Author Archives: kendrabonnett

I Can’t Grow Dirt

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #29

I sort of hate admitting this to you all, especially given the many exceptionally dedicated gardeners among you. Susan Tweit and Susan Albert particularly put me to shame. Every time I look at one of the beautiful flowers they post to Facebook I’m consumed by a mixture of disgust and envy.

Disgust as I try to convince myself that gardening is a waste of time. Envy because secretly I’d like to be good at it.

See, here’s a picture of my thumb. Notice how brown it is.

The proverbial brown thumb...up close and personal

Matilda puts me to shame, too. Her gardens and landscaping in Gilroy, California, were a sight to behold…dozens of olive trees, artichokes, figs, Kefir lime, herbs…thick stands of lemongrass. Beautiful hedges. And oh the Meyer Lemons. Now she’s in the early phases of creating her gardens in Corvallis, Oregon. I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m looking forward to going out in October and seeing all that she’s planted.

Two years ago on a trip to California to visit Matilda, Jodi Avery, a friend and student of Matilda’s and mine gave me three heirloom tomato plants. Oh so carefully I carried those little sprouts home from California. Since I had driven out from Maine bringing them home was easy. I set the small pots on the car’s dashboard on the passenger side. By the looks I got along the way, I think people thought I was transporting Cannabis sativa rather than Solanum lycopersicum.

Each day when I put new ice in my cooler, I poured off the ice water and used that to water my little tomato plants. And by the time I got home they had actually grown quite a bit.

This time I was going to succeed. I could just feel it.

It was early June, which can still be quite cool in Maine. I waited almost two weeks before I planted my three tomatoes outside. And things looked good…for a while. My little plants seemed to thrive. I actually had to stake them, just as I’d seen my father do every summer.

I was going to have tomatoes. I could see the tiny flowers forming. In weeks I had fruit. I watered and watched them grow daily. I could already taste the heirloom tomatoes I was going to have. Feeling confident, I began planning my first heirloom tomato salad. I’d cool the tomatoes in the fridge—just enough to be refreshing but not so cold as to hide the rich flavors.

I had started going through my mother’s recipes looking for the perfect dressing for my heirloom tomato salad…when I saw it. It was a morning in early August. And two of the plants were droopy. Then the third. Flowers failed to result in fruit, and the fruit already formed and that had been growing daily seemed to stop. And only one tomato had begun to turn red. Something was wrong.

You think, Kendra?!!

They said it was blight. I say it was my brown thumb.

Three tomato plants, and I harvested exactly one, undersized tomato. But it did taste good.

Now that's a head of lettuce.

The next summer I didn’t even bother to try. Once again I gave up my secret dream to grow vegetables. But 2011 is shaping up to be different. Join me at to learn how I turned around my horticultural luck. Here’s a hint: It starts with structure.

And speaking of structure, Matilda and I have just announced our all-new, two-day workshop that we’re holding in Las Vegas this October. It’s called Lucky Sevens! 7 Steps to Winning Story Structure that Takes the Gamble Out of Your Memoir Writing. We’ve developed a process that we call Structural Alchemy, and it’s sort of a prequel to Writing Alchemy. As Matilda says, “Even the elements of powerful writing can collapse under their own weight without a well-designed and executed framework.” We hope you can join us for fun and writing in Vegas. You can learn more about our Structural Alchemy workshop by clicking here.

Is Memoir the Origin of Storytelling?

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #28

This past weekend, I received an email telling me about, a new storytelling engine for creatives. It’s in beta now, and I’ve signed up to test it…just as soon as they’re ready to let some more of us in.

I’m not sure that is going to be some sort of incredible productivity and creativity-enhancing tool for memoir writers, but you never know. I’ll check it out and get back to you on that front. Or follow the link above and sign up to test it yourself. Also, today over on Women’s Memoirs (Memoir…it is about the story) I have a sister post that lists some of the interesting tools that I’ve found online that just might help aspiring memoir writers think through their story lines. I hope you’ll take a look.

And on Thursday, please be sure to check out Bettyann Schmidt’s ScrapMoir post on Women’s Memoirs. She’s got a special gift for everyone. I think you’re going to like it; Matilda and I are thrilled to be able to make this available.

Is a Traditional Storyteller a Memoirist?

So thanks to the email, I got to thinking about storytellers. They’ve been part of our culture for such a long time…centuries before we could write. In fact, storytelling is more of an oral tradition that a written one. My mind kept questioning as my eyes and ears wandered across Google, YouTube, blogs in search of anything on the storytelling tradition.

Cave paintings date back at least 35,000 years. We have records of the stories and tales from Medieval minstrels and Renaissance bards. The fairy tales Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected in the 18th century had already been passed down from family to family, generation to generation. Hymns. Greek myths. The oral tradition of our native American tribes. Heroic epics…Gilgamest, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, Childe Harold. The Bhagavad Gita. Even the stories depicting Sasquatch date back to and have been passed around since the middle of the 19th century.

And the list goes on. But I got to thinking, how many of these stories were originally what we might call memoir vignettes? In each case, was there once a person who told the story in terms of his or her actual life? Did their children go into the woods, never to return? Was a curious lad killed by wolves? Did a handsome brother seek to admire his reflection once too often and fall into a river and drown?

I’m wondering if what we call myth, story and fairy tale today was–once upon a time–someone’s story. A memoir captures not only the events of our lives, but the thoughts, fears, emotions we carry within us. The ability to turn some of their experience into metaphor and allegory only suggests their talent as storytellers.

And the rest? Well what if the stories as they have come down through the ages is the result of the biggest, most elaborate game of Telephone we have ever imagined?