Retro Reverie by
(90 Stories)

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It’s a daunting task to put my experience with Retrospect into perspective. To say it’s been meaningful is a huge understatement.

A little background, already familiar to some of you, to others not. Although I never considered myself a writer, some time in 2016 I got it in my head to write a memoir about my nutty life. I felt like I had something to share that might help others who wondered why their lives seemed to have gone off track and blamed themselves for being “less than.” I also wanted to get to the bottom of why I’d had such a hard time finding happiness and security when everyone around me seemed to have nailed it long ago. I got pretty serious about the project, read everything I could about writing a memoir, and in 2017, at 70, even took a weeklong master workshop in Maine, which in hindsight turned out to be one of the highlights of my life.

Here’s a photo from our farewell dinner, a real live classic lobster boil where we fledglings mingled with real live published authors (not boiled) which I’m including here just because I think it’s such a fun, dynamic shot.

But, to get published (by a mainstream house, which is the route I had in mind), you need an agent; to get an agent, you need to (a) already be somebody or (b) already have some publishing credits under your belt. Much like the acting profession, it’s a Catch-22 situation. My experience was that most literary submission sites (or lit mags, as they’re known in the trade) weren’t all that interested in works written by baby boomers of my ilk.

Hungry for feedback, though, in 2019 I happily stumbled upon Retrospect and jumped onboard, at first mostly editing excerpts from my memoir and molding them into suitable fashion to fit the prompts whenever I could, but also writing fresh stories when that wasn’t feasible. Before long I was asked to become an administrator working behind the scenes with my wonderful co-administrators on writing prompts and finding suitable images to complement them and, the most fun of all for me, tweaking them in Photoshop as necessary. I think you’d be surprised at how many hours have gone into that, but I’ve enjoyed every minute!

Here’s one of my favorite projects from our Feathering the Nest prompt . . . what started out as just a photo of a birdhouse. The fun — and, to me, magical — part was then finding a photo of a bird with a feather in its beak, combining the two photos in a way that looked natural, and finally adding tiny bird legs so that it looked like it was indeed perched on the birdhouse.

Thoughts of getting publishing have ebbed and flowed, but have pretty much petered out at this point. Having run out of suitable material to poach from my memoir, I’ve just ducked behind the scenes where I’m most comfortable and have continued to do the work I enjoy the most, both for Retrospect and for myself. An artist at heart, I make some form of art (by my very broad definition) almost every day. Here’s a little video clip I made the other day…my typical morning.

Quirky, right? You’re the only ones to have seen it yet (except for my featured husband), and you may remain the only ones. And anyone who recognizes the soundtrack gets a high five.

In the larger life process, issues have been resolved, lurking demons vanquished, I believe at least in part because I’ve received so much incredibly positive feedback from you guys! I think that’s the true heart of Retrospect . . . all that team spirit! I’ll probably never get my memoir published; honestly, I just don’t have the tenacity to get it published. It’s hard to try to “sell” my story, my self.

Now 75, I no longer feel less than. I just am, and with many, many thanks to you here at Retrospect, I’m definitely okay with that. And thanks for sharing your own stories so openly . . . I have very much enjoyed getting to know you! I’m just so impressed by this community, by all your caring and supportive words for each other.

Special thanks to Suzy, of course, for all her hard work, for bringing me onboard, and for being so gracious when I ran out of steam and stopped writing and commenting. I love you, Suzy!

Cheers to the new year, my friends . . . all best in 2023! [Clink]

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Note: I did want to mention that during the process of submitting to literary agencies, I was advised that no one would take my memoir if pieces of it had been published elsewhere, including online blogs or the like. I’m not at all sure if that’s written in stone, but in a flurry of perhaps misguided optimism, at one point I removed all of those stories from Retrospect. All that remain (90 counting this one) were written specifically for Retrospect.

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Dear Barb, you are the best! I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed your unique voice. I looked forward to your story every week, but of course, respected your decision to step back and work on writing your memoir. I believe you have an incredible story to tell (but hey, who am I?), and I thank you for sharing so freely with us. You trusted us and I hope felt rewarded by that trust and faith. You shared some of your precious magazine collection with me, for which I am forever grateful. I think your art is fascinating.

    I am glad to hear that you’ve found peace with where you are and who you are. That sets me at ease. Enjoy these coming days. You’ve earned them.

    • Thanks so much, Bets…heart to heart once again. From the beginning I felt we had a special connection, and I’m so happy to have become friends. All the best to you and your growing family…may 2023 be filled with joy and gratitude! XOXO

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Wonderful to hear your voice in Retrospect again. I always enjoy your posts and am in awe of your creativity (and photoshop abilities). So glad to hear that your life is in a good place and thanks for so generously sharing your stories and supporting the Retrospect site.

  3. Suzy says:

    Oh Barb, I’m so glad you “happily stumbled upon” us in 2019. I can’t even imagine how we managed before you joined the team. Working with you has been such a joy! As Betsy says, you have a unique voice, and I too missed it when you stopped writing, even though I understood why. It’s wonderful to read this story from you today. I love you too!

    • Suzy, some of my fondest memories of Retrospect start out with you asking me, “Barb, do you think we could. . .” and me pretty much dropping everything to make it happen just because I so enjoyed the process. You made me feel like I could do anything! XOXO

  4. Bebe, it’s so good to see you back on the page Bebe, you’ve been missed!

    And thanx for the fascinating look behind the scenes at Retro, and your insights on writing a memoir and getting it published. I once took a fascinating memoir-writing course with Hettie Jones altho I have no such ambitions – brava to you for even considering it!

    And thanx to you and the other Retro admins for giving us all this wonderful space to write our life stories! Happy 2023!

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Your voice has been such a joy on Retrospect and, as noted, it has been terribly missed. As memoirists go, you are the absolutely real deal. . And I also know how important you have been to the Retro leadership team. But I fully understand your reasons for pulling back in the last year or so.

    And this week’s story is a particular delight. Not just hearing from you again, but also your delightful riffing, and illustrating, on so many different topics. Your video clip is a real gem, but, in my twisted way, I most enjoyed your passing reference to non-boiled published authors. Thank you!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    It’s been a joy working with you and reading your stories, Barb. You are so talented, creative, and artistic. If you can’t find a publisher, you can always self-publish that memoir. That’s what I did because I didn’t have the drive to go any other route or the desire to promote myself. I just need to write a book after losing my mother and turning 70. As with many things in life, the process mattered more than the product. From the snippets you have shared, your memoir promises to be great, so please let me know if it is ever published.

    • Thanks so much, Laurie! I’m not sure why I’m not drawn to the idea of self-publishing, maybe because I know I won’t have the oomph it takes to get any sort of decent distribution going. I wear a lot of hats, but the one that never seems to fit is Sales & Marketing. Anyway, as you said, I think the process IS what mattered most. Maybe I’ll self-publish an edition of one just to see it on my bookshelf. It’s been a joy working with you as well…I love how whenever the four of put our minds to it, we always delivered, especially since you seemed to have an endless supply of ideas.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    Your contributions have uniformly interested and entertained me, Barbara.

    I fully understand the feeling of reaching “late maturity” and feeling like you missed all sorts of boats, squandered time and opportunities. My best friend has enough money to travel overseas on a whim, but I love him too much to feel envious. Of course, he gifted Gina and I flights to Europe not too long ago, so good on him!

    I am an ACOA, and have traced a lot of my quirks to that experience.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    Oh, and being a decent taker of photos myself, I can say that the picture in your story is VERY well composed!

  9. John Zussman says:

    Barbara, thanks for your memories and for the creativity you brought to the site. I’m trying to meet your challenge of identifying the soundtrack. It sounds very noir, but nothing comes. Give us a hint?

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