This week I had the thrill of attending a Kevin Henkes author event, sharing the excitement with my youngest daughter. What a great mother-daughter learning experience. We are big fans of the man who created Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, among other delightful children’s stories. Lily’s Big Day is his latest book and it is wonderful. Mr. Henkes spent some time explaining his creative writing process, and I thought his methods would be useful in creating any book – including memoirs. I inadvertently used these methods in writing my mother’s memories for the Cherry Blossoms in Twilight book.
Many authors have a writer’s notebook, or at least carry paper with them in order to capture any thoughts of the moment, any interesting phrases or tidbits that pop into their mind. These bits and pieces are stored for future reference, sometimes for years before they might become a part of a story. Mr. Henkes also will put away a concept, a part or even a whole story that he is not satisfied with, coming back to it later – yes, sometimes years later – to look at it with fresh eyes.
I spoke to my dad the other day, asking him how he was doing with his own memoir. He was a little frustrated because often one memory would lead to other snippets of memories and he didn’t have time to fill out details or put them in some sort of order. I told him not to bother. The first part of writing is to collect ideas. THEN, put the ideas in order and THEN flesh them out. Just as Mr. Henkes does, capture the essence of breezes that wisp through the mind. Look back on them later, enjoy the thoughts and feelings that come to mind – and then write in earnest.