Sunday, July 26, 2020

Jim Landwehr’s "Dirty Shirt: a boundary waters memoir" is #004 in the never-ending series called THE MAGNIFICATION OF ONE MEMORY IN MEMOIR

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****Jim Landwehr’s "Dirty Shirt: a boundary waters memoir" is #004 in the never-ending series called THE MAGNIFICATION OF ONE MEMORY IN MEMOIR. All THE MAGNIFICATION OF ONE MEMORY IN MEMOIR links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of memoir? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? Dirty Shirt: a boundary waters memoir. This was such a good name, recommended by a fellow writing colleague, that no other names really came into play.

Has this been published?  If yes, what publisher and what publication date? Yes. Electio Publishing. June 16, 2014

What is the description of this memoir? Jim Landwehr and his brothers (Right) pursue their love of the outdoors by tackling some of the country's most remote terrain, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. 

While encountering crazed loons, widow-making portages, and temperamental automobiles, they also discover more about each other and their long-deceased father. (Left) In recent years, with a desire to instill their love of the area into their own children, they include them in their voyages, and the legacy continues. Their exploits are woven throughout with humor, 
emotion, and warmth.

What is the date you began writing this memoir and the date when you completed the memoir? I began writing these stories down as part of a writing workshop in 2009. I finished the book in 2014.

Where did you do most of your writing for this memoir?  And please describe in detailMuch of this book was written in a notebook and then transcribed with a laptop. I did most of my writing from my favorite chair in my living room. As I’ve progressed in my writing, I use the laptop almost exclusively. When I tire of that, I’ll handwrite a story and transcribe.

What were your writing habits while writing this memoir- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I am a discipline nut, so am faithful about my writing time. I have developed the concept of  “anchor time,” which means I dedicate 2-3 hours every Saturday to writing. Before the pandemic, I usually spent this time at a favorite coffee shop with a large cup of afternoon coffee and a cinnamon roll, or sometimes at the local library, with coffee/seltzer and a granola bar. 

          My wife has been supportive of this time and realizes how much it means to me. I also write during the week, as I can, but if I don’t get to it I know that at a minimum, I got my anchor time in. It is a large part of my success. (Above Right:  Jim with wife Donna in December 0f 2019)
I credited my second memoir in part to the music of Pink Floyd. Their album Division Bell fueled the writing of that book, and is still part of my writing playlist.

How do you define memoir?  And what makes memoir different from an autobiography? Memoir is a nonfiction account of personal, life experiences by the author. It is a recreation of an approximation – so to speak. 

          Some of my memoir took place over 40 years ago, but I remember many of the details vividly. People often say, “How do you remember these things? I can’t even remember 5 years ago.” It is my sincere belief that good writers have a gift for noticing details and how they see life. Of course, fact checking is essential to a factual memoir, so I do a fair amount of that.
     As far as the differences, I think an autobiography spans a person’s entire life. Memoir can be a snippet out of that entirety. In my case, I use humor to tell the story of particular periods of my life that stood out as formative, adventurous, or memorable.

Out of all the specific memories you write about in this memoir, which ONE MEMORY was the most emotional for you to write about? And can you share that specific excerpt with us here.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer, and please provide page numbers as reference. It would have to be the scene where we sprinkled my brother’s ashes on a lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the Father’s day after he lost his fight with cancer. 
          His daughter Alison was there and it was a sacred moment between all of us present. It chokes me up every time I think about that day. Here’s the excerpt.

There was one more task that needed to be accomplished before we left. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the small Ziploc bag with “Rob’s Ashes” written on it in marker.
“Okay everybody, we’re going to sprinkle Rob’s ashes now. Alison has requested that everyone sprinkle a little portion, but I think it’s only right, with today being Father’s Day, that she go first,” I said to the group.

Alison came over and held out her hand as I grabbed a handful of the coarse, white ashes and put them into it. Alison stepped out onto what we jokingly called “contemplation rock,” paused for a minute, and then tossed the ashes over the water. No one spoke. This was a moment between father and daughter, as the holiday was meant to be. I cannot begin to fathom what emotions were going through her at the time, but she faced them with strength and courage.
I continued on in the same way to the next person, and the next. Not much was said during these moments. Everyone spread his ashes over the water except for Tom, who sprinkled his portion around a nearby tree, saying Rob would like a good place to camp. The kids were reverent and respectful the whole time. It was clear they understood the event’s significance to Alison as well as them. In a weekend jammed with adolescent craziness and the rattle and hum of teenage energy, the mood at the moment was nothing short of spiritual.
With the last portion of the ashes left for me, I walked over to the rock. I climbed out onto it, grabbed the baggie by the bottom seam, threw the ashes to the wind and said, “Love ya, bro!” The ashes rained out over the water, leaving a long, linear translucent sheen on the surface. No one spoke for probably ten seconds. It seemed an eternity. We were all caught up in the magnitude of the moment and were collectively speechless. It was moving and powerful. We, seven people Rob held dear to his heart, were spending time together and making memories in a place very special to him—the Boundary Waters. This trip was not a goodbye but rather a reminder that we will return . . . and he will be right there with us.

Can you describe the step-by-step process of writing about this ONE MEMORY? I was in the process of writing the memoir when we took the trip, so made it a point to be ultra-observant of the events of that day. Events of this magnitude get burned into people’s memory, so recalling it wasn’t difficult. It was just the combination of Father’s Day, his daughter’s presence, two of his brothers, and the sacred place known as the BWCA that made the whole thing magnificently sad, yet powerful,

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? None that come to mind. Most of my edits are lost forever. LOL. Sorry!

Other works you have published? I have one other memoir titled, The Portland House: A '70s Memoir about the house my single parent mother raised me and my five siblings. It was published in 2018 and took 4 years to write. 
     I also have five published books of poetry, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, Genetically Speaking, Reciting from Memory, Written Life, and On a RoadMemoir is my first love and poetry is my mistress.  I think poetry helps you become a better writer overall, but that's just me. 

Anything you would like to add? People ask if you had to give one reason why you write, what would it be? My reply is that, because I can’t imagine not writing. My only regret is that I waited until my late 40’s to start doing it seriously. I’ve been writing furiously ever since in an attempt to make up for lost time. 
          Also, none of writing is about the money for me. It is for the love of the craft. One person telling me that my writing impacted them is worth more than a lot of royalties. But don’t get me wrong, the money helps. Ha!

          Jim Landwehr is a twenty-first century cartographer and Renaissance man. In between his day job that keeps the lights on and the creditors at bay, he walks his dog, takes an occasional bike ride and scribbles out books and poetry. 
          Next to his wife and his two above average children, his seven books, Dirty Shirt, The Portland House, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, Genetically Speaking, On A Road, Reciting From Memory and Written Life are his biggest pride and joys. He’s working towards a Pulitzer, but at the moment would settle for a few good Amazon Reviews and a little beer money.

Twitter: @jimlandwehr61


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