Thursday, November 10, 2016

November Conclusions Part 2: A Scout is Brave

It was about this time last year when Janice and I were at the Cafe Luna in Longmont. I want to like this little coffeehouse because it reminds me of all the little coffeehouses in both Northwest Portland and in New Orleans in the old days when I lived in both of those towns. It's funny though, I don't like the place. Too loud. The clientele are Jerry Garcia impersonators. It's not dirty enough to seem cool and it isn't clean enough by today's standards. It does have a few big south facing windows and a small room of books. It was one of those mornings, late November, Janice and I started to talk about blogs and how a blog can be good for a writer.

Not to belabor my feelings for the blog and the writer, let me just say that we started a blog in that moment. In that moment, we were two aging Gen Xers in a sea of fearful Baby Boomer banter. While all the other patrons were talking about foreign invaders and terrorists, Janice and I posted a blog entry complete with The Dead Milkmen.

In the days that came, we thought about what we might like to do with the blog. I had missed my days with The Sophia Ballou Project for many reasons, but the biggest was the deadlines and what I was able to accomplish. So, I decided to write a lengthy piece, something like a novel.

I knew a new novel would not be a good endeavor last November. I knew this because I know where my life had taken me. I'm most distracted these days. And by night, when it's quiet, I'm cashed. So, after thinking it over for a few days, I decided I would write a sort of memoir from my days working for the Boy Scouts.

Now, I could have picked any number of ways to do this. I may have taken the summer camp approach, which was the bulk of what I did while working for the Boy Scouts. I may have picked something more dark, like how the organization functions. I may have taken the route of the big three Gs: God, girls and gays. I worked for the scouts from the fall of 1994 until September 2000.

I chose, simply, to write the story in a chronological order beginning with my first day of Camp School in May of 1995 and ending on my last day on August 15, 2000. I chose to dig deeper into the personality and the emotions of my narrator (me) rather than focusing of the organization or the issues of the day. The truth is, I began to write this piece 20 years after I was first employed with the Scouts. Twenty years is a long time. There was no sense in taking anything but a realistic and honest approach to it. I went more gentle on the organization itself rather than me and my position within it.

These are the hangups I've always had with memoir: 1)too self absorbed, 2)no universal readers, why write it? and 3)memoir is never interesting when it has too wide of a focus and no real direction. This is how I got around it: a definite beginning, middle and end. Plenty of conflict: I brought up religion, homosexuality, PTSD from an earlier military experience. I included love, heartbreak, and things that a Boy Scout should not do like strippers, booze, LSD and red light districts.

What I learned from the project was this: working sporadically because my time (writing time, emotional time) was challenging. Writing this memoir, I had no problems staying within the confines of the story and texture of the characters.

The most important thing was that this was the first major project I've started and completed like this since 2012 and the last novel I had written before my son was born. No matter what, it took six months, and it was a gratifying project to write. See it here:

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