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My First ROW80 Check-in: How Twitter Prompted Me to Write a Memoir

Kalachandji's Restaurant & Palace in Dallas, TX (photo by Tui Snider)
Kalachandji's Restaurant & Palace in Dallas, TX (photo by Tui Snider)

I love reading memoirs and diaries (published ones!)

I recently picked up three memoirs at Half Price Books: “Waiting – the true confessions of a waitress,” by Debra Ginsberg, “But enough about me,” by Jancee Dunn and “Growing up Psychic,” by Matthew Modine.

I enjoyed all three, but the opening of Ginsberg’s memoir really spoke to me:

“I’ve been a writer longer than I’ve been a waitress and, as such, a perpetual student of the human experience… I wanted my own stories and saw no better way to collect them… Truly, there has never been a dull moment at the table. And the stories I have gathered there are colorful, passionate, absurd, and intimately human. It is my turn, now, to share them.”

As I read Debra Ginsberg’s memoir it struck me that I have several boxes of handwritten journals spanning the past 25 years of my life. If words composted the way yard waste does, those boxes would be one big steaming pile of diaries.

The idea began to tickle my brain. Maybe, just maybe, I ought to sift through those journals and share some of my stories – but which ones?

How Twitter prompted me to start writing a memoir

On January 6th, I had a little exchange on Twitter with @riverand that prompted me to finally choose a time frame for my memoir. In her tweet, she asked people’s opinions on homeschooling, and I replied that I’d done it for 5 years.

@riverand: first 5 years of schooling, or some other time? #justcurious

@mentalmosaic: Home-schooled daughter 5 yrs ‘cuz lived on island with pop of 7 people at the time! Kinda like Gilligan’s Isle – lol!

I then realized I had misread her tweet. I thought she was asking why I home schooled not when. Even so, she replied with:

@riverand: You may have misread the tweet, but that was amazingly interesting!! WHAT an experience!!

@mentalmosaic: Been thinking about transcribing my diaries from that time, actually. It was an adventure!

@riverand: DEFINITELY! Make that a running segment on your blog! “Monday’s Memoirs” or “Turn Back Time Tuesdays” (I like alliteration)

@mentalmosaic: You’ve got my mental cogs turning… (I love alliteration, too!) #commenthour

It took several hours, but I dug through those boxes and found all I could from the island years. Phew! But then I got cold feet again. The whole thing seemed overwhelming. Self doubt started pecking at me, and I was tempted to ditch the idea.

Once again, enter Twitter. On January 24th, completely out of the blue, @themjohnclark quoted part of my bio in a tweet, “I spent 5 years on a tiny island with a population of 7 people,” and then remarked: WAY COOL

I tweeted back that I was writing a book about it, and – not wanting to be a liar – immediately started transcribing my diaries, as follows:

Tue Jan 24 = started transcribing diary
Wed Jan 25 = 10,000 words total
Thu Jan 26 = 21,000 words total
Fri Jan 27 = 35,000 words total
Sat Jan 28 = 48,000 words total

I learned about ROW80 from – you guessed it – Twitter!

On the 25th, I learned about A Round of Words: The writing challenge that knows you have a life while participating in the weekly #commenthour on Twitter. Rather than explain what it is here, check out the great post @riverand wrote about it entitled, And then I found ROW80. She gives me a nice little shout out in her post, too! :)

Some other writers I have met through #commenthour who are doing ROW80 include: the talented Morgan Dragonwillow, and the dynamic Julie Jordan Scott.

My ROW80 goals

The bottom line is that I’ve joined ROW80, which requires blog check-ins each Wednesday and Sunday. Here are my ROW80 goals:

– Complete a memoir covering the first sixteen months that I lived on Sinclair Island.

– Attend the DFWcon Writers Conference in May.

– Pitch my memoir to an agent at the conference.

My first step is to transcribe all the words I have for this time period into one big messy file by the end of January. I’d like the finished product to be 60,000 – 75,000 words long, like a novel. I want it to read like a novel, and will toss out things that don’t tie in with the overall storyline.

So there you have it, my first ROW80 check-in. See you on Wednesday! :)

The ROW80 Linky List

Here’s the Linky List (I’m #32!) in case you want to add your blog, too:

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. Hi Tui,
    I’m grateful for twitter too- it has connected me to you and many other inspiring writers!

    Wow! An island with such a tiny population? I hope it was sunnier than the one I live on! Can’t wait to read your memoir. Btw I nearly homeschooled too. :)

    Last summer I attended a memoir workshop with Hugo Hamilton. It’s my goal to finish a draft this year! I admire your speed… I’m struggling. Thanks for the link; maybe the project might motivate me too.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Robin,

      You live on an island? Which one? I will have to check out your blog after replying.

      I haven’t heard of Hugo Hamilton, but I’ll check him out, too. As for my speed, I’m using the DFW Writers Conference in May as my self-imposed deadline. I really hope I can have a nice sparkly manuscript in hand by then! :) Thanks again for dropping by!


  2. All of this via Twitter… I am finding it’s a wonderful place. It does seem to be a bit less silly than Facebook. And I have my own for Reddit because it inspires me much the way you’ve described Twitter does. Isn’t this just an amazing world?

    Let me add again a “Welcome to the ROW” (though really, this is my first time trying it as well). I’ve seen several homeschoolers in the mix this session. All have fascinating stories to tell. And the island story sounds as if you could use it for several works, not just a memoir.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Eden,

      I will have to check out Reddit. I really don’t know a thing about it!

      I agree with you that the internet is fabulous, though. I spent years writing and writing in my spare time, but not knowing a single writer in real life. If it weren’t for bookstores and libraries, I might have thought that there were no other writers in the world!

      I will add your blog to my Google reader (love that internet!) Thanks for the warm welcome and best wishes with your writing projects!


  3. I love that you are writing your memoirs! I will be one of the first in line to buy the book! I didn’t know that you home-schooled. Elizabeth, my daughter, and I have been thinking about home-schooling her daughters. We are still researching it and Olivia is only two and a half. Would love to know more about your home-schooling journey and can’t wait to read about it in your book.


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Morgan,

      When it comes to homeschooling, I heartily endorse the Calvert Academy! Took me a couple years to find it, and – wow – was it ever great!

      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. It’s good to know that at least one of my books already has a reader! ;p

      What sort of projects are you doing? Are you also writing a book?


  4. Great to have you in the group, Tui :)

    Nice goals and it sounds like you have a good handle on the project and its direction. By the way, just to intro myself, I’m Gene, one of the ROW sponsors.

    All the best for the coming week :)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Gene,

      Nice to meet you! :) I’m blown away by all the writerly support coming from ROW80 – so glad to have found this group!


  5. Welcome, welcome, welcome!! I don’t usually read memoirs, but the ones you mentioned sound really interesting (I have heard of the last one, too). And you idea sounds like such a cool one! Good luck with your goals and I’m glad you’ve decided to start ROWing. It’s been a great experience for me so far. :) (On a side note, I think Jenny Hansen ( said she’s going to be at the DFW in May, too.)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Karen,

      Nice to meet you! Thanks for all the encouragement and for letting me know about Jenny Hansen. I’ll check out her blog and – hey – perhaps we’ll even meet IRL at the DFW writers conference!


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