Welcome to summer! The birds are chirping outside my study window—there’s a nest in the eaves above the window. I can’t see the little ones, but the music of the family serenades me as I work—which is delightful!
I want to welcome all new NAMW members and newsletter subscribers! We had a wonderful month in May welcoming new members. We encourage you to join us on Facebook—we have two locations, one is for members only and the other one welcomes writers of all kinds to submit and discuss topics of interest.
The workshop I offer most months of the year came to a close for a few months—Writing a Healing/Spiritual Memoir—while everyone travels, writes on their own, or organizes the many dozens of stories that have accumulated over the months and years. It’s true that part of writing is keeping track of all your stories so you can find them and work on the latest draft.
There’s nothing more frustrating than to work on the wrong draft of a story you wanted to finish! Organizing your work is part of becoming an author.
Some good ways to organize:
- Make sure that each story draft has the title and date of the last changes. It’s true that this way you’ll have lots of lists of the same story in a folder, but it doesn’t matter. The computer is capacious, and can hold it all!
- Put your new changes in red or green, or use the “review” tab in MS Word to see what you have edited. Sometimes the edits are hard to keep track of and we may want to change the changes!
- Keep an ongoing list of stories and chapter titles with notations alongside: edited and complete; first edit, first draft, etc. That way you won’t have to remember what you were doing, especially if you write intermittently. We can waste a lot of time trying to sort through the drafts when we could be writing or editing new material.
- Keep a list of the chapter titles or topics you want to write about. This list is a live document that can be changed and edited as you sketch out your memoir.
- Use your journal as a place to sketch out your ideas. If you are writing by hand, you may be more forgiving and creative with your ideas. You can invite your right brain to “play” when you are sketching in your journal.
It’s always wonderful when I get to see an author do her book tour—and it’s extra special when that author is someone I worked with in my memoir classes years ago! Denise Roessle is on a book tour here in the Bay Area, having arrived from Arizona to talk with audiences about her new book Second Chance Mother.
Eight years ago, she had begun a story about the reunion with a son she’d given up for adoption at birth. Most stories in “real life” don’t have fairy tale endings—all the more reason to support and admire people who tell the truth about the family—incomplete and messy plots and all. To a rapt, curious and attentive audience, Denise read the powerful first chapter of her book, and then spoke with us about her writing process, and many of the true and emotional events that are her story. A memoir is so much more than the “book” it turns out to be between the covers. It is a living, breathing document that is still alive, because the author, the characters in the book, and the events in the book are still being lived out. It’s such a meaningful experience to see this at a book reading like Denise’s.
I was so pleased to hear her expert turns of phrase, to see how the book had evolved from the early draft to the final one that was being shared with the group. It gladdened my heart to see her development as a writer and author, and to hear how the book itself has become part of her own ongoing story, still being lived out.
Shaping Your Work for Different Audiences
When we begin a new story, the first task is to allow it to emerge as it needs to in the first draft—and this process may continue unfolding for quite a few more. Some stories seem to be born quickly and easily while others need several major rewrites. There are several things to consider as you edit and revise toward a later draft:
- Who is the main audience of the publication?
- Are you writing for a specific publication or a contest?
- Is there a theme that the piece needs to address?
- What is the tone, voice, and message of other works published by the magazine, blog, or anthology, for instance where you will pitch your piece?
If there is a call for submissions as with a book or anthology, see if there are other similar publications and note the style, tone, and presentation. But you also need to be true to your own style. Editors will work with you to shape the work for their needs. Getting published is a collaboration between the editor and writer which is a part of getting published.
I’m happy to offer more about these topics at our Roundtable Discussion with Kate Farrell, June 7 and two of her authors in the anthology Wisdom Has a Voice—Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother will join us.
We will discuss how the idea to do an anthology came about, and the steps for creating an anthology. The seed of Kate’s idea came from her own memoir insights as she wrote about her mother who had died, and wanted to share her process of refinement, editing, and healing with others.
Her project, Wisdom Has a Voice, began with writing workshops and evolved into an anthology collection: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother
Please sign in here to find out more about our discussion and to sign up to join us on this interesting and informative call.
Date: June 7, 2012
Time: 4 PM PDT 5 PM MDT 6 PM CDT 7 PM EDT
Becoming a Memoir Author—Learning to Share What You Know—aka “Marketing”
Oh no, the “M” word! Too often writers and artists have a negative attitude about sharing, marketing, and publicity—but why? Don’t you want people to read your work? Wouldn’t you like to sell your book?
I know that for some of you, the idea of marketing—gasp—is a difficult challenge to put your mind around. For one thing, it’s different from that juicy creative encounter with words on the page that we writers love.
In the early stages of writing your memoir—a deep phase of creative encounter—you need to stay focused on your writing, and that’s good!
Some of you may already have started a blog and/or think about how to market your book
“Marketing” can seem like an adventure into a foreign land, but it actually can be user friendly.
Let’s look at ways you can see this differently.
- You have a desire to share your message—when you write a book, you are writing to an audience, you are delivering a message. What is the message that you are passionate to share?
- There are people that would benefit from reading your book—who is your audience? Why do they need to read your book?
- Perhaps your memoir is a legacy, with personal and public history seen through your eyes. A legacy can be interesting to more than the immediate family. Everyone can learn something from your legacy. What do you want to teach people when they read your story?
I understand the dilemma that many artists and writers have about selling their work—and it’s how I used to feel. I was embarrassed to let people know I had a book to sell, or a membership at NAMW. I intrusive, almost as if it were rude to tell people about it. For several years, wonderful business consultants who had heart and good business ideas in balance taught me that if I had something valuable, then people will WANT to know about it!
Then a few months ago I learned about Lynn Serafinn and her book The 7 Graces of Marketing. I downloaded it and in those pages met a kindred spirit who spoke to me in the language of a creative artist because she is an artist herself. She spoke here at NAMW twice as a teleseminar presenter then as a guest at our 2012 Telesummit.
I discovered permission to be happy and less conflicted sharing my writing and tidbits of wisdom. Because of that inspiration and all I’ve learned as an author, I’m attending her 7 Graces Global Conference in London in two weeks! For three days, I’ll be able to tune into the 7 Graces of sharing with spirit, with a full heart, and help my writer friends learn how to do the same. Stay tuned and I’ll be letting you know what I learn there.
Lynn is offering a special low fee simulcast in cast you aren’t able to get to London this month. Learn about her offerings below.
Memoir Writing Teleseminar—How Using Personal History Methods Can Benefit Your Memoir
I’m happy to have as our June Member Teleseminar guest Dan Curtis. He is the author of the blog Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian. Personal historians are great companions to memoir writers because they can help to unlock stories that will enrich you memoir. When you’re able to interview family members and friends who have been involved in your life, you can capture direct quotes, illuminating memories, and new points of view about the same events. Personal history is alive, not a dry, already digested story.
There are many books that draw upon personal history and research to create a memoir that focuses on documentation and a story built upon the research, but my favorite is Family Romance: A Love Story by John Lanchester. The book begins with the author’s current time frame as he lets us know his whole identity has been brought into question by documents he found after his mother’s death. With that enticing beginning, we are off and running through several generations of his story told in the point of view of each person, as if we were there in 1895 or 1916. It’s a creative way to tell the stories of the generations, and a tour de force of weaving, sorting, research, and storytelling.
Please join Dan and me for a discussion on how personal history can illuminate your memoir.
Date: June 15, 2012
Time: 11 AM PDT 12 PM MDT 1 PM CDT 2 PM EDT
Click here for more information.
Roundtable Discussion July 12—Nina Amir talks about How to Blog a Book.
Member Teleseminar July 27—Albert Flynn DeSilver, author of the amazing memoir Beamish Boy, and poet laureate of Marin County, California, will discuss Creativity and the Transformational Power of Writing.