This is March 20th and I cannot report as I hoped that I would have the book completed and ready for the rewrite and edit. No, it is not quite at that place yet, still I have made much progress. I found that the years of childhood were easy to write, and even the twenties were relatively easy, but after marriage life has been complex. Just this past Sunday was the sixty eighth anniversary of my wedding to Frank. I have relived it many times.
Choosing what to tell is where I have run into many snags, for the memoirs are not supposed to be a comprehensive autobiography, but just the telling of choice events that are memorable. There’s where the rub comes in for I have a lifetime of wonderful memories! I find myself wanting to tell everything, especially about the grandchildren! They happened late in life, but because the Lord has allowed me to live to age ninety-four, my youngest two are going to be twenty-one this year! That means I have lived to experience many tellable tales!
My primary reason for writing the book is for the practice of my spiritual gift which is encouragement. I love the motto, “Look up, Laugh, Love and Lift.” It is a joy to be able to bring that message of hope. The stories of my life should be able to carry that on. That’s what the book is all about. My life was so full of stories that it is hard to choose. Here is one that I will share with my web friends.
I am remembering the Children’s Book Festival held in downtown Richmond, Virginia. It was at one of the large department stores that had a great book division and this event was widely publicized in the newspapers, on the radio, by their own mail-outs, etc. Naturally, the entire state was covered, and people flocked in bringing their youngsters. The Richmond Storytellers League (recently changed name from Story League) was engaged to present programs for the two day event. Here, for the sake of any who are not familiar with this particular organization for storytellers, I will insert a bit of history.
The National Storytellers League was formed on the campus of the University of Tennessee in the year 1903. The students were enjoying a class in children’s literature and the professor was the famous storyteller of that time, Richard Thomas Wyche! He inspired them with his tales of Beowulf, the coming of Arthur, the story of Sir Gareth, on and on! They did not want the time to end! They formed the National Story League which has now become the National Storytellers League. It has leagues throughout the United States and it is now divided in the Eastern and Western districts. Our motto is Service through Storytelling.
What a thrill it was to hear all of our best tellers as they brought the stories to life and to see the response of the adults as well as the children. I would not remember the stories that I told in those times when I was on the program but I happened to find all my preparatory work in an old notebook! I had a hard time deciding for I have so many favorites, but I finally chose – Dr. Know-It-All a Grimm story that is so funny! The Emperor’s New Clothes, another funny one by Hans Andersen, The Flea, Ruth Sawyer’s absolutely fabulous story from her Picture Tales from Spain. I love the humorous ones! In this great story when the king was getting dressed one day a flea hopped over on him. Quick as a wink he slapped his hand down on and caught it! He said to his chamberlain, “You realize that this flea, having landed on the person of the king is now a royal flea?” Well, now, you must read this story to see what happened to this “royal flea.” Some of the children who were in attendance were from my own church! Imagine their surprise! From then on when I would meet them in the hall I would hear remarks like this: “I want you to come to my birthday party and tell “The Flea!” Then I told the personal story, Aunt Wilma’s Thanksgiving Visit. Of all the ones I told this is the one that resulted in at least a dozen letters from children and parents, as well as the book store manager from the department store! This story can be found in my book, Storytelling in a Nutshell.
The personal stories always evoke the most response and that is what started me thinking about doing a book of memoirs. I just did not realize what a daunting task I was taking on, for if I had, I wonder if I would have planned to stop when I finished the years of childhood. That has been my bugbear, for over and over again I have been haunted by the idea that everyone will stop reading at that point anyway! I have had to fight this demon of doubt, for you see, the biggest emphasis in the childhood stories is the on the faith that my mother exemplified.
After childhood when I was on my own, this is where the faith that she built in me had to be strong enough to carry me through and those are the stories that I need to tell to carry out the purpose that the Lord gave me for writing the book. It is a matter of being as Paul said, “obedient to the heavenly vision.” As we make the climb up the mountain of difficulties we are bound to face the Slough of Despond.. We’ll meet Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and I know for sure I have had to deal with Sloth.. Many times, as I go along, I am reminded of all these allegorical characters that Bunyan created for us and in writing the memoirs I have sometimes lost all enthusiasm due to the attack of some of these monsters! When I write the word Finis it will be a spiritual victory, for the battle for the past year has been as I have described, and it has caused procrastination, and waste of writing time. Nevertheless, I do claim a victory for I am near the closing pages and by the end of March it should be ready to edit.
Now to show you a poem I wrote when I was eighteen.
Old March, you cannot bluff me out
You rant and rage, but what about?
Your winds may chill but in the air
A hint of springtime loiters there.
Ah yes! I grant you’ve earned your fame
But to me, March, ‘tis all in name,
Your real, real self and genuine laughter
I’ll look for in the month just after!
Maxine Helen Johnson