Conception of a Memoir

sample 3 My baby is finally in the delivery room!

I’m talking about my memoir. My project two decades in the making, feeling rather like a twenty-year pregnancy. Its conception began in South Africa culminating in the makings of a fairy tale of sorts. He, being the Prince and I the Pauper coming from opposite sides of the track. Our love story plays out against the backdrop of apartheid in 1974.

When I conceived the notion of undertaking such, I approached it as a novel because it was the safest mode to go. I felt I, the narrator, could hide behind the characters. I thought I’ve got a vivid imagination and it would be like playing with the paper dolls I created as a child – over a hundred paper dolls. I thought writing my story as a novel would be like playing with my paper doll family, each with its own personality and history. I’d breathe life into them and I’d simply take off from there.

Trouble is, my story is not a fantasy and facing the truth was simply too painful. So, in my re-ordered world, I set my family in a Pollyanna world with nice clean characters. But I wasn’t making any progress. It was like pushing a wheelbarrow covered in a tangle of spider webs uphill. The plot was garbled and the characters static and lifeless. Having no compass and not thinking clearly about what it is I really wanted to say I came up with the title On the Other Side of the Fence.

My story isn’t one-dimensional, it has multiple themes and working those out in a novel was a struggle. Along the way I changed the title to Ham’s Daughter that still did nothing for the book. The whole project limped along in fits and starts leaving me quite frustrated and dejected.

Emotionally I wrestled with sensitive subject matter in parts of my story leaving me quite exhausted and depressed. Over the years, I kept putting the project on the backburner while working through these emotions. You can’t force a butterfly from its chrysalis before it’s ready to hatch and soar, just like you can’t rush the process of healing.

Naming it yet again, Under the Woodstock Bridge, I carried this ‘baby’ with me from country to country – England first, then Canada and the United States – all places I had lived. From the US, I took it to the ends of the earth – New Zealand! Read what happened in my next post.

4 thoughts on “Conception of a Memoir

  1. I was going to ask how Table Mountain made it to the cover – glad I scrolled down and found this post. You’ve been to South Africa! 😀
    Have you been back, since 22 years ago? I was just a baby then, but I can guarantee it’s changed. I mean, some for the good and some for the bad, of course…
    Is there a reason you got the idea to write a memoir while in SA? Or do I need to read it to know?

    • Hi Marie,

      I spent my childhood in SA and left when I was 19. This was under apartheid’s rule and the reason we had to leave.
      It’s amazing having experienced the world, societal and even geographical changes since we left there in the 70s – before the advent of TV in SA as well as computers and cell phones! Before the Waterfront in Cape Town!

      I reckon An Immoral Proposal would be a good read from your perspective 🙂 It will be available on my promotional website but I’ll let you
      know when it will be on


      Jennifer 🙂

  2. Truth in memoir is essential and it sounds like you’ve done it. What a journey which I well understand as it took me twenty years to complete mine. I’ll definitely be buying it.

  3. Thank you Irene. My next step is to put it on Amazon so that it’s available internationally.

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