Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Research and Memoirs

 Last Friday was my talk at the Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek, Arizona. It went well even with the butterflies and bees buzzing in my stomach.

When I started I asked those present to tell me what kinds of things they are interested in writing. Memoir was the most common answer. I know at least a couple of people in the group are also doing their genealogy.

I'm sure there are all kinds of psychological reasons for the popularity of these two endeavors. I know I started my genealogy, in part, because I never knew my dad or his side of the family. Then I was just plain addicted to the research and finding more and more information.

Writing my memoirs is also, in part, to answer questions of what happened during some of the times I have blacked out in my life. Also to let my daughter and grandchildren know what my life was like.

Both endeavors, and writing in general, require research. A scary word to many. Historical fiction author, James Alexander Thom wrote, "Anything that supplies facts, expands your mind, and enriches your soul will likely make you a better novelist (or any kind of writer) in your own time, and that qualifies it as research."

I then asked those present how many had visited the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix. Almost everybody. I pointed out that not only is that an amazing place but it is full of things to enhance their writing.

One area was made up to look like a Victorian parlor with instruments and information about what was popular and even how much they cost.

I wanted to sit right down and write about all the details but instead I took a lot of pictures.

 I'm not musically oriented and didn't know there were square pianos. For some reason I thought anything that wasn't an upright or grand piano was a different instrument like a harpsichord or something. I won't get this wrong if I ever put it in a story.

I was most fascinated by the Grand Harmonicon or display and stand for glasses. I didn't look to see if there was a line for how much water to put in each one or even if they needed water. Perhaps the glasses were just different sizes or thicknesses. 

A little bit of research tells me that the glasses were harmonized and played by rubbing the rims with moistened fingertips. Now I have a vision of a vaudeville type act; a man in pressed pants and bow tie standing on a stage and playing "God Bless America" on his travelling harmonicon. 

The beginnings of a story. Or an idea for a memoir of playing water filled glasses as a child or even trying to make sounds with glasses by rubbing the rims. 

The world is full of so many things and all it takes is to stop and consider or remember and then start writing. 

Write about making instruments from things at home or school.

Write about watching somebody play an unusual instrument.