My future daughter-in-law is working on her memoir.  As a female corrections officer in a maximum security prison, she has a lot of stories to share!  Knowing that I recently finished my memoir, she emailed a list of great questions to me, and allowed me to share them with you.  I’ve also added a few additional questions that I have been asked in the past.

Memoir Writing Both Halves of Brain-Cronin Detzz

Question:  How do I go about writing my memoir?  Should I start with my birth family and then move forward?

Reply:  The story does not have to be linear and neither does your writing. It is okay to jump around, you’ll piece it all together later. For instance, you might be taking your dog for a walk and a piece of the story comes to you – so jot it down after the walk. This happens to me every day, so I keep paper (and smart phone) nearby at all times so that I can jot down any portion of my story.

Any writer with a smart phone should sign up for Dropbox.  It’s a great way to update your work in progress.

Question:  Sometimes I write the opening scene in a story and I get stuck, so I’ve been thinking a lot about page one of the memoir.

Reply:  Don’t worry too much about page one, just get the stories down.  For my memoir, page one came to me like a scene in a movie. I knew that had to be the opening scene. But for my current work in progress, I might change the first scene  – I’m trying to not get stuck on page one, though.  You’ll discover that many rewrites are in your future..

Question:  All memoirs come from first person point of view.  I’ve never written in this POV before, any suggestions?

Reply:  The hard part of a memoir is to avoid writing “I” too much. But you can edit those things when you’re done.   Occasionally, you may need to use a passive voice.

Question:  So, when you start writing, do you start in I guess what could be considered “note form?” Like, a list or just jotting down ideas that you can string together later? Or do you try and get the idea down in a coherent story form? I’m always afraid that whichever way I go, I’ll miss something, or miss the opportunity to write the scene to its absolute best.

Reply:   This is a great question – I have tried so many methods! The nice thing about fiction is you can do whatever you want, and the hard thing about non-fiction is you’re suddenly limited. Because my memoir spanned over 20 years, I had to look at old records and jot down dates and their associated memories. What helped me the most was writing brief things that happened during that time frame.  It kept me on track as to the order of events.

It seemed to work best when I “honored my muse,” meaning that if I felt like writing about an event that was out of order, I wrote that.  Non-linear.  Everyone does this.  If you are inspired to write about an event that is out of sequence, do it. Don’t worry. Chances are you will rewrite it anyway. I had rewritten parts of my story many times before I called it done. Once I find the right publisher, their editor will make me rewrite portions of it again.

I have used outlines before, and what I learned is that they are only a guide. They are just to keep you on track.

So I would say for now that you should make brief notes about events. You’ll probably find that other memories will surface. If you are inspired to write it out in coherent story format, then do so (honor the muse). It is a dance of working both halves of your brain!

What other suggestions do you have for a new memoir writer?  Please comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Keep writing & keep sharing – Cronin Detzz



Art versus the science of writing

Art versus science
(That’s me, on the right)

I don’t attend writing workshops. I don’t want a book on “Writing for Dummies.”

I do read author blogs and I do educate myself on writing great dialogues and the like – but not TOO much.

The reason? I have this awkward fear it will ruin my writing. Sure, learning more about plots and denouement and killer endings would improve my writing. I know this. But wouldn’t it take the fun out of writing if I tried too hard? Moreover – and here is the crux of the matter – would it change my writing? Would my writing become less like one of my own flesh-and-blood children and more like a grammatically correct Frankenstein?

If I know too much about themes, antagonists, and symbolism, will the fun be sucked out of stories like the vampires that my English teachers proved to be? To put it in Hollywood terms: if I know how the special effects crew create a compelling scene, the magic of the movie is lost forever.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, even if you are an English teacher, as long as you promise to refrain from biting my jugular.

Keep writing & keep sharing! – Cronin Detzz



Dream big – what’s your idea of a dream home for a writer? Here is my short list:
1. To recharge, we need to be able to connect with nature. Ideally, I’d love to conquer writer’s block by taking a walk in the woods. Other writers might prefer a walk on the beach, a hike in the mountains, or apartment patio gardening.
2. A large tub with whirlpool jets to soak our aching backs would be great. Doesn’t that sound great after a writing marathon?
3. A room or a “suite” that is separate from the rest of the house would help us write with more focus. This could be a large den on the second floor with windows so that the writer can gaze at the setting sun on tree tops. High above the world, he can hone his craft.
4. Sell us a house with interesting designs, provenance, or ghosts. We will incorporate the house into our writing. Haunted house, anyone? What a fun writing prompt that would be!
5. Writers tend to go into hibernation at times, so if the house had a good security system, we could keep solicitors and mothers-in-law from intruding.
6. One room has to be a library, or at least one wall should be earmarked for shelves. Writers are readers.

Writers, what features would your dream house have? Does the right environment help you overcome writer’s block?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Keep writing & keep sharing! – Cronin Detzz



Photo by Cronin Detzz
Photo by Cronin Detzz

wearing your jacket of anger
deploying your umbrella of denial
carrying a briefcase of shame
trudging to work with a stiffened smile

You smother your feelings
with your thermos of hatred
drinking it lustily as it burns your tongue

wondering when, exactly, life slipped sideways
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be

Slip on your leaden shoes
and drag your heartache around
scream inside your head
until you are deafened to love’s sound
Draw the bows from your quiver
aim at your traumatic past
and finally kill your demons

Burn your angry jacket
in the bonfire of vanities

Wear rose colored glasses
and peer into tomorrow
see it embroidered with possibilities

Until at last
through heart-felt gratitude
you can freely run naked
in the satiny, silky present

-poem by Cronin Detzz, 2013



At this time of year, my thoughts drift strongly to my dearly departed mother’s birthday, November 12.  She was taken away from us by a drunk driver when she was only 46.  Last year, I started to write a poem for her but writer’s block prevented me from finishing it.

Do you have some poems that, for some indeterminable reason, you were unable to finish?  I have a folder of half-written poems.  This year, I completed “The Golden Door of Dreams” in time for my mother’s birthday.

In honor of overcoming writer’s block, I offer the following poem:



As she opens the secret door

Beautiful light rippled across the floor

“Wake up,” cried Ma, “open your eyes and see

I open the Golden Door of what is and will always be”


“Mother, please come in and speak to me,

Quickly now, before it is too late

Reveal the secrets before you cross

beyond the reach of heaven’s gate”


The golden light glitters

tiny flecks of honey swirling

Ma beckons me to follow

The bedroom is whirling


I stood at the threshold

And slowly opened the door

The whole world disappeared

And the sky became my floor


“Time is an illusion,” she said

“Your life is but a dream

Wake up, my child, to reality

and listen to life’s audible stream”


I reached out, grasping at thin air

hoping to catch an angels’ wing

“She does not see,” a voice boomed

And I could no longer see anything


Once again, I was back in my room

saddened at the end of the angelic show

I wanted to hug my Ma one last time

to hold her tight and never let go


I lay back down and closed my eyes,

imagining that she was there

She swept away the monsters under the bed

kissed my forehead and patted my hair


Now I know that life is a dream within a dream

that time is an illusory focus, a painting that’s brittle

Ma goes downstairs to make coffee and pancakes

and leaves the door open, just a little


Happy birthday, Ma. I miss you – Cronin Detzz 2013

#poem #poetry #writer’s block

Writing and Formatting Poetry

Have you given much thought to formatting your poetry? It’s usually obvious to the poet as to where the stanza breaks should occur, but sometimes it is fun to play with the visual aspect of your art form.

For example, if you are writing a poem about the waves of the ocean, giving succeeding lines some indentations or extra spaces could make each line reach the right-hand margin of the page and then come crashing back to the left side.

WordPress provides some great tips for formatting your poetry. This link even gives basic instructions on writing html – a pretty simple language used by web software. Here is the link. Have fun with it! (Click on the link or copy and paste into your browser):


-Keep writing and keep sharing! Cronin Detzz



What are 3 books that changed your life? Why? How did these books “find” you?

Some books are highly entertaining and memorable. This question, however, asks you to dig deeper into the epiphanies and revelations of particular stories that have inspired you.

My three books are:
1. “Mans Search for Meaning” by Dr. Victor Frankl
2. “Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum
3. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

“Mans Search for Meaning” was given to me by my boss at a time when I was extremely disheartened and ill. Dr. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, explores which mental fortitudes enabled prisoners to survive. This book reminds me of my favorite quote, which is taped to my fridge. “In the absence of certainty, there is always hope.”

“Wizard of Oz” is my favorite fairy tale because it reminds us that there’s no place like home, that we already possess all the gifts we need to craft an amazing life, and that women will do anything for ruby slippers!

“Flowers for Algernon” was required reading in 7th grade. The writer uses a masterful style of compiling a diary that shows the progression of a scientific experiment conducted on a man of very limited intellectual capacity. The experiment is a success, raising his I.Q. from drastic lows to astronomical heights. The subject grows his mind all the way to a state of nirvana. This book gives me hope that God reaches from His omnipotent realm down to our low state of being. The story begs us to question how much knowledge is truly necessary in order to reach Him.

There are many other books that have inspired our writing style, entertained us, and helped inspire us to remove our writer’s blocks. On your list of top three books, do you notice that not only have they influenced the direction of your core values, they have also given you direction in your writing style?

As writers, we must remember to treasure those unique tomes that moved our spirits. If you need motivation to get past a writer’s block, re-read your top three books.

Keep writing and keep sharing! – Cronin Detzz