The process of writing a memoir

I’m working on yet another book! Book writing has become much like the Pringles commercial, “Once you pop, You can’t stop.

The newest writing endeavor is a personal memoir about my pageant experiences many years ago. The process has been rewarding and captivating. It is even more enlightening than the things I discovered about myself while scanning.

Here’s a recap of the writing steps that I have taken thus far:

Step 1: List all the pageants chronically I competed in.
Step 2: Write down all that I remember from each of those pageants
Step 3: Have the hubby read the ‘rough draft’ and leave comments
Step 4: Revisit my old journals to see what I may (or may not) have recorded
Step 5: Type the journaling from the paper pageant scrapbook that I created into a digi file
Step 6: Compile answers from Step 3 and notes for 4-5 into the second draft.

I’m still working on Step 5 and I’m flooded with so many great memories and so many discoveries. This process is therapeutic in many ways. It’s crazy how addictive this has become. In fact, I really should be done a number of other things (cleaning in the house perhaps), but I’m drawn to this project.

As I close my eyes at night, my mind makes connections from everything I have processed that day. I think of things to add to the notes and things to ponder. Who knew what I would be getting into when I embarked on this journey?

Devon Geiszler in High School
Is this girl a future beauty queen?

Far too often, family history takes on a stodgy, boring feel. This shouldn’t be the norm. Are there mundane, tiresome tasks in genealogy? Yes. Yet, as I say “If family history isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.” In this case, the ‘wrong’ doing is failing to pick a personally interesting goal.

My goal is simply to tell the story of how a headbanger became a beauty queen and what she learned along the way, and after.

Wait! That’s not family history. It’s not finding names to add to the tree. It’s not indexing. It’s not sourcing. It’s not finding offline resources. It can’t be family history.

That’s where you’re wrong my dear friend. Family history also includes me, you, and our living relatives. Today’s personal history is tomorrow’s family history. This project is definitely family history and it’s personally interesting to me.

Unlike the one I took to Ohio in 2012, this journey to the past is through my past. I’m revisiting the 14-year-old girl who thought entering a pageant would be a great idea. She wasn’t into fashion. She didn’t wear makeup. I mean, look at that hair! So frizzy and not beauty queen worthy. (Okay, I still have frizzy hair. It’s a curse.)

As 14-year-old me is revisited in through photos and previously written materials, old me often says “If I had only known then, what I know now” or “I wish I had taken the time to learn ______.” There are other moments when I consider connections and think, “Oh, now I understand what was going on.”

Don't Let Descendants Spin Your Story
Are you writing it yourself!
(For More Memes, visit Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Facebook Page)

Ultimately, the richer story is coming to the surface. I could leave this process to my descendants and it would probably look like a typical genealogy fact-finding mission:

Devon Geiszler participated in:
1991 Miss Fort Bend County Teen Pageant (did not place)
1992 Miss Fort Bend County Teen Pageant (2nd runner-up)
1993 Miss San Jacinto Teen USA pageant (won)

Maybe the descendants will notice the small events in between these competitions. Maybe they’ll only focus on the two I won. This would be tragic. Just because I never won the Miss Teen USA or Miss America title, doesn’t mean my experience in pageants didn’t impact my life. My pageant story may someday be just as important to my descendants as knowing they are related to someone famous or ‘great.’

Ultimately, I hope my posterity never says, “My Grandma Devon was in beauty pageants. I wish she had written more about that.”

The trick is, I have to do this without creating a monster out of myself or growing any in a messy home because I was too focused on this project.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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