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Memoir Writing Featured Member for February 2011An Interview with NAMW Featured Member of the Month for February 2011, Mary Knippel.

NAMW: Tell us what you want to write about, or what you are working on.

Mary: I’ve kept a journal since the age of 11 so my entries are full of variety. I write about everything from the weather and how tired I am of the California rain, to conversations addressing the cancer cells in my body. I am working on the final edits for my book “Creativity:  The gift of crisis.” It is part memoir and part self-help as I have included journal questions at the end of every chapter. After having breast cancer twice, I’ve taken on the task of sharing the message:  do not wait until you have a health crisis to take care of yourself! Writing has always been a safe way to express myself and to sift through the emotions I may be feeling. Because of my journaling habit, I had an abundance of raw material to draw from for this book about my breast cancer experiences. I have more material to use for the memoir I’ll write about my infertility and adoption experience.

As a journalist, I relish helping others tell their unique individual stories revealing universal themes of love, loss, courage, and perseverance.

NAMW: If you could imagine the title of your story—what would it be?

Mary: The title of my story would be:  Creating an Authentic Life

NAMW:  What helps you to get your writing done—for instance—a writing schedule, taking a class, reading.

Mary: A writing ritual helps prime the writing pump and sets the tone that it’s time to get down to business. When I take my tea tray to my writing spot, turn on the same music, and light a candle, I’ve already begun the writing process before I open my journal and uncap my fountain pen. Deadlines, whether it is a class, contest, monthly newsletter, weekly blog, or a promise to your writing group, makes you put an end to your tweaking and declare the piece finished.

NAMW:  What are your five favorite books—okay, you can make it a little longer if you need to.

Mary:  Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron

Life’s Companion:   Journal writing as a Spiritual Practice by Christina Baldwin

NAMW: Is there anyone who does not want you to write your memoir? Why not?

Mary: My mother is a very private person and I imagine she wouldn’t want me to discuss our family for public viewing. But, I could be wrong. I’m not telling her story, however, I’m telling my own. She happens to be in it along with the rest of my father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents as well as my husband, daughter, and in-laws.

NAMW: Talk about who the audience is for your memoir.

Mary: I think my audience consists of other like-minded women who are exceptional caregivers, are devoted to their family and friends, but realize its O.K. to also take time to nurture themselves.

NAMW:  What is the most significant turning point in your life?

Mary: My first breast cancer diagnosis changed my life. My second breast cancer diagnosis 3 ½ years later devastated me. I decided I had to make myself a priority in my own life. Hands-on creative experiences became my anchor in my on-going healing process.

About Mary

Mary E. Knippel is a writer, artist, wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, and friend. She began writing in her journal   at age 11 and hasn’t stopped. Her first by-line was as the Humor Editor for the Adams High School Tiger Tales. She continues to write today with compassion and joy, sharing inspiring stories of the heart and touching the human spirit.

A resident of the California San Mateo Coastside since 1995, she and her family (1 husband, 1 daughter) received a thorough introduction to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival as their moving men furiously unloaded furniture while the festival booths were being assembled on Main Street.

“Creativity, The Gift Born of Crisis,” part memoir, part self-help, is Mary’s book about her breast cancer experience and the tremendous healing powers we can all access when we tap into our creativity, is in the final stages of production. Her writing has appeared in publications in California, Colorado, and Minnesota. Throughout her writing and presentations, Mary delivers one consistent message:  don’t wait until a health crisis to take care of you.

As a Creativity Mentor, speaker and workshop facilitator, Mary conducts workshops in which participants connect with their creativity, focus on fun, and pursue play as a proven method to de-stress and cope with life’s challenges.

Mary has been a contributing writer to CoastViews Magazine for over 10 years. As an editor, Mary has helped numerous aspiring writers with their book projects, including a book on wedding protocol, It’s Your WeddingNot Theirs by Fr. Miles O’Brien. Mary has participated in the San Francisco Writers Conference as an Independent Editor for the past three years. She was invited to be a panelist at the 2010 Northern California Storybook & Literature Festival as well as at the New Media Film Festival-San Francisco Bay Area. She is the immediate past president of the San Francisco Chapter of the Women’s National Book Assn (WNBA-SF), is a member of the National Association of Memoir Writers, and has been on the board of the Peninsula Branch of the California Writer’s Club (CWC).

Find Mary Online:




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