National Association of Memoir Writers Founder Shares Her Story
by Mary Yerkes (NAMW member)
Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., MFT, is the founder and president of the National Association of Memoir Writers and author of the award-winning book, Don’t Call Me Mother.
A practicing California therapist, Ms. Myers specializes in using creativity, art, and writing as tools for personal healing. The following interview offers a glimpse into the life of one of today’s significant voices in memoir writing.
Suite 101: You are very passionate about memoir writing. What ignited that passion?
Linda Joy Myers: When I was eight and my great-grandmother was eighty, I lay in a feather bed next to her, where she whispered to me the stories of her life in the 19th century–the farm life in Iowa where she was a midwife, raised seven children, cooked, baked, and gardened all day long before electricity or telephones. I learned that the legacy of her daughter, my grandmother, and my mother was not one she approved of. As I lay beside her, I realized that the history of everything was inside her, that her understanding of my mother and grandmother was something I needed for survival. I saw that everyone was simply living out a history that had begun long before I was born. Memoir is the capturing of these stories, one of the most important things we can do: creating the thread of understanding and perspective that is part of our own legacy.
Suite 101: What advice would you give to aspiring memoir writers?
Linda Joy Myers: Memoir writes need to create a sacred space around themselves to keep the inner and outer critics at bay. Families tend to get worried when someone is writing a memoir, so keep your writing project to yourself for a while. To capture memories, write from photos in the family album, and write in present tense, as if you are there. Don’t worry about where your book begins–just write vignettes, small stories one by one, and after a while you will have a longer work. I learned that you don’t know what you have until you have written it down. you will learn so much by writing–about yourselves and your life, as well as gain a deeper understanding and perspective about your past. Writing memoir helps us find our future, too!
Suite 101: Tell us about your memoir, Don’t Call Me Mother. How did it change you?
Linda Joy Myers: Don’t Call Me Mother is about three generations of mothers who abandoned their daughters, and how I struggled to change this heritage. As a little girl, I lived with my grandmother, who had abandoned my mother when she was small. In that cauldron of grief, sorrow, and regret, I saw the direct results of the pain these two women carried each year when mother blew in on the train. I loved them so much–they were both beautiful and could be tender–yet they both unleashed terrible, frightening rages. When I was an adult and visited my mother in Chicago, she told me that no one knew she had a daughter, and she continued this rejection of me and later my children even on her deathbed.
I wrote the book as a love song to those who had saved me, and as a way to put the ghosts and grief to rest. When children are abused, part of their heart is squeezed, so healing means going back into those places and shining the light of understanding and perspective to release the pain and become free of it. Writing the real stories in scene helped me to be a witness to myself as a child, and enabled me to see my life as a story. After writing the memoir, I felt a great peace and sense of accomplishment.
Suite 101: You recently founded the National Association of Memoir Writers. Tells us about the organization.
Linda Joy Myers: As I wrote my true stories over the years, I presented my work in fiction groups where people would say, “That is unbelievable. You have to change the story.” I was confounded about how to handle my writing, and there were few memoir-specific resources. After teaching for many years and hearing what memoir writers needed, I wanted to create something that would help memoir writers achieve success and to feel supported in their efforts.
NAMW offers free audios and articles, ebooks, and telesummits–all day conferences that address the needs of memoir writers. Our membership package includes free books and CDs, and live teleseminars with experts that help to equip memoir writers to help them in their writing and publishing lives.
In my work as a coach and author of articles and books about memoir writing as a healing path, I know the importance of writing the truth and being supported to express yourself freely. I want the National Association of Memoir Writers to be a place where memoir writers can feel at home and where they can find resources to build their skills.
Ms. Myers is also the author of Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story. To learn more about Ms. Myers and her work, visit her Web site, Memories and Memoirs.
The copyright of the article Linda Joy Myers Discusses Memoir Writing in Newsmaker Interviews is owned by Mary Yerkes. Permission to republish Linda Joy Myers Discusses Memoir Writing in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
(Story reposted with permission from http://newsmaker-interviews.suite101.com/)