There's a Brat at The DragonOr...The Dragon welcomes Marilyn Morris to talk about her latest book
When I joined the online writers group email@example.com
last summer, I met people in various phases of completion with their works in progress. Marilyn Morris had Once a Brat,
her memoir of life as a military family child published with PublishAmerica out and about, and she is conducting a blog tour to support it right now. Today, she graces The Dragon with some information about her writing process for this book. Those of you stopping by, here are some answers concerning memoir writing from someone who has already succeeded.The Dragon:
Obviously the experiences of being a military child influenced your novel Once a Brat,
but could you tell visitors to The Dragon how you came up with the name of your book and how such a whimsical name does or doesn't portray the stories and events included in the book?Marilyn Morris:
Actually, the name came out of an experience I had in the summer of 1995. My daughter and I went to Europe and she wanted to see where I had lived as a kid in Linz, Austria. Okay, when I was a kid, we were told never to cross the Danube River, as that was the Russian Zone of Occupation, and it would have caused an International Incident. So, although the Danube flowed at the end of our back yard, and I could see across it, it was absolutely off limits to Americans. Flash forward to when my daughter and I were driving around Linz, looking at my old school which hadn't changed one bit, and then we took a wrong turn and I looked up to see we were on the bridge, crossing the Danube! My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was a loud: "Stop! We can't cross the Danube." My daughter and her friend looked at me like I was crazy. "Well," I said, somewhat embarrassed at my outburst, "When I was living here, we couldn't go across the river because that was the Russian Zone." They nodded, as if humoring an old lady, and then I added, "Once a Brat, Always a Brat." And there was the title for my book.The Dragon:
Is this a memoir or a fictional novel based on "life" events?Marilyn Morris: Once a Brat
is a memoir, all right, but it has a niche market - other military brats.The Dragon:
Could you share with Dragon visitors how you came to the decision to write a memoir? In the publishing industry, it's pretty difficult to find someone willing to take on a memoir these days, so you added another layer of hardship to the publishing path for yourself. I'd like to have you share with the writers who visit this site how that aspect influenced your decision, as well.Marilyn Morris: Once a Brat
describes part of our history, too, as I was one of the first American dependents to be sent overseas to join my father in the U.S. Occupation after WWII. Those days are fading from our collective memories. Our fathers are dying at the rate of 1,000 a day, and their kids aren't getting any younger, either. So I put it down on paper, sent it to the president of the American Overseas Schools Historical Society in Wichita, Kan., to be placed in the archives for historians and researchers of the future. When Dr. Drysdale read it, he e-mailed me, saying, "You need to publish this." So I did.The Dragon:
What's your most moving anecdote or story from the book and why does it resonate with you after all these years?Marilyn Morris:
I suppose it had to be the time I was with my family in Paris, on 30 day leave, and we were on top of the Eiffel Tower. Dad picked up a copy of The New York Times
(English version) and gasped at the headline: "North Korea Invades South Korea." First, we still had some American dependents there; we were to learn later they all escaped safely; and second, if the Russians were behind the invasion of South Korea, could this be the start of a war in Europe, too? I won't say we were scared, but apprehensive. Dad phoned his headquarters in Austria and asked if he needed to come back to duty. The answer was, "Not just yet. You have a few days left on your leave, just check in with us daily." I would have hated to have made that judgment call; evidently the person on the other end of the line didn't feel like the Russians were going to do anything stupid in Europe just then, so we finished our travels, but I was sure glad to get back to Dad's base.
And you know, when 9/11 happened, I was working in an office where we all stopped to watch the events unfolding on television. When the Pentagon was burning, I turned to my colleagues and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are at war." They looked at me in awe and shock, but I knew in my soul we had been attacked.The Dragon:
As you were writing the book, what anecdote did you find most difficult to share with the readers/public and why? See, I think it would be difficult to write about my teenage years (all of them), yet my childhood is full of humorous stuff that I'd have no trouble sharing with the world at large. Did you find some stories flowed out easily to share with people while others were heart-wrenching or embarrassing or brought up feelings of anger that you felt compelled to resolve?Marilyn Morris:
I found it difficult to write the scene where I came home from school in Lawton, Okla., and my mother announced that my dad had left for overseas. I suppose they had decided to spare me the sense of loss, but they were wrong. I was so shocked and sad, I went into my parents' bedroom and took my dad's portrait from the shelf and cried all over it. Then I saw my tears had streaked the photograph, so I wiped at them and smeared it even more. At that moment, my mother, bless her, became my enemy, and I sassed her every chance I got, until we arrived in Korea. Dad heard me sass my mother and the next thing I knew I was sprawled across the aisle of the train taking us into Seoul, and my dad was saying, "You will not sass your mother." And I didn't. Ever. At least, not while my dad was around.
Another revelation was when my father died of cancer in 1995. I had expected him to be laid out in his army uniform, but Mom had him in a regular suit. I was so astonished, I asked my mom why? And she said, "Well, your father was a civilian much longer than he was in the army." Then it clicked. For my childhood, 20 years of it, Dad was a soldier. It wasn't even the same for my little brothers as it had been for me. They missed out on the experiences I wrote about.The Dragon:
Did you seek out any persons, such as your mother, from the past to make reparations with as a result of your writing, and would you recommend memoir or journal writing as a method of finding resolution and forgiveness with people from the past?Marilyn Morris:
Oh, sure. I asked my mother a lot of questions, but sometimes failed to ask her questions that ended up in error in the book. For instance, I thought we had been stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas, but my mother said, no. We had talked about it being a possibility at one point, but it never materialized. Yet it's on the back book cover, along with a listing of other military posts. I did feel some pain during some parts of the book, a sense of loss, but that was actually good for me to face the reality of the life I had led. I thought when we went to Germany, we would be met by a butler in a chauffeured car, and driven to our castle. The reality was, a young GI in a jeep met our train in the middle of the night, and we were unceremoniously dumped at the Linzerhof Hotel in downtown Linz, to stay there until suitable quarters could be found for us. And we all came down with diarrhea. And the bathroom was waaaaay down the hall.
I totally endorse the idea of keeping a journal. That's how I worked out my anger, grief, and thoughts of suicide while I was searching for answers for the unrelenting pain that turned out to be lupus.The Dragon:
My father was also in the military when I came kicking into the world -- I was born on an airforce base -- so I feel a bit of a connection to you with this book. What can you tell the writers who are visiting The Dragon today about the state of unrest or imbalance moving from base to base and town to town, particularly as it applies to your writing style or your source of writing inspiration?Marilyn Morris:
I can remember getting dressed for my first day of classes in yet another school. Should I use my Girl Scout smile? Or should I look "mysterious?" Is my Peter Pan collar okay for this school, or do the girls wear something else. It must have been that I possessed a "brat radar" that allowed me to zero in on exactly the right clique, the good girls, the leaders, etc. And by the time I reached high school, I was readily accepted by five local girls who took me in, and we are all still friends after all these years. I suppose I go by the thought that, "You are my friend until you do something harmful to me." And when I'm done with a relationship, I'm done. I think many of my experiences are woven into my writings, not necessarily just for the Once a Brat
Finally, this question is kind of out of the blue, but how did you come up with the idea to have a site full of Once a Brat merchandise? Holy cow.Marilyn Morris:
Actually, you can blame or praise Dorothy Thompson for that idea. After she put my merchandise up on the CafePress site (www.cafepress.com/onceabrat
), my daughter bought a tote to carry all her wedding preparations with her when she goes down to Southern California to meet with her wedding planner. She loves it. I love the idea of maybe making a dollar or two off that merchandise, too. Oh, think how cool it would be for you to put some Dragon stuff on there? A morning cup of coffee with a Dragon on it? That would express my mood without a word, let me tell you.The Dragon:
Hey, Choices Meant for Gods
bags are being delivered Saturday... Marilyn, it has been a joy to host you at The Dragon today. I'm glad you were able to stop by to share your thoughts with our visitors and we all wish you the best in marketing and promoting Once a Brat
and in your future writing endeavors!Marilyn Morris:
And thank you, Sandy. I'm proud of you. Keep writing.
Once a Brat is available now at online stores like www.barnesandnoble.com
. You can get more information about the book at www.onceabrat.blogspot.com
."Some days, I just want the dragon to win."
Tags: Choices Meant for Gods
, Marilyn Morris
, Once a Brat
, memoir writing
, military family
Labels: Choices Meant for Gods, Marilyn Morris