Writing Mother Memoir with a Warm Texas Flair – TellTale Souls’ Bio-Vignette No. 15

My HellenBefore the Story – Mother Memoir Writing Tip: Focus your power to write significant memoir by using a literary method known as “stream of consciousness.”  Settle yourself in a comfortable place with writing tools at hand and focus on the woman you’ve chosen as the focal point for your Mother Memoir, be that your mother, grandmother or another woman to whom you felt like a daughter or a son.  Thoughts, ideas, and feelings will begin to stream into consciousness.  As this happens, allow this experience to be  continuous and uninterrupted. Without questioning or reacting to what comes to mind, simply let what you’re experiencing flow on to the page before you until you run out of steam!  By then, I know from experience, you will have several great thoughts and significant  feelings written down that you can use as the basis for your story or to further develop your mother’s character in a story you have already begun.

The following story excerpted from my guidebook, TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir: How to Tap Memory and Write Your Story Capturing Character & Spirit exemplifies containing a story within certain parameters.  Mary Anne Coney’s story begins on page 137 of Act Three in the section entitled “Focusing Your Power.”

You can easily find other stories I’ve posted from the book by searching “Bio-Vignette No.”

My Hellen is the second of the three shortest stories in the TellTale Souls collection, and you have already read the longest true tale, Sweet Persimmons, written by Helena Wan, posted as Bio-vignette No. 12.  Mary Anne Coney, in an easy, sort of down-home Texan way, brings to  life her lifelong relationship  with the woman who did far more than give a hand to raising her.

My Hellen

~Mary Anne Coney

Hellen. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t with us. She was there before I was four. I know this because she caught me peeking at the birthday cake she’d baked for my fourth birthday party.

Now I am fifty-six, and the one thing I can say about Hellen is that she has always been there for me, as I have for her, and that will be true until one of us draws her last breath.

When I fell down in grade school and sliced open my leg, Hellen was at home to patch me up and make it better. When I had the flu every March, Hellen made the chicken noodle soup. When Hellen was out of Camel smokes, I went to the little store and bought them for eleven cents a pack. She put up with my pets, she taught me to iron, and she tried to teach me to cook, although that didn’t take very well.

She’s been “my Hellen” all of my life.

Last year she was in the hospital and nearly died. I was notified and went rushing to be with her. The wardens of the intensive care unit stood in my way. They let me know that only family was permitted inside. I let them know that she was my mother. She’s black, I’m white, but they believed me.

As I sat in her room and watched her on the respirator, I could not imagine life without her. She didn’t die. Soon she recognized me every visit and tears slid down both of our cheeks because she knew I was there for her as she has always been for me. We didn’t have to talk. We just knew.

She’s fine now, and we go on like we always have.

Mary Anne Coney: “Selecting someone to write about was a challenge. I suppose it seems strange that I chose our housekeep/cook rather than my mother. But Hellen was so much more than that. She was always a mainstay for me no matter what was going on at home.”

Daughters and sons from 9 to 90 use The Story Woman’s TELLTALE SOULS METHOD to move memory into memoir in a uniquely creative way, “Keeping Spirits Alive.”

You can easily find the stories I’ve posted from the book by searching “Bio-Vignette No.”


  1. Mary Anne Coney says:

    Hellen passed away 7/17/2010 during a visit to her daughter’s family in Houston, Tx. I still regret that she was unable to return home before she passed as I did not get to see her in life again.

  2. admin says:

    Mary Anne, I’m sorry to hear of Hellen’s passing and that you didn’t have the opportunity to see her again. I know how much she meant to you — and so does she – out there in her journey away from her Earthly home.
    Thank you, once again, for writing your pithy Mother Memoir about her!

Speak Your Mind