Bringing Order: Approaching my Memoirs from Three Sequences

One of the interesting things about being a writer is seeing a story evolve. You begin with an idea of it in your head, and as you type it into the computer, it grows, changes, morphs into the finished book. And then you edit it, and it changes more.

But what if the story actually happened? What if you’re recounting life events, not making up fiction?

In October of 2014, I began writing a series of mini-memoirs. Over the course of a year, I would pen eight of them. Each was a humorous essay about some aspect of my childhood in the 1970’s. Rather than tell a chronological history of how I grew up, I grouped the books by subject matter. There’s the one about my obsession with superheroes. The one about trying to catch Santa Claus every year. The one about all the dogs we had growing up, etc.

Each is a self-contained piece that doesn’t require you to have read any of the others. Because I was writing humorous essays, there are lots of digressions and little anecdotes that don’t advance the main story.

In other words, reading them all offers a semi-complete but disjointed history of my early life.

So what order do you read them in?

The short answer is, “Any,” but somewhat by accident (and a little bit by design), I’ve offered three distinct paths.

Original Publication

Secret Identity Cover Lo-resThis is the most random path, but there was some method to the madness. I published the books in a particular order that had little to do with the progression of a story arc and more to with marketing reasons.

I led with “Secret Identity: My True-Life Adventure as a Superhero” because I felt it was the strongest. There was a traditional narrative, and the idea of an eight-year-old kid sneaking out of the house after bedtime to fight crime in a cape and mask (while living in the suburbs) was a pretty strong hook.

After that, the calendar dictated my release order. I published the Christmas one in December, the baseball one in time for MLB Opening Day, the Star Wars one in time for Star Wars Day, and so forth.

Thus, if you read them in the order I published the books, you get a fairly random but amusing journey through my childhood. There is little reason behind jumping from one adventure to the next, but you can see the evolution of my style. With each mini-memoir, I grew more confident in how to write them, and you can see me adopting and refining a particular style as I went on.

The books were published in the following order:

“Secret Identity”
“Naughty & Nice”
“Domestic Disturbance”
“Swing and a Miss”
“Rocketed to Earth”
“Are We There Yet?”
“Animal House”
“Gridiron Glory”

Legend in my own Mind

legend cover lo-resI had always intended to collect the minis into a single, more coherent volume, and I did so in December, publishing the collection under the title, Legend in my own Mind. I reordered them to have a partially chronological progression and wrote connecting material to tie it all together. The result is a narrative that puts my overactive imagination front and center.

It also makes my brother (and the accompanying sibling rivalry) and my father (with his Ohio sports loyalties and Depression-era values) critical supporting characters in the story of my youth. Read separately, Dave and Dad are occasional background characters in my adventures. But within Legend in my own Mind, they are primal forces that help drive the action.

“Legend” orders the chapters thus:

“Domestic Disturbance”
“Secret Identity”
“Swing and a Miss”
“Naughty & Nice”
“Animal House”
“Gridiron Glory”
“Rocketed to Earth”
“Are We There Yet?”

Marketing Circle

are we there yet Cover lo-resFollowing the publishing of Legend in my own Mind, I updated the backmatter of each of the mini-memoirs with an excerpt from and an ad for one of the others. Like the ordering of the chapters in “Legend” I chose a very deliberate sequence.

I grouped the minis by subject matter and style. “Secret Identity” leads to “Rocketed to Earth” because they both deal with me imagining myself as a hero and acting on it. “Rocketed to Earth” leads to “Swing and a Miss,” because my Little League baseball team figures in RtE. That leads to “Gridiron Glory,” since SaaM is about baseball and GG is about football. Because sibling rivalry is prominent theme in “Gridiron Glory,” the next book is “Domestic Disturbance.”

And so on. Each books leads to another. And I envision them all as a circle. You can jump in anywhere you like on the daisy chain and read your way around the whole story. The last book leads to the first book, no matter where in the loop you jump in.  So the order looks like this:

“Secret Identity”
“Rocketed to Earth”
“Swing and a Miss”
“Gridiron Glory”
“Domestic Disturbance”
“Naughty & Nice”
“Animal House”
“Are We There Yet?”
“Secret Identity”

So there you have it. Three ways to read the same story, and they all evolved over the course of publishing my childhood memoirs. Pick a path and dive in. Adventure in the decade of Nixon, Ford, and Carter awaits!

 

 

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