Thursday, April 5, 2018

SHE TOLD ME IT WAS OK

MIV SCHAFF
Date of death - August 6, 1998
Big Lagoon, California

Miv was a writer.  My path crossed hers (thought she didn't know it) when back in the mid-1970s I decided to change from the very-conservative newspaper in Orange County (The Register) to the LA Times, which was right up my alley - in all ways.  And I always read it cover to cover.

It wasn't long before I discovered that my favorite of all things I read was her weekly column, "Writing for Yourself."  I never knew what she would have to say each week, but it was always interesting, touching, surprising and special.  Whether it was about family, houses, music or hobbies, after I finished reading it I always had something to think about.  Her column reminded me that this kind of writing is what I always had wanted to do.

I can't pin down the year but it was probably in the late 1980s that I went to a talk she gave at UCI called "Writing for Yourself."  I sat spellbound as she shared how it was that she came to write such a column and why it was important to her to do it.  It was far and away the most life-changing talk I'd ever heard.  I knew she was talking to me.

I have always written.  I think I had a pattern to follow: from my earliest years I can remember my mother at her old typewriter "writing."  In my files I have a copy of a 1941 letter of acceptance sent to her by a religious publishing company for an article that would appear in a handout to Sunday School children.  Along with this letter was clipped a crisp $1 bill.  This was the only thing she ever published, but she kept on writing all her life.

She also told me of my great-grandma Louise Hall Ryland being the ghost writer for a book on Caldwell, Kansas, where she lived.  The family was very proud of her (although later critics called it 'purple prose.)

My younger sister also was a writer; her first recognition (and last) was winning $200 at a Forest Lawn-sponsored writing contest while a student at George Pepperdine College.  She was far better than I at writing, but she had no drive for it.  Yet when I did my self-published Istanbul cemetery book she edited it for me and it was oh, so helpful.

I have always written.  The other day in tidying up my files I found once again all my school report cards from 1st through 12th grade, which had been bundled up and saved by my mother.  I looked through them again and was shocked at how many of them had teachers' notes to the effect that I was "a good little writer." (Well, in the later years they didn't use "little"!)

It was Miv Schaaf who gave me permission to write for myself without waiting to publish.  My first husband, who was lazy, always nagged me to write a novel so we could have more money.  I don't think in "novels".  Non-fiction was always my love.  But I felt there was not much of a market for someone as mundane as I was, and I certainly was never a "creative" writer or thinker.  But oh, how good I feel when I write something I like!

I think my kids are "sort of" aware that I do a lot of writing.  I hope when I'm gone they will want to tackle some of it to see just who their mom was.  But alas, I suspect I will fall in the category of Rev. Abner Peet as expressed in Edgar Masters' Spoon River Anthology.

I had no objection at all
To selling my household effects at auction
On the village square.
It gave my beloved flock the chance
To get something which had belonged to me
For a memorial.
But that trunk which was struck off
To Burchard, the grog-keeper!
Did you know it contained the manuscripts
Of a lifetime of sermons?
And he burned them as waste paper.

Nevertheless, I owe my pleasure in writing directly to Miv....her legacy to me was making me understand that writing for myself was OK!


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