Author Susan Tweit Provides Insights and Writing Prompt

by Matilda Butler on April 7, 2009

Post #2 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

We are pleased to announce that author Susan Tweit will join us for a Free Teleseminar on Thursday, April 9 at 5PM (Pacific) / 8PM (East coast). Susan’s memoir, Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey has just been released. What questions do you have for a memoir author? What would you like to ask Susan about writing her memoir? Wonder how writing the memoir has influenced her reflections on her life?

Ask Susan your questions in the COMMENT section at the end of this blog. We’ll get them to her and you’ll hear her answers on Thursday during our Author Conversation. Be sure to call to listen live. The phone number is: 1-712-432-0600 and the Access Code is: 998458#. We won’t be taking questions on the line, so post your questions below.

Today we are especially pleased to welcome Susan as our guest blogger. Read her thoughts and, at the end, her special writing prompt for you. Now, here’s Susan:

Picking Up the Pieces by Susan Tweit

“You’ve got two years, or perhaps five,” said the doctor, leaning over her metal desk. “I’m sorry.”

She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, then replaced the lenses carefully before explaining that she had sent my test results to specialists. They concurred with her diagnosis: the way the disease was progressing, they thought, my life would not last long.

It was February of 1980. I was twenty-three years old, attending graduate school while working for the U.S Forest Service, married to my college sweetheart, and at the beginning of what seemed like a promising career.

I shifted on the slippery vinyl seat of the chair, picked up a mechanical pencil, and recorded her words in tidy script in a ruled notebook. I wanted to remember the facts, so I took notes. I am a scientist. I observe and record from a careful distance. It’s what we do, how we make sense of the world.

That’s the opening of my memoir, Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey, just published by University of Texas Press.
Those brief paragraphs describe a pivotal event that came out of the blue and shattered the life I had carefully constructed. Before those words, I was living what I thought was the life I wanted, after them, that life fell apart. What do you do when something–expected or not–completely alters your path, your role, your hopes and dreams? Those questions drive the story in Walking Nature Home.

Here’s what I did with the terrifying news the doctor delivered: pretended it wasn’t happening, did a lot of research on the illness I’d been diagnosed with, went crazy for a while, divorced my husband, moved away from the home of my heart, left the career I loved, ran off to the wilderness…. When none of that vanquished the illness for which no cure is known, I settled in, picked through the shards of my old life to see what was worth carrying on, and began learning how to build a life with what I had. I’m still doing that, still learning how to love the family and life I’ve been given, how to listen to my inner voice, how to be at home, to stick to what really matters, and find joy in the everyday miracle of simply being. That’s what Walking Nature Home is about.

Without that terrible diagnosis, my life would have been very, very different. Those few minutes in the doctor’s office quite literally made me the person I am.

We’ve all experienced events that came seemingly out of nowhere and completely changed our lives–perhaps in a positive way, perhaps not. When we get over the shock, most often we pick up whatever is salvageable and continue on. But when we continue on, neither “we” nor “on” is the same as it was before the event.

Susan’s Writing Prompt
Think of one event that reshaped your life. Can you describe it briefly and compellingly? What would you include? What would you leave out? Before you start writing, re-read the beginning of my post. Notice the details: The doctor leans over her metal desk. She takes off her glasses and rubs her eyes. What does that tell you about her? Notice how I place the scene in context with the year, my age, a brief description of what I think is important about my life (note what I don’t say!). Then I pick up my mechanical pencil and take notes. What does that say about me?

Now write about the event that re-shaped your life. Where did your journey go from there? Let’s hear your story!

Thanks to Matilda and Kendra for hosting me on Women’s Memoirs. This is the seventh stop on my blog book tour to promote Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey. Just before this stop, Susan Tomlinson, college professor, essayist, artist, gardener, and maker of custom canoe paddles hosted me on her Bicycle Garden blog. Next up is artist, writer, and considerer of life Susan Gallacher-Turner. Join me to continue the discussion!

The full tour schedule is on my blog and also on my web site. Don’t miss the great review of Walking Nature Home on the Story Circle Network Book Review site

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