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National Association of Memoir Writers  Be Brave. Write Your Story

September 2011 Newsletter | Issue #49

Welcome to the September 2011 NAMW Newsletter

Welcome to all of you—especially our new members and subscribers. Our monthly newsletter gives you a glimpse into the happenings and events at The National Association of Memoir Writers. These include monthly FREE Roundtable discussions, and our monthly member-only teleseminar where you get to speak with and learn from experts in the field of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Members can log on to gain access to the treasure trove of 60+ archived audios from more than three years of member teleseminars and roundtable events, connect with each other, and submit stories to our NAMW Café. I think of September as the beginning of the “school” year—and I wonder how many of you do too!

School this fall includes the Writing a Healing Memoir or Spiritual Autobiography Tele-workshop which meets on either Monday at 1:00 PM PDT OR Tuesdays at 3 PM PDT.  Email Staci at info@namw.org if you would like to join one of my workshops—where you can get feedback and help with your memoir, even if you are a beginner, every week!  Students keep telling me that having to produce something each week really helps them to plow through that first draft of their memoir and make tons of progress.

Another option for this fall, is our self-paced brief course Everything You Need to Know About Memoir Writing In Three Easy Lessons.  This is a nice alternative if you don’t have the time to commit to a workshop schedule right now.

Events This Month

In preparation for our September 8th Roundtable discussion, I have been busy reading the books by our featured authors for the September Roundtable. Eleanor Vincent wrote Swimming with Maya and Madeline Sharples’ memoir is Leave the Hall Light On. Both books are about their beautiful children, how the death of a child leaves a scar that can’t be completely healed. Each mother had to find her own path to become re-engaged with life and the rest of the family, and try to heal from such a heart breaking tragedy.

Eleanor Vincent lost her daughter in a freak accident with a horse. Madeline Sharples’ son suffered from Bi-Polar disorder and committed suicide. These brave women are veterans of the journey from utter despair and darkness, telling the story in stark and emotionally riveting prose about how each of them found ways of coping and healing. Each of them has written powerful books that reveal the personalities of their beloved children—their imperfections as well as their sterling unique qualities. The stories and truths revealed are not sugar coated, revealing families as they really are—with conflicting needs, wants, opinions and options. We learn about the deep bonds of love and the impossible moment of discovering the death of their child, and the nightmarish aftermath of that unthinkable moment. Though the reading is emotional and heart wrenching, both these authors guide us expertly through their lives, their feelings, relationships, and struggles to find some kind of center again—a journey no one wants to take. When someone finds themselves in that terrible moment, they need to find the threads of recovery so they can go on and have relationships with friends, their other children, spouses, and the larger world.

Both Eleanor and Madeline were writers before the events that changed their lives, so they naturally turned to writing attempting to make sense of what happened to them. Each says that writing helped her to cope, helped her to find the way to process the story and to preserve the memory of their children when they were young, when they all assumed many more years were ahead of them. These books are powerful testimonies to the strength of the human spirit and will fill your heart with compassion, a good example of how a memoir can make a difference—these personal survival testimonies of a passage through dark nights of the soul. Please join us for a meaningful and powerful discussion, this Thursday, September 8th, 2011.

One of my pet peeves is incorrect grammar and spelling on the web! Or anywhere, for that matter. But it’s become rampant! My 9th grade teacher Miss Luikhart would have a fit if she saw what was happening on the internet. Luckily, we have people like our teleseminar presenter Jami Carpenter—Red Pen Girl— to help us learn more about good grammar and ways to NOT just rely on spell check or grammar check to get us out of trouble. And, you know that we will all be better writers if we brush up on the rules and pay attention, not in the first draft but the later ones. For instance, watch out for homonyms—remember those? And what about apostrophes vs. plural constructions—my favorite peeve is “it’s” when the person means to use the possessive “its.” I hope YOU know the difference!!

Please join us for a wonderful and informative teleseminar with Jamie on September 16th. And don’t let people tell you that these kinds of discussions are boring. No longer! The English language is always evolving, with new rules, new ideas floating around. The OED each year grabs onto new words that become part of the lexicon of “good” English, even if it’s slang. (Note the correct use of “it’s.”)

Recently I joined Amber Starfire and Susan Bono, fellow writers and contest judges to judge a memoir writing contest for The Redwood Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club. As we were gathering tea and cookies, someone said, “I have some stories. It doesn’t matter if there are some typos does it, they’re just my little stories but I think they’re good.” Amber and I rolled our eyes discretely, and said, “It all matters. Send your best work.” The winners that won prizes not only presented their work professionally on the page, their stories had been honed until they glistened and reached our hearts.

We DO care as editors, contest judges, and so do agents and publishers. If you are sending your work out to anyone to read, you need to be skilled in knowing what works and what doesn’t, the rules of grammar and punctuation. Beware of typos missed by spell check. End of lecture for today! Oops, not quite. You need to get familiar with the different kinds of editing, and how to choose a good editor. We will talk about all these topics, and more.

I look forward to being with you on the call—we all need reminding about the joy of good grammar!

Our Fall 2011 National Association of Memoir Writers Day-Long Memoir Writing Tele-conference!

Truth or Lie: On the Cusp of Memoir and Fiction

Truth or Lie: On the Cusp of Memoir and Fiction

Now this is REALLY going back to school but in a way you never have before, sitting at home in your pajamas—no dress code—listening to amazing well known writers and professors talk about Creative Nonfiction and memoir writing. We all know that part of the challenge of writing a memoir is figuring out if we CAN write a memoir, giving ourselves permission to put personal information on the page so that the whole world might read it someday. This means feeling the power of our story, but it also means that for some people, memoir might not be the best choice of genre. What if telling a story as completely TRUE would break up a family—should the writer do that? What if writing a memoir would mean being ostracized in a community or a professional person exposing details that would put their career in jeopardy? Or are there ways to solve these issues and still write a memoir? What factors have helped these writers of memoir and fiction decide?

These kinds of questions arise constantly in the world of memoir and creative nonfiction, and we all need a community of like-minded writers and thinkers to help us with these questions.

We will be doing just that at our Telesummit when our panel of experts gets on the phone and talks with me and all of you about these problems and present new ways to think about and solve them.

So sign up now (it’s FREE for EVERYONE) and put the date on your calendar: October 21. Set aside time to be on the calls with these fantastic presenters—it’s a truly special day. Have your questions ready and your coffee pot full! See you there.

Remember–be brave, write your stories!

Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., MFT

NAMW President & Founder

Upcoming Events at NAMW

We have several events and new workshops that are being planned for the coming months at NAMW that will be helpful to the development of your skills as writers, memoirists, or personal historians. You can find all the finalized events for August, September and October outlined below, but please be sure to visit the NAMW website often for new additions. We’ll add the October Roundtable and Teleseminar in the coming days!

September 2011

Thursday September 8, 2011

September NAMW Public Memoir Writing Roundtable Tele-conversation: Writing About times of Grief with Madeline Sharples and Eleanor VincentFREE FOR EVERYONE–CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP OR LEARN MORE

Friday September 16, 2011Diana RaabSeptember NAMW Member-only Teleseminar: If It’s Just My Story, Does Grammar Really Matter? with Jami Carpenter, the Red Pen Girl. NAMW Monthly Member-only Teleseminar / Conference Call–become a member to participate for free!–MORE DETAILS COMING SOON!
Beginning September 19, 2011Diana RaabIntermediate to Advanced Healing Memoir & Spiritual Autobiography Telephone-based workshops – 9 sessions with Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., NAMW President$375 for NAMW Lifetime Members / $390 for NAMW Annual members/ $525 for non-NAMW members| Become a member to receive a discount! Click Here for Details!

October 2011

Friday October 14, 2011 Martha AldersonOctober NAMW Member-only Teleseminar: Discover the Plot of Your Life Story with Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisperer. NAMW Monthly Member-only Teleseminar / Conference Call–become a member to participate for free!MORE DETAILS COMING SOON!
Friday October 21, 2011Truth & Lie in Memoir & Fiction Truth or Lie–On the Cusp of Memoir and Fiction –Mark Your Calendar for the Fall 2011 Day-Long Memoir Writing Tele-Summit Keynote Speakers Robin Hemley, Dinty Moore & Jennifer Lauck will present along with 5 other experts on the art, craft and business of memoir. Recordings available for all sessions, just for signing up!–CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP NOW–FREE for EVERYONE!

Writing Through Grief

by Madeline Sharples, Author of Leaving the Hall Light On & NAMW September Roundtable Guest Expert

namwAfter my twenty-seven year old son Paul died by suicide as a result of his bipolar disorder in September 1999, writing became my therapy. I instinctively knew traditional therapy wouldn’t work for me unless the therapist had experienced the death of a child.   And I had no interest in reading self-help books either. Though others dealing with grief could turn to painting, singing, acting, woodworking, sewing – any kind of creative outlet – I found my way by writing every day. It became a habit, and as it turned out, writing through my grief totally turned my life around.

The page was always ready for my tears, my rants, my sorrow, my complaints, and my thoughts and ideas. The page never told me what to do or how to handle my grief. The page never told me it was time to stop grieving already. The page became my everyday friend – a special place I could go to empty my full heart.

I craved solitude after Paul died, and writing also gave me that. Even today, I go into my office and stay there for hours. Whether or not I write the whole time, I have my place to be alone, not having to answer to anyone.

I created my writing space from the room where Paul last lived. So he is also in there with me. I feel him in there. A lot of my writing has been about him or things related to his life and death. He became my muse.

[Click Here to Read the Full Article]

The Scent of Autumn: Writing Prompts for September 2011

namwWe can smell the scent of autumn, it pricks our nose and makes us hold on tighter the last heat of summer as we move into a new season. For many it means the joy, or not, of school. For our growing up years, fall is a marking point in our lives. Later, when September comes, we still sharpen pencils, buy new school supplies and enroll in new courses! Think about what fall has meant to you in your life. Think about color, sound, scent, texture, and your memories. Write freely, write quickly. See what you discover.

  • Write about fall smells, colors, and sounds. Use sensual details of all four senses: color, sound, smell, texture.
  • What rituals did your family partake of in the fall? Raking leaves, the start of school, or getting ready for the holidays. Show through action these rituals, and how you felt about them.
  • How did you feel when you were alone on an autumn day? What did you do? Where would you be? Be sure to include details of place and setting in your writing.
  • Describe the rituals of your family during certain autumn activities—harvest, canning of food, making clothes, reading books, preparing for long periods of darkness. What were the routines like for you and your parents? What do you know about grandparents and how they prepared for winter?
  • Write about teachers—did you look forward to school or dislike it? What were your favorite subjects and teachers, and why.
  • How was being at school different for you than being at home? Did you have a different sense of freedom, or a persona that you could not show at home?
  • What is the spirituality of this time of year for you?

Contests & Outside Events

namwScribing the Soul: Transforming Your Life Through the Power of WritingFeaturing Kay Adams and the Center for Journal Therapy Practitioners

September 23-24th, 2011

Colorado Heights University

Early bird registration $99 until July 31st




Keep writing! If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a workshop, teleseminar or roundtable topic please let us know. Email us at: info@namw.org.  And thank you very much for your support of the National Association of Memoir Writers!

Warm regards,

Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., MFT
President & Founder
National Association of Memoir Writers

Remember, be brave. Write your stories!

National Assocation of Memoir Writers | 1700 Solano Ave | Berkeley, CA 94707


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