoir and life story writing can be found at Angel In Your Inkwell website.
(You are at the Angel In Your Inkwell blog right now.)

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Monday, July 7, 2014

Land a Plane on an Aircraft Carrier

READING TIP - because reading, reading with awareness, is the best "how-to" available to a writer, occasionally I will be devoting a post to a particular book.  COMING SOON - The book posting will then be archived on the new Helpful Books page at www.angelinyourinkwell.com (Webdiva Jane has not received all the information from me yet so the page is not up. I jumped the gun in telling you because I am so excited about it.)

Sometimes I read a book that is so exciting in some way that I want to tell you about it. To make that a better process, the sister website of this blog, www.angelinyourinkwell.com, will soon have a page devoted entirely to book recommendations.

Don't dash out and buy these books. Most are available at a public library and you may want to read only a few pages in some of them. The books will be listed according to most recent posted.

The first book is one I found so exciting I actually read passages aloud to Gentleman Friend and then we talked about the great writing. The book is Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales.

This is a book you may not want to read in its entirety so in the description on the website, I have listed pages that give you a taste of the writing. Notice how the author creates powerful and vivid writing mainly by good reporting and strong word choice.


Just because we aren't writing about aircraft carrier pilots or mountain climbers, it doesn't mean we can't create strong writing. That doesn't mean over dramatizing; it means avoid cliches, avoid abstract terms, and avoid wordiness. Here's what makes this difficult. Choose meaningful details. Make your words do double duty; make them give additional information.

For example, a car might tell us something about you or your character. An over-70-year-old member of my writers group, drove a bright yellow Mustang convertible. I know another woman whose SUV has a dog kennel in back; she trains service dogs. Do you shop at Whole Foods, Aldi, or Price Chopper? Your choice tells us something about you.

Here is the Launching Pad -- Write a paragraph (or book or anything in between) about your everyday life. You might write about a trip to the grocery store or a trip to the dentist or baking a frozen pizza. Follow the example of Laurence Gonzales in his descriptions. What was your car like, what about the setting, what did you hear and feel? . Readers will go along with you and enjoy the trip.


Still feeling the effects of all the Fourth of July food? Let's keep it simple this week.

Fudgsicle<sup>®</sup> Low Fat Pops

Buy a box of Fudgsicles and call it done. Few calories or fat per serving and they are fun to eat.

Here is a question.  Our street has lots of children, five preschoolers in just the house next door and one across the street, so the street is definitely on the ice cream truck route.What do ice cream truck treats cost these days?

Learn more about making your writing interesting by looking in your Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook, pp. 14-15. 

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®