From Blogging to Memoir

Nancy Hinchliff was born in Detroit but spent most of her life in Chicago. She was fortunate enough to earn undergraduate degrees in music and education and graduate degrees in music, science of education and special education before teaching in the Chicago Public schools for 30 years and in the school of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Ms Hinchliff has been writing all of her adult life, mostly journal articles, essays, and creative non-fiction and has been published in newsletters, local magazines, and as a guest on many blogs. In 2008, she co-authored Room at the Table, a coffee-table cookbook written for the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky which won their president's award. In 1995, at the age of 65, she purchased a turn-of-the-century Victorian Italianate mansion in Old Louisville, Kentucky and turned it into a bed and breakfast. She remained in business there until 2015, when she sold her inn and moved to Vermont to be close to her family and write full time.


Nancy R. Hinchliff


During the last six or seven years I owned and ran my bed and breakfast, I began writing again on a regular basis, sometimes 4-5 hours a day. It all started when I visited my youngest daughter and her husband one Christmas. He was in marketing and was constructing a new blog for his business. I had no idea what a blog was, except to hear Rosie O Donnell talk about the comments she was getting on hers that she didn’t like, and how she had decided to shut it down.

I became intrigued with the idea and asked my son-in-law to explain the concept to me and show me how to set up a blog of my own, which he did. I decided it should be centered on my bed and breakfast and what went on there. I named it Inn Notes: a Bed and Breakfast Blog and wrote about everything I could think of. Amazingly, I never ran out of ideas for posts. I discovered I was a natural. And so I constructed my second blog, Inn Business, a blog about the hospitality industry. Again, I had more ideas for posts than I had time to write. And I loved it. I became obsessed as I am wont to do when I find something I’m really good at.

During the time I first started blogging, I became interested in Social Media and joined Twitter and Facebook. By that time, I had discovered a site where I could publish journal articles and make a little money at the same time. There were thousands of writers on the site, so I could also get some feedback on my writing. I found several sites like this and joined them all. I tried writing fiction but quickly returned to non-fiction where I was comfortable and could put out at a high rate. I soon started writing for two online magazines. All the while my writing was improving and I was writing more and more each day, even though I was still running the business full time, but now with lots of help.

I then started a third blog, Business and Creative Women’s Forum, and was entertaining a fourth one. It was this continual blogging that made me gradually aware of how comfortable I was with non-fiction, especially stream of conscious and personal essays in the first person. I began collecting my stories under the title Tales from an Innkeeper’s Crypt. I soon had a pretty good following who kept asking what was going to happen next and when I was going to turn my collected stories into a book.

I constructed my fourth blog and named it A Memorable Time of My Life, which in reality it was. This blog would be for and about writers. I wrote, researched, and contacted other writers who would be willing to guest post. I wanted as much information about, tips, and how-tos on writing as I could collect in one place. In addition, I would post excerpts from my memoir to generate interest among my readers and maybe get some additional feedback and do guest posts on other blogs. This blog is the most popular of all four and has more followers than the others, probably because I promote it the most.

The idea to write a memoir came to me around 2-3 years after I started blogging… I discovered that I loved blogging and that I was better at writing than I had thought I was. I  joined Hub Pages, a writing site, because I wanted to keep improving my writing Within a few months, I had written dozens of articles about life at my B&B…and was getting lots of loyal followers. Most of them thought the stories I posted about my inn would make a great book and they started suggesting it.

But, the very idea of writing a book scared me. I had never written anything longer than a few hundred pages. I had tried to write a few short stories…fiction mostly, but I discovered that fiction my genre. And so one day I took the plunge. As scared as I was of taking on an entire book, I let it all hang out and began writing furiously. The words just poured out onto the pages. All that blogging had helped me find my voice and I wanted to get it down on paper. I ended up with dozens of stories but balked at putting them all together in book form.

By this time, I realized that writing was my passion, that people liked what I was writing and thought it was humorous. In addition, I learned what memoir was and that I was a memoirist (non-fiction writer), rather than a writer of fiction. Believing that I could do it and that my online writer friends and followers were right about my stories making a good book, was a giant leap for me. My biggest challenges then were to find a way of connecting all the stories into a book and to learn how to approach memoir in a fictive way; grappling with character development, dialogue, voice, and vivid description. Memoir is not fiction, but the best memoir reads like fiction. In addition, I wanted it to be humorous, logical, connected, and entertaining.

I am still amazed that I wrote an entire book. It took a long time for me to even consider it seriously. But now, after publishing the first one, I am excited to be working on the second.

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