Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing Gifts by Pam Hawley

Today is the final day of the 'Wrap it up' Blogfest and it also a life list Friday. So I asked the lovely Pam Hawley to write something to go along with the blogfest theme and she didn't disappoint! 

In case your wondering where I am, I'll be talking about some of my favortie Christmas books at Jess Witkin's blog. Take it away Pam!

Last fall, my Grandmom was approaching her 80th birthday.I wanted to give her something unique and special, but I was truly stumped. Shesolved my problem one evening when I showed up at her house with carryout fromher favorite local restaurant.

Forget about subtle hints. Once you hit 80, you’ve lost allreservations about telling people exactly what you want them to do. So as weenjoyed our pasta and salad, Grandmom solved my birthday dilemma.

“I want you to write me a story about the Junebug,” she said.

A bit of background - when I was a kid, I spent a lot of myweekends traveling from Baltimore to West Virginia with mygrandparents. They had parents and siblings there, and would often make thetrek for a weekend of family time and camping. To pass the time on our roadtrips, Grandmom would tell me stories about her childhood. Her childhood livingin a farmhouse with no indoor plumbing and five siblings was vastly differentfrom my own city-girl, one-sister childhood, so I was fascinated. The storiesnever got old, no matter how many road trips they got us through.

When I was 8 or 9, I bought a notebook and wrote all thosestories down in scribbling childish scrawl. For each story, I added a stickfigure drawing. Then I wrapped up the notebook and put it under our tree asGrandmom’s Christmas gift.

That was the first time I ever saw someone cry happy tearsover a present. We always joked that when I grew up, I’d really write hermemoirs. That hasn’t quite happened yet. But when her birthday rolled aroundshe wanted me to tackle at least one special memory.

“The Junebug” wasn’t one of her childhood stories – it isactually a tale about a gift my grandfather gave her when they were newlyweds. Iwent home full of purpose, sat at my computer and pulled up a blank page. Istared at it.

It stared back. We stayed like that for a long time.  

I didn’t have writer’s block. I could write about anythingand everything, it seemed, except for “The Junebug.” This went on for days, andas Grandmom’s birthday crept closer I began to panic. Finally, two days beforethe big day, the path I needed to take with the piece came to me. I wrote allday and into the night. Since my grandmother doesn’t use a computer, I had mypartner Lee help me design a print cover using a photo of her and my Granddadin their newlywed days. 

For the second time in our lives, I presented my Grandmomwith a gift that brought her to happy tears. If you’re interested in the endresult, you can read it here:

For a writer, there is no greater joy than moving someonewith your words. Maybe you want to pull their heartstrings, or scare themsilly, or make them howl with laughter. Whatever the desired reaction is,witnessing their face when you hit the mark is priceless.

So, what does this have to do with our Life List goals?Well, we all dream of getting our work out there into the world. As we chase ourlarger dreams of publication, it is easy to forget about the joy we can bringto our loved ones and ourselves right now.

As a writer, you have the ability to give the gift ofprecious memories, laughter, or pure entertainment. Consider sharing one of thebest parts of you – your writing – with your loved ones this holiday season.Here are a few ideas:

  1. Buy a calendar. Select one with room to write notes on particular days or weeks. Make observations or comments about days that hold significance for both you and the recipient of the calendar. Don’t just stick with birthdays or anniversaries. Think about humorous or sentimental moments you’ve shared and bring them to life in a line or two.

  1. Participate in Jennie’s “Wrap it up Blogfest!”. Jennie has offered up a great way to motivate yourself to write some flash fiction while giving a meaningful gift to the person who inspires your story. 

  1. Organize a family member’s favorite photos into an album. Write funny blurbs to go with each picture, or go all-out and add short stories or make-believe “news articles” to go with groups of pictures.

  1. Choose a new-to-the-scene blogger you have enjoyed reading. Write a review of their blog on your own to help them gain readership.

  1. Tackle the rewarding project of writing an older family member’s memoirs. You probably can’t get this one done in time for a holiday gift this year. But start now, and next year you’ll have a unique and personal gift your entire family will enjoy.

  1. Pick a memory that your family or circle of friends always chuckles over during the holidays, and write it up as if you were creating a sitcom episode script. This will be even more fun if you make family members act it out when you give it to them!

  1. Feature a story about the recent accomplishments of a friend or family member on your blog. Or just write a tribute that you share with them alone.

  1. For the cook on your gift list, compile his or her favorite recipes. After each recipe, include a few notes on your favorite memories associated with that particular tasty treat.

  1.  Do you have children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, godchildren or the children of close friends or neighbors who have expressed an interest in creative writing? If so, give the gift of mentorship. Give them a journal where you have written suggestions based on some of your own favorite writing prompts. Help them start a blog. Learn more about their writing interests and share appropriate ideas, web links and books.

  1.  Write a blog post, essay or feature article about a charitable organization that has significant meaning to a friend or family member, and share it with them as a holiday gift. Then try to get it out there to help promote and support your friend’s cause!

Have you ever given a loved onethe gift of your writing? What was the experience like for you? If not, wouldyou try any of these ideas, or perhaps another “gift of writing” project thathas been brewing in your mind?

Happy Holidays, Life Listers andfriends! Please join us on December 30th when we have our nextMilestone Party, including fun prizes and giveaways!

In addition to short fiction, Pam Hawley writes humorpieces and is working on her first novel, which blends the creepy and the funnyby bringing a brutally murdered “player” back to life as a naked ghost. Hershort story “A Wingding and A Prayer” appeared in the July issue of eFiction Magazine.  Her short horrorfiction, “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” will appear in The Spirit of Poe Anthologyavailable at LiteraryLandmark Press. When not working, writing or in the gym, Pam can mostlikely be found curled up on her couch reading, hanging out at her family pubHawley’s in Baltimore, or cheering the Pittsburgh Steelers. She blogs regularlyat
Pam on Twitter:!/Pamela_Hawley
Pam on Facebook:!/profile.php?id=584898973


Eve.E said...

Happy Christmas honey xxx

Joshua said...

This made me smile. See? :o)

Carolyn V said...

Aw. I love that you wrote something for your Grandma. =)

Have a great Christmas!!! ;)

Donna K. Weaver said...

This is a wonderful post. I love what you did for your grandmother. My NaNo project is going to be my oldest granddaughter's 13th birthday present--it stars her.

Pam said...

Thank you Carolyn and Joshua : )!

Pam said...

Donna, what a wonderful idea! Did having that end result in mind help keep you inspired through the crunchtime writing process during NaNo? I've never done NaNo myself, so I'm curious : )!

Marcia Richards said...

I love this, Pam! What a great feeling for both you and your grandmother! And your suggestions of how to get those same feelings are awesome! I'm giving my 7-year-old granddaughter a journal since she's been interested in writing stories lately. My trilogy is based on my mother's life story. You've also spurred some other ideas...thank you!

Kathleen Doyle said...

Wow. That was an absolutely beautiful story! I cannot stop the tears from falling. Thank you for sharing it. I have to go get some Kleenex now.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

Wonderful tips Pam. Thanks for sharing the story.

Gary Gauthier said...

Pam, you suggested a lot of great ideas. I liked the plug for Jennie's blogfest. What really got me thinking was number five. While it can be a very challenging project, it would also be very rewarding for a lot of family members. It certainly has the potential to bring memories to life in a very powerful ways and move folks to tears.

Pam said...

Thanks Marcia! It is so much fun when younger family members share your interest in writing. She's much more into photography and horseback riding now, but for a while my niece went through a phase where she loved writing stories and I really hope she goes back to it someday : ).

Pam said...

Thank you Kathleen. Sorry for the tears, but I hope they are happy ones : ).

Pam said...

Thank you Stacy!

Pam said...

#5 is something I really want to tackle, too, Gary. My grandmother and her 4 brothers and 1 sister lived lives that were much simpler than ours today in some ways, but so interesting and quirky and fascinating too, and I'd love to compile those stories again as an adult. I think it may be the next project I tackle when I finally finish the book.

jesswitkins said...

Pam, the book you wrote sounds like an AMAZING keepsake and gift for your grandma. What a lovely idea.

To add your already awesome list, two more ideas I read about and liked included giving the recipient a jar with favorite memories of the past to read on days they felt down, or buying a favorite childhood book and writing memories of reading it together and giving it to a (grand)parent.

Jenny Hansen said...

Pam, this is so lovely! I'd give anything to be able to go back and write my mom's stories WITH her. Since I can't, I badger everyone I can find to share their memories. It's a very fun and heartwarming project for having her back with me for a time.

Emily said...

I love this! I love your perspective and your joy and the power in this memory-about-writing-a-memory. (And now I can't wait to read the story about The Junebug!) Thanks for sharing your attitude with us; it's really lovely!

The Golden Eagle said...

That's a beautiful story! :)

Shannon Lawrence said...

Great ideas! I've been wanting to put together my grandma's memoir for awhile, just for the family. She had an interesting life.

Christa said...

These are all great ideas. I love the calendar one so much, I'm going to do it today. Great post.

Pam said...

Jess, I love the idea of the memory jar! I may do that for a Mother's Day gift this year : ).

Pam said...

Thanks Jenny! I think collecting those memories from everyone you can who knew your Mom, writing them and then sharing the collection with all who helped bring the stories to life would be a wonderful tribute : ).

Pam said...

Thank you Emily, and thank you for reading "The Junebug," too : ).

Pam said...

Thank you, Golden Eagle! Shannon, I hope you do put together your grandmother's memoir. It is a project I really want to tackle in more depth with mine too. Christa, I'm so glad you liked the calendar idea and hope you had fun doing it!

Dominik said...

Great post!!

Greetings from Austria/Vienna