Joan Dideon

My website and Facebook page have been silent far too long. I can honestly say it’s because I’ve been writing, and I suppose that’s a great reason. I’m nearing the completion of a loosely-termed memoir—loose, meaning the stories are based on events from my life, but some have a fictional twist simply because I can’t quite remember how it was. Isn’t memory such an illusive thing. I actually like Roman á Clef: “a real life story with an overlay of fiction.” Yes, I like that. My book, with no title yet (Right now, I’m calling it Rules for Being American), is based in the late 1960s and early 70s and will be ready for publication some time next year. Fingers crossed.

The Wolf Children

I’ve also been researching a subject that will not let me sleep — the Wolf Children of East Prussia, a book that needs to be written! Much information is available in German, but very little in English (see the trailer of the award-winning film by Rick Ostermann, Wolfskinder.). When this important and forgotten piece of history is published, I will write you, I will write you personally, and I will beg you, Please read this, the story of 20,000 German children who were abandoned behind the Iron Curtain, not to be heard from again until late in the 1990s. Many survived on their own, living in forests and barns. Some were adopted but only secretly, as the Soviets made it illegal to aid them in any way. Some, especially the very young, integrated into their new culture, learning a new language, Lithuanian. But it is not unreasonable to state: All endured unimaginable hardships. Several hundred are still alive today and their stories are finally being heard. As I said, this is a book I will beg you to read.

The mind rarely speaks in linear fashion, rarely gives you information in chronological order. Rather it speaks in images, and metaphors, like how things work in the dreams.

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

My genre has been CNF, Creative Nonfiction. It’s an interesting term that has been around since sometime in the 1990s. Patricia Hampl once said of her book, I Could Tell You Stories (Correct me, Patricia, if I got the book wrong. We were sitting in the Café Louvre in Prague, do you remember? We were having cake and champagne and I was starting to write Letters From Berlin, worried how I would write from the perspective of a woman who was dead and you told me how it was for you, having written a book that had no known genre), that her agent, after reading it, said, “Love the book! Don’t know how to pitch it.” Patricia said she found it in bookstores amongst the cookbooks, in the travel section and the history section and on rare occasion, in biography. There just had not been a definition yet for what she did—write stories from her life that included anecdotes, recipes, places she’d traveled, her mother, and woven all throughout is a voice dispassionately asking the meaning of it all.

Listen to Your Gut

And so memoir, and in the broader sense, CNF, was born and has become one of the most-read genres, outselling even historical fiction. What an opening for writers! Suddenly there was a door through which we could step and put to paper what our subconscious has been begging to say. The mind rarely speaks in linear fashion, rarely gives you information in chronological order. Rather it speaks in images, and metaphors, like how things work in dreams. So much of what we find in CNF is written in this way. Letters From Berlin too, came to me in this way, details of which presented themselves when I trusted the image my mind produced, I trusted my gut—and then researched, researched, researched. Rules For Being American is coming along in much the same way. Listen to your gut, write it down, crazy as it may sound. You can always edit later.

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