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Archive for June, 2010

Last Monday night, I had one of those experiences in which I expected very little and was surprised by receiving much more. That happens to me often. For example, I like to watch my statistics on my Amazon site, or on my blog site. It seems when I think no one out there is at all interested … when the count of visitors is low … and I begin to think that I should redirect my energies elsewhere, I will find a so large a bump up on my stats that I glow inside.

Last Monday night I had one of those experiences. I was asked to speak about Becoming Alice to an evening meeting of a social group at a local temple. I was not to bring copies of my book since they did not want the meeting to be commercial in any way. I packed up thinking I’d put a few books in my car, just in case.

The minute I entered the social hall I was approached by two women who greeted me with, “Did you bring books?” Luckily I was able to say yes. They ordered me to bring them inside and immediately set up a table for me, explaining, “This is where you’ll be signing your books.” They took complete charge of me.

I went on to do my talk and found the audience to be totally attentive … no one hunched over in a short nap … and completely involved with the account of my personal history in the Holocaust. At the end of my presentation, I always open the meeting to questions. There were many. After each answer, I often got a short statement about how their own family history was either the same, or different, from mine.

But it was during the signing that many of those people stopped to give me a full presentation of thier own, or some member of their family’s history during WWII.

The evening was full of presentations, mine and theirs.’ I loved that.

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If you’re like me I’m sure you have been using the words memoir and autobiography interchangeably. I’ve never given much thought to the differences between the two. They both deal with the personal experiences of the main character of the book, whether it be a famous person, or not.

Today I read two articles defining the differences. To summarize, the experts tell us an autobiography is a person’s life story from beginning to end, or to the present. Ususally it is about a famous person, but it doesn’t have to be. A memoir can be about any portion of a person’s life, or portions if they seem to be making a specific point in writing the book.

Another differential is that an autobiography is written in chronological order, whereas a memoir can jump forward or backward to meet the author’s needs in supporting a specific theme. Obviously an autobiography would then be much more formal and structured than the memoir.

I found these articles on the subject most interesting but lacking in one important point. In my experience, an autobiography can be written by the subject of the book himself, but also by a ghost writer or any writer who, long after the subject’s death, finds the person so remarkable that he undertakes a study of that man/woman and writes an autobiography.

But a memoir, as far as I know, has always been written by the author himself about his own life experiences, the episodes that occured, and characters with whom he interacted, as best as he/she remembers (connection to the root word memory?) them all. At least that definition of memoir perfectly describes my writing Becoming Alice.

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Coming soon: Becoming Alice is being formatted for Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble nook, Bookson Board, Google Editions, and Scribd.com.

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Today is a fun day. I’ve been writing a bit about “what happened next” after the end of my memoir, Becoming Alice. So many people who have read my book want to know. And I am writing about just that right now. I haven’t given my scribblings a title yet. I’m considering Flahbacks, Episodes, or just simply Untitled for now.

Going back to the audiences who have heard my presentations, I have also often been asked how I could remember all that I wrote about in my book, especially since I was so young. There are two answers to that question. I think I remember those occurances so vividly because they were so very traumatic for me and my family. I did not have the kind of childhood that normal American kids had in which they felt safe within a family, were accepted by their friends, and were like all the other kids at school. They had ballet lessons and Little League and Roy Rogers on the radio to entertain them. I had Hitler, panic, midnight border crossings, and a refugee identity as a kid. I remember it vividly.

The other issue is how I could remember what the characters in my book said to one another. Well, I only remember certain quotations, such as my mother sceaming, “Nein … nein etc. etc.” when she learned her father was killed. I remember my dad saying, ” You think you are so smart, etc, etc.” whenever anyone disagreed with him.

The other quotations are not written word for word, but rather they give the meaning of what was said. I believe that is all that is required. Unless you had a tape recorder going in the room in which the dialogue took place, there is no way anyone could remember word for word what was said. It is the meaning that counts. So, don’t be intimadated by thinking you can’t remember your past word for word. Just go ahead and write it as well as your memory allows.

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Weekends are my times for catching up to zillions of emails, some of them days old. I do have a quick check of them every day and open only those that seem to be important to me. Most of the rest are ones whose content I would describe as coming from hawkers and experts. They’ve become almost as annoying as the advertisement pop-ups you get while are researching something on the internet.

Perhaps the fault is all mine. I belong to a couple of social networking sites that attract readers and writers and hence, authors. I qualify for all those descriptions. Many of my emails come from postings by groups to which I belong on these sites. Among them are groups entitled: Write it Down, Cover to Cover, Published Authors Network, Authors Society, Bloggers Helping Bloggers, Tips for Self-Promotion, Sales, and Advertising, etc. etc.

Within these groups many participants discuss the books they are reading and share their opinions about the quality of the writing. Sometimes people will ask for recommendations for books of a specific genre or age group. Whether asked for or not, there are multitudes of postings from authors drawing attention to their own books.

In other groups, members will post the URL’s to their websites which are set up to help people market their books, learn how to navigate the social networking sites, how to set up a successful website, how to do book trailers, give interview, go to book signings, and become a sought-after speaker. Oh, I forgot to include the importance of writing articles … and of course, how to write those articles. And I mustn’t forget how to give interviews.

It has occured to me that my fellow authors have become a bunch of hawkers and experts. We are not much different from the hawkers that stood in front of a circus tent shouting to passers-by to enter to see “the greatest show on earth.” Only we authors are the hawkers trying to impress anyone reading the site that our book is the most interesting reading of all books.

And then there are the other authors who try to convince us that they are the most competent ones in marketing who know how to increase our sales dramatically. They usually have one or two recommendations on their website and consider themselves the experts in the field. Their services vary in price, but don’t come cheap. Unfortunately for them, and luckily for me, I know of people who have spend a fortune on such services and been sorely disappointed.

I must admit that at times I have added my memoir, Becoming Alice, to some discussions and forums when appropriate. But I get a little nervous about being seen as a hawker and I know full well that even though people sell themselves as marketing experts, I haven’t been convinced that they know much more than me.

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A review of Becoming Alice has just been posted in the Spring issue of Jewish Book World Magazine.

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