I met Becky Lewellen Povich through the St. Louis Writers Guild and found her book, From Pigtails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir and More, to be exactly what I like to encourage in lifewriting. Many people, if not most, do not have a journey of overcoming this or that or of going on a big adventure of personal discovery, but their stories are interesting and worth writing about. My own mother thought her stories of life around WWII in Japan were boring and everyday. “Who cares about that?” she’d tell me when annoyed by my persistent questions.
Our everyday stories usually involve history and culture and the social mores of the time. Those with similar stories bond through common memories. Younger people learn about the “old days.” We might learn about totally different cultures or perspectives. What bonds all of us together in stories are universal experiences and emotions. Becky is my guest today and discusses the writing of her book.
Becky, please tell us why you wrote your memoir, From Pigtails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir & More.
Although I’d never written anything other than personal letters, business correspondence, office newsletters, and the perpetual Christmas letter, I felt compelled in 2001to begin writing my memoir. Every time I actually say or write those words, I think How crazy was that!? But for some reason, I believed I had the talent to do it.
There were two main occurrences in 2001 that prompted me to write: the near death of my estranged father, and reading Haven Kimmel’s memoir, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. As I read Ms. Kimmel’s book, I kept thinking if I were to write my memoir, it would be similar to hers; short snippets of everyday life, some that were poignant, sad, funny, hilarious, insightful. In addition to writing it for myself and my family, I firmly believed a great deal of readers would love it and it could possibly make a difference in their lives. And since I didn’t concentrate on just my young, growing up years in the 1950s and 60s, thus the subtitle: A Memoir & More, I also had faith that it would appeal to women of all ages.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I didn’t make that decision until I’d written my way along a very lengthy path, which basically took 12 years from my very first thoughts, to being near completion of my memoir. After things didn’t work out with a small press that had previously been interested in publishing it, I looked into other areas, which included the possibility of a New York agent looking at it. But, my ultimate decision was to go with Createspace for several reasons. The main one was I was nearing the age of 60 and didn’t want to “waste” any time hoping the agent might look at my manuscript, might accept it, and try to sell it. If I was in my 20s or 30s, I might have gone that route. But, then again, maybe not. I was very particular about the title and cover of my memoir, the fonts used, the black and white photos I wanted included, etc. Yes, I wanted to be in complete control of my baby!
Did writing your memoir prompt you to view yourself and your life in ways other than you originally assumed?
Very much so! It didn’t happen right away, though. It took a lot of writing about the sadder times for me to begin looking at things differently. And although there were things I wished I could’ve changed about my life, I also realized that I wouldn’t be who I am today, if any of those events hadn’t happened. I’m very happy with who I am, and where I am, at this stage of my journey in life.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
Well, I really don’t have one! I’m definitely not a disciplined writer. I’m a “write when I’m in the mood” kind. (Hmm, could be one reason why my memoir took me 12 years to write!) I like to attribute it to the fact that I never had an education in writing. I didn’t attend college, or any writing classes, so therefore I don’t have the proper mindset. (I really am kidding; not about the 12 years, but about my excuses!)
I’m in the beginning stages of writing the sequel to Pigtails, and I know this book will definitely not take years to complete. I learned so much writing my first book and I am a bit more conscientious these days. My goal for the sequel’s publication is 2015. I think I’d better get busy!
- Becky Lewellen Povich is a writer, humorist, and “bliss follower” who started writing later in life. She is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies and periodicals. Find out more about Becky at her website or blog.
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Becky’s stories are warm-hearted personal interest stories of growing up in the Midwest during the 1950s-1960s, dealing with her parents’ divorce at a time when divorce was unusual, coming of age and getting married, and continuing the dramas and peculiarities and amusing moments we all have in our own ways. Smiles, laughter, pain, sadness, we can all relate to those emotions. I like her comment about how she “realized that I wouldn’t be who I am today if any of those events hadn’t happened.” Sometimes you can learn a lot about life and about yourself by writing down your “everyday” stories, and others may learn a thing or two, too.
In case you think you have an everyday and boring life not worth writing about: