Day At The Track

Author pens book on the art of writing memoir

11:04 AM 07 May 2020 NZST
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Author Marjorie Simmins
Author Marjorie Simmins is ahead of schedule on her next book — “Somebeachsomewhere: A Harness Racing Legend from a One-Horse Stable,” scheduled for the spring of 2021, with Nimbus Publishing.

SYDNEY, N.S. — As a writing coach, Marjorie Simmins searched for a book that had everything in it, in terms of the essential elements of crafting a memoir, but she wasn’t able to find it.

So, she decided to write it.

“I wanted certain things — I wanted history in there, I wanted inspiration in there and I wanted a fair bit of how-to,” Simmins said in an interview.

The result is “Memoir: Conversations and Craft,” released in March by Nimbus Publishing. It includes seven interviews with memoir authors Linden MacIntyre, Edmund Metatwabin, Donna Morrissey, Claire Mowat, Lawrence Hill, Diane Shoemperlen and Plum Johnson.

Each interview is followed by a passage reflecting on the interviews and suggestions for writing exercises.

Simmins described her own collection of memoirs penned by others “pretty gorgeous,” noting it requires culling from time to time to keep it to a manageable size. But she returned to some of her favourites in determining who she wanted to interview for her book.

“The writers I chose, I thought, ‘Who would I want to talk to, who do I think would really have a lot to say about memoir?’”

For example, in Port Hastings native, author and journalist Linden MacIntyre she noted he brings to the table humour, and people from across the country can appreciate his anecdotes which are both funny and filled with information.

“I was fortunate that nobody said no,” Simmins said. “You don’t know, people are busy or don’t care to be part of a project, whatever it might be. Everybody said yes, everybody was enthusiastic and everybody was very honest in what they gave me. I found that very touching.

“You can’t hide in a memoir and ideally you shouldn’t be hiding in how you talk about the memoir you’ve written. You have to be honest.”

When asked if she continued to learn more about the craft of the memoir through conducting those interviews, Simmins noted that anything that is interesting is an endless learning experience.

“You never know it all, and the day you think you know it all, you’d better stop,” she said.

Marjorie Simmins, an award-winning author and journalist, living D'Escousse, had her third book,

Simmins also acknowledged that the writers she interviewed sometimes offered contradictory advice, because what works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for another. She believes that anyone picking up her book will find some advice that will work for them.

“That’s the kind of moment that I see when I teach workshops that I really love, looking around the table and all of a sudden a person down the far end who has been having trouble getting their thoughts down on the page or whatever and they’ve come to the class for inspiration and, all of a sudden, you look at them and their eyes are just lit up like stars,” she said.

Simmins said she also wanted to include "a fair bit of how-to,” including writing prompts and tips.

“I made sure that my books had loads of writing prompts because that’s what people want,” she said.

The events planned to launch the book — including two launches and a number of signings — have had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While she understands the realities of everyone having to significantly adjust their lives to deal with the current realities, she admits that it “did take the wind out of my sails.”

However, on a positive note, having to change track has also meant that she is now ahead of schedule on her next book — “Somebeachsomewhere: A Harness Racing Legend from a One-Horse Stable,” scheduled for the spring of 2021, with Nimbus Publishing.

She also believes there will be a timelessness to “Memoir: Conversations and Craft,” because it contains the sort of information that doesn’t change.

“We want to know how to convey the stories of our lives,” Simmins said.

To order a signed copy of “Memoir: Conversations and Craft,” go to the online bookstore https://tinyurl.com/tmmv7ql or order from Nimbus publishing, https://nimbus.ca/.

Nancey King

Reprinted with permission of The Chronicle Herald

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