Words that uplift… or shame?

Words, whether written or spoken, hold great power. The defamation twins are libel (written words) or slander (spoken), i.e. false or malicious statements that damage someone’s reputation. It’s a difficult balancing act to speak our truth without offending.

What might words uncover?

Author Kate Grenville SO inspires me. Her book The Secret River has been adapted to stage and screen. When her research about ancestors uncovered uncomfortable truths, she changed the names and turned to the novel genre. As I have been advised to do by relatives, as I write my discoveries of my family stories.

Who do you think you came from?

Ancestry.com habitués might envy my dilemma: a treasure trove of letters illuminated the heritage story. How to condense into a book? The insights gained from these letters and my research are so exciting that I gave up on efforts to condense: I’ll publish two books.

They’re close to publication and I’d appreciate your crowdfunding support.

Pass on heritage before it’s too late

What more precious gift to relatives and future generations than to write a family history or memoir? Do it now, before stories and insights are lost to dementia and coffins. But first consider: for whom do you write?

Will you circulate amongst family a few copies produced at the local print shop? Or might your stories resonate with Everyman and Everywoman?

Will you present facts as a historical document, with diligent footnotes and bibliography? Or through creative nonfiction put flesh on bones, words in mouths, and look under the surface to the motivations that drove actions? If so, one writes with relatives peering over the shoulder, while wondering what flack the finished book might draw. They caution: “Change the names, write a novel, and avoid offence.”

These are REAL people

My attempts to novelise felt stilted. Why waste my treasure trove of archival letters and diminish a great story? Let the characters speak for themselves. My narrative nonfiction morphed into memoir as I discovered and interpreted stories. Accepting my role as storyteller unlocked the cage to write freely.

Black sheep and white sheep

Some families draft ancestors into pens of white and black sheep, with little variegation between. What demons drove the reprobate to that more interesting story? Avoiding all conflict makes for dull reading and robs readers of the opportunities to learn from generational patterns.

Shame on the family!

What family tree doesn’t sprout illegitimate twigs? Recent generations shrug but Great Aunt Flossie concealed scandals with hushed euphemisms for 90 years. She threatens legal action if her family name is besmirched. Living relatives cannot sue on behalf of “defamed” deceased. Australian Society of Authors membership includes legal aid but avoid pitfalls with nonjudgmental, factual reporting. 

What is truth?

Contradictions are inevitable when sifting truths from myths of oral history.
Relatives view my many-faceted Grandfather from varied kaleidoscope angles to mine. This is the paradox of history; the events of World War 1 written by people from Germany, France, England or Australia would differ, even contradict in some details.

My writing style is to look under the surface of dates, events and facts and find the persons beneath. What drove two brothers to flee their native Finland to settle at the far end of the earth? Did they struggle, away from the security of the nest?
After a decade of research, countless drafts and edits, my two books are close to publication. I hope they fulfil the calling of Psalm 102:18

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.”

Novel way to publish books

How to hook a mainstream publisher? That question keeps authors too busy to write their next book. We spend disheartening time on pitching, proposing, publicity. All writers know the pain of rejection.

• Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling were rejected by a dozen publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins.

• Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication.

• Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

• To F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you got rid of that Gatsby character.”

TwoCovers

When some publishers are interested and enthusiastic, we’re buoyed and tread on clouds. Until we discover they’re academic or vanity press, offering little recompense for our hard work, intellectual property and writing skills. Even asking us to pay for the privilege of seeing our words between covers. Might as well self-publish.

Last year I swore I wouldn’t indie publish. Even though I have already published books for musicians and teachers through my Words and Music imprint. But I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for the last leg of a long journey.

Even print on demand needs outlay of funds. Thanks to my son Paul Bonetti who helped, having successfully crowd funded his second album. (You can hear my clarinet backing on a few tracks.) I’m encouraged by the successful campaign to reprint Brisbane Art Deco, which includes my contribution about my Granddad’s house in St Lucia, Brisbane. Back House main BCC-B54-1976

Granddad (W.A.Back) was a Finnish Swede who emigrated to Australia to escape conscription into the Russian army. When his black sheep brother fled in 1899, Russian military police searched for him in Suez. He dodged them and found refuge in Australia. But why did he write home to “Burn my letters?” A decade’s research found answers to such questions. 

Letter KJ Back 1899:2

A treasure trove of archival letters

I’m blessed that my relatives gifted me with illuminating archival letters. These helped me piece together the story of my forebears.

What an inspiring, empowering story!

There’s a degree of memoir as the books cover:

  • Growing up in the Australian outback
  • Schooling in Brisbane: at Ironside State School, Somerville House and University of Queensland.
  • (Granddad led a consortium that developed St Lucia)
  • Studies, research and work in London, Sweden, Finland and more during 7 years in Europe.
  • My musical and life journey

My books that tell their stories and my own journey to discover heritage are ready to go. But I need help to afford printing. Please support my crowd funding campaign so I can put my books between covers.

http://pozible.com/burnmyletters
It’s going well, but not quite safe yet!

Many thanks in anticipation!

Inspiring words

My grandfather, W.A.Back (Wilhelm Anders) died on 2 April 1974. He attended my wedding two weeks before, and wrote a personal letter to me that inspired me through our marriage and to write his story.

He wrote:

“As I look back now on our marriage at Mooball on the 4th November 1908, I can remember it as plain as if it were yesterday. The wedding was in our new home that I had finished only a few days before, and the Minister from Byron Bay came by train to perform the ceremony…”

“Just do it!”

Granddad’s advice has helped me keep going to bring his story to publication.  

A man of enterprise

Granddad was an entrepreneur, the Migrant Made Good. So I think he would have approved of my crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to publish my book.

Would you please support it? Click the above link, choose an amount and reward (books or goodies). Your account won’t be accessed until after the campaign.

 

A man of faith

He wrote that he surprised his bride with a gift of a piano—the Hart family were musical. Then they knelt at the bedside and asked God to protect, guide and bless them through their lives.
“We asked for some material blessings that in the eyes of the Lord were very small and he blessed us with very much more than ever we contemplated or asked for. If you take God into your partnership I am sure it will be even better than what you anticipate.”

Good advice, Granddad. I keep faith that this gift for my sons to know their heritage, and for family and the Finnish community, will come to fruition.

Thank you!