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:
How to Write About Your Boring Life
I count Becky as one of my dearest blog friends. We met through blogging about 4 years ago, and we hit it off immediately. I’m glad that through her I’ve discovered your site, as life writing is exactly the kind of writing I am doing.
Having gotten into genealogy a few years ago, I realized that I wasn’t so interested in filling out the pedigree chart as I was in compiling the stories of my ancestors’ lives. I want to know more than just their birth and death dates—I want to know about their joys and sorrows, their hopes and dreams, their loves and losses. I’m in the process of compiling a family narrative.
Then, I realized that my own story will be interesting to those coming after me. So, with the inspiration of oodles of life-writing books, I’ve begun compiling my own story. I am working on a narrative about my long battle with fertility issues, but the everyday stories of life are just as important. Steve Zousmer writes in “You Don’t Have to Be Famous, “Don’t dismiss your life as uninteresting because it’s not earthshaking—most of the people who’ve shaken the earth are forgotten fairly swiftly, anyway, and their memories are not cherished as your family will cherish yours.”
Anyhow, I’m glad that Becky’s blog post linked to your blog, because yours is one I very much want to read.
PS If this comment comes through twice, please delete the other one. I was logged into the wrong account.
Hi Patti, I’m so glad to hear you are writing down your stories. Yes, the biggest reason for writing our stories is so our families have them. My mother’s stories are gold now that she is gone, so much more interesting than a name on the family tree. Hope to hear from you again – stop by often for inspiration and resources about writing and publishing.
Thank you very much, Linda, for having me on your blog today! I’m so glad our paths crossed. It was definitely another one of those serendipitous happenings!
Thank you, Becky, for being my guest. I am enjoying reminiscing my own Midwestern childhood by reading your memoir. Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
So nice that you hosted Becky today. You’d think she and I have nothing in common – I grew up in the South Bronx, I’m Puerto Rican and my life story is completely different. Yet, I found that I could relate to so much in her book, and I did learn a little about life in the midwest. All lives are so interesting.
Hello Myrna, thanks for stopping in. I know you have a fascinating story. Reading each others stories helps us see our commonalities as well as understand each other better. Maybe we’d have world peace, love and understanding if everyone read lots of memoirs – wouldn’t that be nice!
Hi Patti and Myrna! Thanks to both of you for stopping by and leaving such thoughtful comments. You’re both dear friends and I’m so glad we met through blogging. Hugs…. 🙂
Thanks for your write-up on Becky. She is one of the loveliest fellow bloggers and writers who I know. Susan
Thank you, Susan! And to you I say, “Ditto!”