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Annie_Barrows
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Registered: ‎08-14-2008
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney


Sunltcloud wrote:

Annie_Barrows wrote:
I think the problem with most epistolery novels is too few narrators. It's very difficult to believe in a story that's told through forty-page letters by one character (who writes forty-page letters, much less forty-page letters complete with dialogue, descriptions, and background?). I believe the solution is not to bag the epistolery novel, but to have so many characters that no single one is responsible for all the story-telling. I have to say, it was tremendous fun to tell a story through so many voices. Each one gives the story a separate little charge, and each one has his or her own quirks and ideas. I don't know how I'm going to return to regular narrative again. 

I can see the fun it must have been to write in so many voices. I think I saw somewhere that your aunt said that she chose the letter form because she thought it would be easier. From all I know about writing it seems to me that it actually must have been harder (did she ever mention this after she had written most of the book?) If one writes a narrative there is a certain flow of events, even if one includes back story/flash backs; when writing letters, this flow is interrupted, especially when so many people write. Who said what? Has this been said yet? What else must be added to make a character well-rounded yet not  totally exposed too early. Are events foreshadowed properly? Was an important fact left out? Etc. etc. etc.

 

As the author you have everything in your head, but how do you keep track of the how and when it is exposed to the reader? I am thrilled with the concept and think that you did a great job making me believe in the book group and their interrelated lives.

 

The sad facts of war were handled with care. Thank you for that. I was a child during WWII in Germany and my heart still beats faster when I hear sirens. One of my most favorite meals was "Heaven and Earth" mashed potatoes and apple sauce; I laughed out loud when I saw Will Thisbee's recipe for potato peel pie. I spent many a night in the basement or at an airraid shelter and I was evacuated from the main war theatre in the North of Germany. Luckily my grandmother lived in the Black Forest and I was sent to her house. But during the final hours of the war German troops were in front of our house and French troops in back. They pretty much burned down the neighborhood. We harbored a French soldier in our attic. He was not much more than a child, a young Moroccon, scared to death and hungry. I was the one who climbed through the trapdoor (I was seven) to bring him soup. 

 

I understand the need for humor during war time and find the idea of a literary society to cover up one's tracks fascinating. My mother used to smuggle food in her bra from the French hospital where she worked after the war, to my grandmother and me who were shut into one room of our house because a colonel had taken over the rest of it. 

 

I had no idea about the history of the Channel Islands until I read your novel. I had become interested because a friend cruised the islands and had sent me a postcard. I'm a passionate walker and now I can't wait to go there, walk the cliffs, see Victor Hugo's house, find out how the people in St. Peter's Port feel about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 


Thank you for telling us a bit of your story. I think that my favorite part of our book's success is hearing the fascinating experiences of some of the readers. I can imagine how frightening the war--especially the end of it--must have been to a child of seven. Last night at a reading, I met a woman who was in St. Peter Port when the harbor was bombed, and she still cries when she talks about it. 

 

As for the writing question, I think the problems of tracking are inherent in any long piece of writing. In a straight 3rd person narrative, I still have to go back to check whether I've laid down the informational sub-structure properly--did I remember to tell the the reader that Madame X is fluent in Bulgarian before she overhears the Bulgarian spy in the laundromat? With letters, the slight repetition of information is MORE forgiveable--and forgiven--because it feels authentic in letters written by two different people to have some overlap. Further, when corrections or additions are necessary, it's far easier to insert them into small chunks of text like letters, rather than having to add them seamlessly into a longer piece. So, ultimately, I begin to think Mary Ann was right. And she still thought it was easier after she was through. The major problem I have with the letter format is that it precludes a lot of dialogue--rarely can you get away with a long exchange in a letter--and I love writing dialogue.

 

I hope you get to Guernsey soon. It is a lovely island.

 

 


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Author
Annie_Barrows
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Registered: ‎08-14-2008
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney


literature wrote:
Did you make up the names as you went along or did you have an ongoing list of names to some day include in a book?  I think the names are just darling and found myself looking forward to meeting a new character just to see what the name would be.  I think you should consider another book in letter form for some time in the future.

I adore naming characters, and so did Mary Ann. Some of those names come from our family--poor Edwin Mulliss, upon whose tombstone Juliet sits, is a third cousin of mine. And Juliet herself is an homage to a dear friend of Mary Ann's, plus a passing reference to another J. A., Jane Austen. Some of the wackier names are pure invention. I know that Clara Saussey is related to sausage. I don't think that Mary Ann had a list of names to work from, and I know I didn't--when I needed a name, I just stalked around the house until a good one appeared in my brain.

 

 


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literature
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney

When I read your responses, I feel like I am another character in your book.  Do you ever do book readings or signings in central NJ or in Manhattan.  I would love to meet you.
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Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney


Sunltcloud wrote:

I can see the fun it must have been to write in so many voices. I think I saw somewhere that your aunt said that she chose the letter form because she thought it would be easier. From all I know about writing it seems to me that it actually must have been harder (did she ever mention this after she had written most of the book?) If one writes a narrative there is a certain flow of events, even if one includes back story/flash backs; when writing letters, this flow is interrupted, especially when so many people write. Who said what? Has this been said yet? What else must be added to make a character well-rounded yet not  totally exposed too early. Are events foreshadowed properly? Was an important fact left out? Etc. etc. etc.

 

As the author you have everything in your head, but how do you keep track of the how and when it is exposed to the reader? I am thrilled with the concept and think that you did a great job making me believe in the book group and their interrelated lives.

 

The sad facts of war were handled with care. Thank you for that. I was a child during WWII in Germany and my heart still beats faster when I hear sirens. One of my most favorite meals was "Heaven and Earth" mashed potatoes and apple sauce; I laughed out loud when I saw Will Thisbee's recipe for potato peel pie. I spent many a night in the basement or at an airraid shelter and I was evacuated from the main war theatre in the North of Germany. Luckily my grandmother lived in the Black Forest and I was sent to her house. But during the final hours of the war German troops were in front of our house and French troops in back. They pretty much burned down the neighborhood. We harbored a French soldier in our attic. He was not much more than a child, a young Moroccon, scared to death and hungry. I was the one who climbed through the trapdoor (I was seven) to bring him soup. 

 

I understand the need for humor during war time and find the idea of a literary society to cover up one's tracks fascinating. My mother used to smuggle food in her bra from the French hospital where she worked after the war, to my grandmother and me who were shut into one room of our house because a colonel had taken over the rest of it. 

 

I had no idea about the history of the Channel Islands until I read your novel. I had become interested because a friend cruised the islands and had sent me a postcard. I'm a passionate walker and now I can't wait to go there, walk the cliffs, see Victor Hugo's house, find out how the people in St. Peter's Port feel about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 


Thanks for sharing your story, too. It's extraordinary to hear how people survive in such situations, when the world just breaks down.

 

And it is a wonderful reflection we get from the novel, too--that people survive, however they must, and with whatever dignity they can, even in the worst of times, even acting with bravery and generosity in the face of it.

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Wrighty
Posts: 1,762
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney

Sunltcloud wrote:

The sad facts of war were handled with care. Thank you for that. I was a child during WWII in Germany and my heart still beats faster when I hear sirens. One of my most favorite meals was "Heaven and Earth" mashed potatoes and apple sauce; I laughed out loud when I saw Will Thisbee's recipe for potato peel pie. I spent many a night in the basement or at an airraid shelter and I was evacuated from the main war theatre in the North of Germany. Luckily my grandmother lived in the Black Forest and I was sent to her house. But during the final hours of the war German troops were in front of our house and French troops in back. They pretty much burned down the neighborhood. We harbored a French soldier in our attic. He was not much more than a child, a young Moroccon, scared to death and hungry. I was the one who climbed through the trapdoor (I was seven) to bring him soup.

 

I understand the need for humor during war time and find the idea of a literary society to cover up one's tracks fascinating. My mother used to smuggle food in her bra from the French hospital where she worked after the war, to my grandmother and me who were shut into one room of our house because a colonel had taken over the rest of it.


Sunltcloud,

 

I can't even imagine what it must have been like to live through such a thing especially as a child. I hope you have had all good things in your life since that time. Since you were witness to incredible events did you ever write any of it down or record your memories in any way? If it's not too painful for you, at the very least your family would appreciate having those parts of your life preserved. My grandmother is 89 and I'm still learning new things about her all of the time. We've videotaped some of her stories. I wish we had done more of that for my grandfather who was in the army during WWl. He always told us stories about many things and the whole family is familiar with them. I still wish we had recorded more of them in his own words and asked for more details. Some of his stories have passed with him.

Author
Annie_Barrows
Posts: 84
Registered: ‎08-14-2008
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney


literature wrote:
When I read your responses, I feel like I am another character in your book.  Do you ever do book readings or signings in central NJ or in Manhattan.  I would love to meet you.

Thank you--I live on the other side of the country, but I believe that I'm going to be doing some readings on the east coast sometime in the late spring or early summer next year. If you check the events listing on my website (anniebarrows.com) you can keep an eye on my whereabouts.

 

 


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Author
Annie_Barrows
Posts: 84
Registered: ‎08-14-2008
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney


Wrighty wrote:
Sunltcloud wrote:

The sad facts of war were handled with care. Thank you for that. I was a child during WWII in Germany and my heart still beats faster when I hear sirens. One of my most favorite meals was "Heaven and Earth" mashed potatoes and apple sauce; I laughed out loud when I saw Will Thisbee's recipe for potato peel pie. I spent many a night in the basement or at an airraid shelter and I was evacuated from the main war theatre in the North of Germany. Luckily my grandmother lived in the Black Forest and I was sent to her house. But during the final hours of the war German troops were in front of our house and French troops in back. They pretty much burned down the neighborhood. We harbored a French soldier in our attic. He was not much more than a child, a young Moroccon, scared to death and hungry. I was the one who climbed through the trapdoor (I was seven) to bring him soup.

 

I understand the need for humor during war time and find the idea of a literary society to cover up one's tracks fascinating. My mother used to smuggle food in her bra from the French hospital where she worked after the war, to my grandmother and me who were shut into one room of our house because a colonel had taken over the rest of it.


Sunltcloud,

 

I can't even imagine what it must have been like to live through such a thing especially as a child. I hope you have had all good things in your life since that time. Since you were witness to incredible events did you ever write any of it down or record your memories in any way? If it's not too painful for you, at the very least your family would appreciate having those parts of your life preserved. My grandmother is 89 and I'm still learning new things about her all of the time. We've videotaped some of her stories. I wish we had done more of that for my grandfather who was in the army during WWl. He always told us stories about many things and the whole family is familiar with them. I still wish we had recorded more of them in his own words and asked for more details. Some of his stories have passed with him.


 I agree--listen to all the stories you can. Now that Mary Ann has passed away, there are some pieces of family history that are just plain lost, and it breaks my heart.  I spend a lot of time looking at old photos with my mom and taking down her stories. Aside from preserving history, it's a nice way to spend an afternoon.

 


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Sunltcloud
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Pages - Sidney


Wrighty wrote in part:
 Since you were witness to incredible events did you ever write any of it down or record your memories in any way? If it's not too painful for you, at the very least your family would appreciate having those parts of your life preserved. My grandmother is 89 and I'm still learning new things about her all of the time. We've videotaped some of her stories. I wish we had done more of that for my grandfather who was in the army during WWl. He always told us stories about many things and the whole family is familiar with them. I still wish we had recorded more of them in his own words and asked for more details. Some of his stories have passed with him.

Yes, I did write about 100 stories down in a memoirs class, put them together and gave them to my kids as present. Funny thing though, they are very busy young people and haven't shown much interest so far, but I know from experience that one day they will have questions. Also, "Grandmothers Against the War" put together a small book of letters "Love, Grandma" and I wrote about my war experience in it too. Further, one summer, in a group we called "Now and Then" a bunch of us "oldies" got together with teenagers and exchanged stories. It was a great experience. 

 

Just before my mother died I went to stay with her for a week in Germany. I spent my days in the hospital with her, and my nights reading many of the short stories she had written and also some of her journals. Later my brother decided that he was the "rightful heir" of her writing and eventually he took whatever she left behind. I am glad I read through the nights, absorbing as much as I could.

 

On my ex-husband's side we put together all the letters exchanged between my mother-in-law and us in the 1960s and 70s and gave a copy to the younger generation one Christmas. I typed it up, printed it, had it bound at Kinko, and my ex also put it all on CDs.

 

I would suggest to everybody who wants to leave written memories for their kids, to not only write down the "happenings" but also the thoughts and feelings that accompanied the actions. It seems in older journals and diaries we find lots of facts and not enough personal thought. For instance, I am happy that my great-grandfather wrote down how much he paid for his apprentice's shoes (he was the last nail smith in his area) but I wish I knew how he felt about the dog that was tied to a chain and walked in circles for hours, fanning the fire.

 

I love the idea that scrapbooking has become a national hobby; what better way to imprint a piece of yourself on the family tree.

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Wrighty
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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recording memories


Sunltcloud wrote:

Yes, I did write about 100 stories down in a memoirs class...

 

Just before my mother died I went to stay with her for a week in Germany. I spent my days in the hospital with her, and my nights reading many of the short stories she had written and also some of her journals...


On my ex-husband's side we put together all the letters exchanged between my mother-in-law and us in the 1960s and 70s and gave a copy to the younger generation one Christmas. I typed it up, printed it, had it bound at Kinko, and my ex also put it all on CDs.

 


Those are such great ideas and your family will be so happy you took the time to do all of that. My son had a project to do in school that was about family trees. He had to interview a member of his family and compare their life to his at the same age. So many kids chose their parents and I'm sure they learned some new things but it didn't seem like much of a contrast to their own lives. My son chose his great- grandma and we all learned things we had never heard about before. We spent hours on it because it was so fun. He had to compare common things like what you did in your free time, where your parents worked, etc. but the insightful questions were things like how much you got paid at your first job, how much a loaf of bread and a gallon of gas cost, how many electrical appliances you had (that was a huge difference since her family only had a radio and no TVs, stereos, DVD players or computers. My son had more in his own room than she had in her whole house!) He wrote the answers down and we also video taped it. I will always treasure it and it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.
I have always kept journals for my kids. I started when I was pregnant with my oldest and 21 years later I'm still writing. I don't do it every day, just when I get the chance to but I try to keep up with all of the important events in the family and in the world. I make sure to write about their birthdays and other personal events as well. I've always had a section where I write down the funny things they've said and the age they were at the time. Of course I did a lot more of that when they were little but you would be surprised how much you can write about what a teenager has to say. They don't have that much interest in the journals yet but they will some day. We appreciated the things my mom kept from our childhood.
Sunltcloud, your kids will also be very glad to have the things you saved for them. It may take some time but the older they get the more they will appreciate the past. It's also a gift to yourself to have those items saved. You may want to make extra copies or put one away in a fireproof box. My mother spent a year recording memories in a Grandma's Book to all of the grandchildren and then she had a housefire and lost all of it. She was heartsick about it and still hasn't started again 5 years later.
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Sunltcloud
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Re: recording memories


Wrighty wrote in part:


I have always kept journals for my kids. I started when I was pregnant with my oldest and 21 years later I'm still writing. I don't do it every day, just when I get the chance to but I try to keep up with all of the important events in the family and in the world. I make sure to write about their birthdays and other personal events as well. I've always had a section where I write down the funny things they've said and the age they were at the time. Of course I did a lot more of that when they were little but you would be surprised how much you can write about what a teenager has to say. They don't have that much interest in the journals yet but they will some day. We appreciated the things my mom kept from our childhood.
My mother spent a year recording memories in a Grandma's Book to all of the grandchildren and then she had a housefire and lost all of it. She was heartsick about it and still hasn't started again 5 years later.

Yes, the loss of something that has required so much work can cause somebody to lose faith in the process. Your mother might have to be encouraged to restart in small steps. I don't know what my mother would have done had there been a fire, but I know she would have loved all the new ways she missed out on because she died before email and google became a fact of life. She used to go to the library for research and I remember how she would ignore the slush on the streets in the middle of winter and hit those books, make lots of notes, come home loaded with information. How much easier it is for me; I sit in front of my computer in the middle of the night and extract whatever I want to know. As for copies in safe places, I send my stories and memoirs to one website and have deposited more than a thousand photographs at another one. So far they seem to be holding out better than our banking system. :smileyhappy:
Inspired Correspondent
Wrighty
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Re: recording memories



Sunltcloud wrote:
As for copies in safe places, I send my stories and memoirs to one website and have deposited more than a thousand photographs at another one. So far they seem to be holding out better than our banking system. :smileyhappy:

What a good idea. I hadn't even remembered about those options. And that is a sad but true statement about our banks too.

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