Linda: Why did you want to write a memoir? What were the images, thoughts, and feelings that began you on your process?
Amy: I did not intend to write a memoir at first. My goal was to write fun, light short stories from my childhood, a collection that turned into a longer group of stories. I had so many great memories from my time at Lake Wawasee in Indiana, where I spent most of my childhood summers with all my siblings. My story was also about my mother, a single parent back when that was not so acceptable, and her struggles with a bunch of creative, you might say, kids. When I asked Linda to review my manuscript, she wanted more details about all the different emotional aspects of my life as a child in that situation. With her support and guidance, I wrote the more difficult and painful stories alternating the light and dark moments of my life, which then became the memoir Aunt Mary’s Guide.
Linda: How long did it take you to write your book? Tell us about your journey.
Amy: I wrote my first story in 1992—it began with the image of an ashtray—Aunt Mary’s ashtray, and published my book in 2009. My journey started in a creative writing class at a local community college, and after that I enrolled in private workshops with various teachers. Then I joined an intimate writing group that helped me keep writing because of the weekly deadlines. The group was with writers I respected, and I didn’t want to let them down. They were honest and helpful in their feedback, and kept me on track when life got in the way of my writing.
Linda: You have talked about your memoir as a healing journey. Tell us how you experienced healing—for instance where did you start in your journey and then where you ended up by the time you published your book.
Amy: There were painful stories and memories inside of me that I never dreamed of writing or talking about. Gradually, I started to write the stories that were huge inside of me, which became smaller and more bearable when the words hit the page. I cried and struggled about what I should write for fear of alienating my family. I found the courage to write anyway, and now I feel lighter and more balanced.
Linda: If there were specific techniques that helped you to heal, talk about them and how they changed you.
Amy: Having a regular writing class to attend with a schedule of when I would read; gathering with writing partners who expected me to show up with the best writing I could muster. Coaching from a teacher I trusted to keep me safe as I wrote my scary stories, someone who would pat me on the back and let me know I would be okay as I purged on paper.
Linda: Did you have a writing coach and a writing group?
Amy: I had several writing coaches – Guy Beiderman & Linda Joy Myers. I have been in a writing group for over eight years, one of the most important things I did to keep me focused and on track.
Linda: Discuss your decision to self-publish your book.
Amy: I knew I wanted to publish this book and didn’t want to travel down the long, time consuming road of possible rejections. My family reunion was going to be in a few months, so I decided that was the a deadline to get it finished—and it helped to keep me on track to have that firm deadline when others were expecting to read the book.
Linda: Are you interested in getting your book out to agents and bigger publishers someday? Why?
Amy: I am interested in getting my book out to agents to show them that I had the tenacity to start and finish a book. I plan to use this book as a calling card to demonstrate to agents that I am serious about writing.
Linda: How did you publish your book? Talk about the choices you made and why.
Amy: I engaged a writing coach who helped me get to the finish line. I could not have done it without her gentle and firm support. We choose Lulu, an online press, which posed challenges that my coach had to navigate instead of me. We were a team with a goal and frequent contact. It worked!
Linda: What are you writing now?
Amy: I have started working on a murder mystery series. I’m very excited about writing fiction, and “killing” people in my stories with a little dash of humor.
Amy S. Peele completed a year of improvisational training from Second City in Chicago. After living in Chicago for thirty-one years, she moved to California. Working in the field of transplantation for over thirty years with several major medical centers, she treasures the simple moments life offers. Though Amy’s professional publishing history includes several chapters and numerous articles on organ transplantation, she has a penchant for personal writing. In 2003, she published a short story in Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story, by Linda Joy Meyers, PhD. With her husband, Mark Schatz, she raised their two children, Gracie and Bennett, in Novato, CA. Visit