To write or not to write

Posted: November 12, 2012 in Family, Personal

My sis, Kathy, and I have finally decided to take the plunge and write the story of our great-great-grandfather’s life.  He’s the one I mentioned in this post.  Since she’s in PA and I am here in Hell….I mean, AZ….we’re using my blog to privately collaborate.  Sometimes I will forget and save a Page as public that should be Private so it will appear in the topmost menu.  Please pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.

So far the hardest thing has actually been working out a way to use the blogging tool to respond to each others questions and thoughts.  I think we’re working it out nicely though.  I am really enjoying the experience because other than fulfilling a lifelong goal (been wanting to write this book since I was 14) , I also get to communicate with my sis almost every day.  For me, that’s like having a cool drink of water after having been in the desert without any for far, far too long.

Why has it taken me so long to start this book?  Fear of doing it badly? We have family who will probably read this book and have some pretty firm opinions on the matter.  In fact, they may be the only ones who will read it!   I know for certain I didn’t want to offend my family.  See we are in contact with many, many cousins who are descended from the same man.  And all of us feel like we own him to a certain degree because he is an integral part of who we are.   Well, Michael W. Shanahan’s life is very well documented, known and quite frankly looked up to as a paradigm of courage, persistence, intelligence, etc, etc.

It strikes me as strange, this connection we all have.  I wonder how Michael would feel about it?  He was a proud man but not a braggart and certainly not one to try to be the center of attention.  He would probably be a little mystified but also flattered.  In any case, all of these family members will have their own internal notion, regardless of the shared known history.  They will read this book through that lens.  So it always worried me.  My sister and I have decided to write it as fiction.  For my part, it solves this worry of mine.  It’s also practical because there are things we just don’t know and probably never will.  For example, we know the names of his parents and even the church in which they were married*.  But that’s it.  No idea on who their parents were, no real idea where they were actually from.  Some day before I die, I will go to Ireland and stand in that church.  Go to Limerick and play in the River Shannon where Michael played and (may have) lost his brother.**   Some day.  For now, we’re going with what we got because I have no idea how many “days” I have left.***

Other reasons for avoiding it?   Intimidated by the subject matter and the breadth of the story?  After all the Civil War has been written about exhaustively.  His story spans a lot of very big events and times, not just the Civil War.  There is southern Ireland, possibly Liverpool, New York City, New Orleans possibly, any and all cities in between New York and Senatobia, MS, including Memphis.  And a lot of different, real characters that play an important role in the story….see what I mean?  That’s a lot to contemplate, organize, plot and write about.  And the inevitable thought that proceeds from such a contemplation is how much time do I have in my life to write a book.  Of course, you know the answer to that.  Truth is, if something is important to a person, they make time.  Twenty-eight years is too damn long to put off one of the most important things I may ever do.****

Wish me Ádh na nÉireannach because I will probably need it.


* 1833 at the Catholic Church in Powerstown–there is supposed to be a written entry in the registry that we’ve been trying to get a hold of for many years, I can just see the Irish Priests now, getting all these requests for records from American amateur genealogists, ‘Jaysus, Mary and Holy Saint Joseph, wouldya look a’ dis??  Anotha feckin letta frum dat gowl in Arizona!”

**Other places on my agenda are from my father’s side, being descended from Aoifa MacMurrough and Richard Strongbow de Clare (update:  not sure about this link now, never conclusively proven), would love to see the Maclise painting of the wedding in person–have found it makes a very big difference to see old oil paintings in person (watercolor version here and oil version here), also the castles that belonged to the de Clare family, one in Wales where Aoifa stayed and gave birth, to some if not all of her children while Richard was off fighting.

***No, I’m not deathly ill, just saying, people die in sudden unexpected ways all the time and I haven’t been given a pass on that kind of exit–no one gets a pass.  We are all stuck in that lottery together.

****Raising my kids to be happy and healthy is THE most important thing I will ever do


  1. That is awesome. I’ll buy a copy!

  2. alopecia says:

    Somehow, I missed this post, and now of course the man has to stick his oar in and give advice. Feel free to ignore.

    Don’t give up on learning more about your ancestors. Powerstown is in County Kilkenny and before the 20th century it was unusual for someone to travel more than a day or two’s ride from where they were born. Michael Shanahan’s parents likely were born and lived their lives not too far from where they were married.

    Try going around the parish priest. I did a quick-and-dirty Google search and found this:
    which looks like it could be helpful. At least maybe you’d know if the records you’re after actually do exist. And maybe County Kilkenny has some official vital records on file that could be of help (be prepared to cough up a few Euros, of course).

    Actually, on *ahem* mature reflection, I realize you’re simply going to have to go to Ireland and bang on the church door your own self. Such are the sacrifices we must make to fulfill our dreams, yes?

    As for collaborating, trustworthy people say good things about Google Docs, which I don’t use.

    Good luck to you, and make that two pre-orders, if you please.

    • alopecia says:

      Erm, ignore the rootsireland address. I’d made a long list of “maybe” sites and didn’t delete them all. Oops.

    • drangedinaz says:

      Thanks for the advice. Will pass along to my sis, she is the true research guru….she thinks I’m the writer, ha! Seriously though, we’ve been making a list of scenes and characters. Plus we have a modern day framing story. I was real nervous a first but as we come up with ideas, I am starting to feel less intimidated. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much free time as she does. I hope that I can give it the attention it deserves. Thanks for the pre-order–you are officially on my list.

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