Pandemic 2020 – Some Memoiring

On March 30, 2020, I wrote a blog about How To Write Memoir During Lockdown.

My advice was only to write if you feel able and not to succumb to Pandemic Productivity Pressure.

I implored folks not to write about anything traumatic when we don’t have our usual routines and people around to ground us and help bring our brains back to the present. I stand by this advice and that goes for reading too. I recently sent a first draft to an author. She had a difficult childhood that has echoed down the years. She is self-isolating and even thought I advised her to think about leaving the reading of her draft until a later date, she said that curiosity had got the better of her. Completely understandable!

A day later she contacted me in some anguish to say that she had been thrown back into the past. She has done a lot of work on her self over the decades, and had professional assistance, so was determined to carry on reading as soon as she could. I suggested she plan to do an hour of reading right before a planned event, such as a food delivery, a phone call or a favourite television programme. I even suggested she put something in the oven that needed checking in an hour. This was so she had an absolute deadline and something to bring her back to the present physically. I’m checking in to see how she’s coping.
Everyone is different of course, and the stages they’re at with their writing, and what they are writing about, varies greatly.

Some of my authors – past, present and those from some classes I teach, have felt able to write. They shared their beautiful writing with me over email and Zoom, and very kindly said I could share it with you.
Enjoy. I know I did. And write, if you like, and not if you don’t.
Warmest wishes, Marnie

Socially distanced 

I’m self isolated,                                                         
I am socially distanced                                                          
I walk on empty paths                                                
And look down on a sleeping town                                        
In the middle of the day                                                         

Isolated and distanced
In the unfamiliar landscape
My home is my refuge, my keep,
The dog sounds the tocsin
At the approach of strangers

In the unfamiliar landscape
I take photographs to record
A natural, emptier world.
Of breaking buds and noisy birds
Under a clear April sky

In a natural, emptier world
Anxiety is my black point
Lending edge and piquancy
Finding the white eases
Knots of defensiveness

I should be in the Highlands
Surrounded with mountains
Watching ospreys and guillemots
Freed from my daily round
Waking to a northern sunrise

Instead I am at home
Freed from my daily round.
Finding strength in vulnerability
While others toil in the real world
Unsafe and socially engaged

The Plains

As Susi attempted to get the essence of each memory onto paper, the years slowly peeled back. She felt as though she was being sucked backwards through a time tunnel.

She became lost in these memories, feeling again the angst, longing and insecurity of her teenage years. In comparison, the lockdown present, with one day folding into another, felt insubstantial.

Outside the sun shone but she was barely aware of it. Her mind raced and her fingers hurried over the keyboard in an attempt to keep up.

Only the past mattered to her now.

She smelt again the patchouli wafting around her – it seemed everyone was using patchouli – and mingling with cigarette smoke as she made her way into the small crowd inside the Abbey youth club. The sounds of musicians warming up and testing the PA system promised another great evening as they danced with the loud, excited conversations as the audience waited to hear The Plains.

The band were stars in the local gig scene and the first she had ever known personally. She went to nearly all their gigs but enjoyed it even more when they were sitting around talking. She felt an obscure pride in them, and especially in Chris, the gorgeous lead singer. She thought she was in love with him but knew it to be a hopeless passion, as he just saw her as his kid sister’s friend.

Lyrics from one of their songs slowly permeated her mind. She began to sing it quietly, testing out each line. ‘I search at night, dark corners and the light, to find you, babe’, it began. Then the words tumbled out, verse by verse, filling her once more with a sweet, yearning sadness.

She loved that song and had secretly imagined that Chris had written it for her.

She was that lovelorn young girl again.

The song haunts her for days with a gentle melancholy.

She writes out the first verse and sends it to her friend, Jan, who is Chris’s sister. “Do you remember this song?’, she asks.

Back comes the disappointing answer, “No, I don’t.”

“I’ll ask Chris, though”, Jan continues.

A flutter of excitement.
Susi and Chris are occasional friends on Facebook but their conversations are limited to comments on music or politics. She knows that Chris and his band made it big in Australia and still tour occasionally.

A day later, Chris PMs her.

“Hi Susi, Jan showed me the song but I have no memory of it. In fact, I don’t even remember being in a band called The Plains. I’ve written so many lyrics and been in several bands since then. Sorry! Perhaps if you sang it to me, I’d remember it!”

Susi is overwhelmed with shame and embarrassment. Her face is hot and her palms and feet have gone clammy.

She’s been so consumed by the past that it didn’t occur to her that what she felt as monumental to her as a teenager had meant less to others who shared those times with her. And now, they’re living their lives and not delving into memoir and those events might as well not have existed.

She is unmoored for days.

On Not Going Out… well almost.

We are into our fifth week of self –isolating.
In the beginning it seemed like being on holiday, then it seemed like Sunday every day, then it got serious.

Because of our age we were advised not to go out except for a daily walk. Our road became a cocoon, with neighbours doing our essential shopping. I was told that ice for a gin and tonic was not an essential. I don’t agree with that.

My best shopper, Fiona always cheerful, is a nutritionist so I get comments about my food choices.

’You do know that bananas are full of sugar don’t you,’ she tells me, when I ask for two large bunches of them.

‘Two bags of spinach please Fiona.’ Again I am given advice that too much spinach causes joint problems.

I have done two online shops. My full basket can disappear for no reason. Somehow I get it back again, no idea how. I include shopping that my next-door neighbour has requested. She likes posh stuff, Roquefort cheese, maple syrup, blueberries and scented ironing water.

I heard that you could drive a distance as long as you were going to walk as far as the drive was. I suggested to Gary that we drive to Thorpe to take some rusks and cheese straws I had made to my friend Danny Staff. Gary wasn’t convinced, but I said the car needed a run out and it would do it good. That did it.

When we arrived Danny suggested that we walked through the cut to look at the sea. When the sea came into view I felt a sharp physical pain, not the pleasure I had expected. Seeing it reminded me of how difficult I found not going to Thorpeness was. We turned back and headed for the car. We did stop by the lake. Two swans flapped up to us. There were no boats out. Gary thought it was eerie. I was glad to get in the car and drive home. I mentioned this trip out to my son.

‘Think of what you can do Mum. Don’t dwell on what you can’t,’ he said.
I know, but on a low moment I think of the lost summer days with the family.

If I am glum I feel guilty because I am so much better off than others, but I am human. I miss my family, the grandchildren and greats, the cinema, fish and chips on the beach, the Station pub, and browsing in bookshops. I miss walking down the road and meeting friends and Thorpeness, which for a few months of the year, it is perfect in the sea. We are coming up to that time. I try not to think of Thorpeness and the sparkling sea, the cafe, sitting by the lake, oh stop it.

Two days ago I thought I would spend a peaceful a day doing some gardening. I went outside returning straight away to tell Gary that we must have had heavy rain during the night, as the bottom of the garden was flooded. He realised that he had left the tap on and the pressure had blown the hose lock fixture off the end of the hose, which in turn had broken the connection.

The phone rang. It was Carl who lives in the house on the slope behind our fence. He was worried that as his path was flooded we had a main’s leak. Gary told him what had happened.
‘It is an age thing,’ Carl laughed.
That did not help Gary’s mood. He is feeling much aged as at eighty he is the oldest man on the road and young people are doing our shopping.
Carl commented that the water didn’t matter, but he did mention on the following day that his path was still wet.

An advantage of this lockdown is finding things in the cupboard I had forgotten about and being challenged to find a recipe to use them in. I found a bag of green lentils and a recipe for vegetarian shepherds pie that said 400 grams of lentils were needed. I peeled and chopped the ingredients and added them to the pan with the washed lentils. Glancing at the recipe again I saw in small faint print, the word tin. Oh dear, it was a 400 gram tin of lentils needed, not 400 grams of lentil, such a difference. For supper we had lentil pie, which Gary finished the next day, (I couldn’t face it again) and what wasn’t eaten got thrown out for the birds, but they were not keen either.

For us self-isolators, our world has slowed down. There is no hurry to the days, with everyday being much the same. I am reminded of the long hot summers of my childhood and teenage years. I now know why they seemed so long. They were not filled with constant outward rushing activity.
I like the way that people have time for one another and there is a greater sense of community. When we meet other walkers we stop and talk, from a distance of course.

When my son rang this morning he told me that my grandson, 12 year Ben had said to him.
‘Nannie is lucky to be surrounded by a large garden.’
That’s about it Ben. I am a lucky lady. It just takes some getting used too. That is all.

Jane Bloom
26th April 2020

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Dear Marnie

I had the pleasure of working with Marnie as she carried out a manuscript assessment for my memoir. Marnie was referred to me by Jericho Writers. She’s truly an expert in her field. Marnie’s written feedback to me was valuable, relevant, insightful and very encouraging. She clearly set out the areas that were working and…
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Margaret Davies

With my current health problems, I do feel content and happy that I have been able to write my life story for my loved ones. My grandchildren are very young, but in the years to come they will enjoy and appreciate reading my memoir Darlo Boy. Thank you so much for your assistance Marnie.
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Alan from Walsall

I felt as if Marnie was holding my hand throughout. She wanted to do the very best for me. Her caring and compassionate nature was evident from day one. Apart from being extremely intuitive, her wonderful writing skills seemed contagious and I found myself expressing myself like I had never done before! She gently prised…
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Nic Bolt, A Bit Of A Stir

If you’ve already written your memoirs but need a bit of guidance as well as an experienced memoir checker, then you need look no further.  I contacted Marnie about a memoir  I had already written entitled ‘The Life and Times of a Seminary Kid’ which was a humorous look at five years of my life at…
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Ged Leach

My books have arrived! I am so excited and delighted. You are the best ghostwriter. I felt totally comfortable confiding in you, and your kindness and understanding has helped me come to terms with things that have happened. I am sure you’ve helped a lot of people.
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Christine Temlett

My memoir is written from different points of view. Marnie recommended adding more of my own emotions, that I sew the story together using my voice and feelings as the thread. She is open-minded and encouraged me by understanding the atmosphere I am trying to convey about a sensitive topic that informs the lives of…
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Dorothea Paiva

Working with Marnie was a dream come true! She as so helpful and encouraging with my memoir, we corresponded a year before we started working together and she gave me very helpful advice from the start. We worked together editing my memoir over seven months. Marnie is very patient, understanding and kind, traits that are…
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Amanda June

I found the entire process with Marnie as my ghostwriter to be cathartic in every way. Where I had felt nervous and anxious about putting pen to paper, I found myself feeling optimistic and often excited.
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Sally Woodmansee

I wouldn’t have managed to do it (the launch or the book) without Marnie. If you know the story of Dumbo who thought he could not fly without holding the feather in his trunk, well I call Marnie my feather.
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Jane Bloom

Marnie conducted my interview at the Whitstable Book Festival with skill and sensitivity. She was a good listener and took a genuine interest in her subject. We had a capacity audience for what was a very successful afternoon.
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Terry Waite CBE

Once I had decided that I needed to write a memoir, the next question was: where on earth do I start? I am so grateful that it was Marnie’s website that caught my attention first, as from the very moment I spoke to Marnie, I knew I was in good hands.
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Joanne James

I first met Marnie when she interviewed me at Harbour Books, Whitstable about my book Kill The Black One First – a memoir. I found her a very warm and helpful person. She was very well researched and her questions incisive and pertinent. She certainly helped make the event a success.
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Michael Fuller QPM

Throughout the whole editing process I felt both expertly held and simultaneously challenged to push my memoir to rewarding new heights. Marnie instinctively knows how to inspire with insightful suggestions whilst marshalling disparate strains of thought into cohesive order. My project was particularly exposing on a personal level and Marnie handled everything with extraordinary insight…
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Paul Beech

Although I met you when the book was almost finished, you were a breath of fresh air, who helped me dig deep and bring the suppressed memories to the surface in a couple of the most difficult chapters I had to write.
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Hana Ali

I was delighted when Marnie agreed to provide a workshop for the 2018 Kent Festival of Writing. Zuihitzu, the Japanese art of following the pen, proved a very attractive proposition for our delegates and we were oversubscribed. Neither Marnie or I wanted to turn anyone away, so it was a packed event!
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Sue Bassett

Thank you for your help in making this happen, and for putting Neil’s words together so accurately. We were so pleased that the first draft arrived in time for us to read it as a family to Neil. I know he really enjoyed his couple of days with you. Thank you. Sarah Vines, brother of…
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Sarah Vines

In the run-up weekend to our 2018 festival Marnie hosted a very well attended day of memoir-writing events, beginning with a moving, eloquent discussion in which she talked to author Sarah Pullen about her memoir A Mighty Boy. As an interviewer Marnie is a true professional, asking thought-provoking yet sensitive and heartfelt questions, and putting…
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Amanda Dackombe

My darling, I have read the book from cover to cover out loud. It is a wonderful book. My excitement is so great darling, you’re a star. Let’s write another one! Lady Sandra Bates, seventh bunny at the original Playboy Club, London, and author of How To Be A Kept Woman
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Lady Sandra Bates

It was a pleasure working with Marnie on the Writer’s Weekend. She was approachable, professional and communicative in the lead-up to the event and during the weekend she was wonderful. All delegates commented on her kind manner, her knowledge, and her ability to bring out the best writing in them. I can highly recommend collaborating…
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RedDoor Publishing

While reading your feedback yesterday the hairs were literally standing on my arms because I knew you were the right person to make this manuscript the best it can be…
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Tony Barbieri

A couple of weeks after the Memoir Writing Weekend, I am reflecting on what a difference it has made. For a long while I have had a desire to share my story, I did not have a clue how or where to start. All I knew is that there was at least one story there…
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Rose Smith

All I knew was: I wanted to share my story, write my memoirs. I Googled ghostwriter and Marnie was the first person I contacted. Marnie made such a great first impression that I felt no need to look any further.
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Anthea McCarten

This was a brilliant weekend – way above my expectations. Marnie just knows about memoir and her presentations were superbly focussed and paced. It’s rare to find someone who combines a high level of professional knowledge with the relational skills that make it all work. If you are needing support with your writing, hire this…
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Edna Murdoch

I found Marnie to be such an affable person. Not only that, but she gave me the confidence to finish my memoir.
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Martin Davies

I have been lucky enough to work with Marnie on several occasions where she has interviewed, hosted and compèred events I have been managing. Marnie is a joy to watch at work. When the lights dim and she takes the microphone, I feel totally at ease knowing that everything will be safe in her hands.…
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Nancy Clark

Thank you so much for the edit. It was actually perfect. There were places where I knew the words were not quite right but I somehow couldn’t find a way to fix it and it’s exactly where you edited so I’m chuffed about that.
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Marnie interviewed me about my memoir Have You Been Good? for Whit Lit in 2015. Before we met at the festival, we had a long telephone conversation and I was struck at how quickly she understood my book. Her intelligence, warmth and sensitivity made the interview on the day feel more like a conversation with…
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Vanessa Nicolson

(My life) was a living nightmare. Thanks for listening to it and helping me come to terms with it and enabling me to write this story.
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Thank you for interviewing me for my event at the London Fashion and Textile Museum in November, 2018. You made me feel so relaxed and I appreciate your unerring and priceless support. You made the talk possible for me and I’m incredibly grateful. Liz Wilson, owner of Eclectica Vintage
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Liz Wilson

A very good service. As well as helping us write our memoirs about our adventures as wartime entertainers, Marnie arranged for us to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4, and organised a wonderful book launch for us at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.
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Mollie and Peggie

I attended the Red Door Memoir Writing Weekend because my daughter was one of the organisers and I wanted to support her and the Red Door publishing house. I was a little interested in memoir writing but now… I’m passionate about it.
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Alastair Burtt

Thank you Marnie for sharing your insightful and inspirational creativeness with me – well, and all of us. I loved the weekend and have come away full of excitement to write write write. Actually perhaps it’s more to organise organise organise! Oh well somehow I am determined to get my ‘stuff’ together. Thank you again.…
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Penny Wadsworth

Absolutely loved every minute of this amazing memoir writing retreat, and the time spent with such lovely people, sharing their deeply touching life experiences. Special thanks to you Marnie for all your encouragement, support and know how. Marnie helped me with my first book and now I am going to write the sequel myself. Feeling…
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Sally Woodmansee

I found the memoir retreat very inspiring. I was touched by Marnie’s professionalism as well as finesse in her comments. A truly enlightening weekend. Thank you so much for all the encouragement. Mona Radwan
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Mona Radwan

Marnie is a truly special person with a wonderful gift. She is sincere and compassionate. I loved working with her. My book was rather complicated.
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Suzannah Ridgway

Marnie helped my father to edit his memoir Once A Sapper Always A Sapper. He really enjoyed working with her and looked forward to her visits.
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This book that was written with Marnie, has totally opened the door and changed my whole outlook on life.
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Marnie is a delightful lady and immediately made my Dad feel relaxed and start to chat about his life and wartime experiences.
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I’d like to say how much I enjoyed reading my aunt’s memoirs that Marnie collated and wrote.
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I’d just like to say a huge thank you for the dedication and passion you gave while ghostwriting with me.
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Sally Woodmansee

I am amazed at what you’ve done. I’m excited. I think my memoir will be wonderful.
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This is something I have been waiting to do for a long time, but when I lost my sight I thought that was it. And then I found Your Memoir.
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All the books we ordered have sold and people are asking for further copies. People have been so interested! We’re really happy with everything Marnie did.
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Marnie has the superb ability to write as if she is inside your head – and your heart. Marnie gave me new hope when I was struggling to write my own book.
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I came to Marnie for editing and printing of my life story. I could never have hoped to do the excellent job that Marnie did.
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Marnie ghosted our memoir of motorbiking around Europe for charity. The whole experience was very relaxed. Marnie was very friendly and accomodating yet professional.
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Jane and Reg

Home From War is a very moving and touching story of love triumphing over all that life dealt this young soldier. A very captivating read, could not put it down. Would recommend this book.
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Home From War is a truly inspirational and moving account of how love can conquer even the hardest things.
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I received your book. It is absolutely fabulous. I really enjoyed reading the letters from my grandfather to you.
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