It’s autumn, and it feels as if school has started for memoir writers, along with all the school children! My workshops have started with seven eager students in the Writing a Healing/Spiritual Memoir workshop. We had a lovely reunion after some took the summer off and we moved right into the joys and challenges of writing the truth, of grabbing memories by the throat and taking a risk to drop them on the page to turn into stories. It’s an act of faith, this writing, and a group makes it a bit easier. We support each other and talk through the tough stuff. Oh, and we laugh a lot too.
Next week I’m flying to New York, and then taking the train to Connecticut, which should be showing off its colors. The first annual National Association of Memoir Writers retreat is meeting at the Water’s Edge Resort on Long Island Sound—my first time in Connecticut and in this lovely setting.
We are so pleased to have a great group of people coming to write and learn and talk about stories all weekend. Jerry Waxler, Judy Mandel and I have been planning the retreat since March, and now it’s finally here! We asked for stories from the participants about what they are writing and what they want to take away with them at the retreat, and now we’re even more inspired! They are bringing up the Big Questions about memoir writing, and we’ll do our best to help answer them.
Some Big Questions have to do with structure—a common problem that memoir writers need to solve—after all, once you have lived the stories, it’s hard to stand back and be objective about what goes where, what to leave in and what to take out. We will spend a lot of time talking about the craft of memoir writing—what makes a great scene, the arc of the narrative, how to create characters that live and breathe on the page—even if they are/were your family. Memoir writers always need to discuss the complexities of writing the truth, and their worries about what the family will say when the find out about the memoir. We will talk about breaking the silences that stop us from writing and confronting the inner critic. We will talk about writing, and more writing and not giving up.
Another Big Question has to do with how to be published. With so many choices now, and fewer large publishers to choose from, it’s a challenge for even very experienced writers to figure out what path to take. We will discuss all the ways to be published, from self-publishing to traditional, and all the new hybrid ways in between. There will be lectures and writing groups and private mentor consultations all weekend.
Afterward, I’m going to New York to celebrate that great city, the art, the zip and jazz, Greenwich Village, Central Park, and see the Carol King musical “Beautiful” with Judy! I am also taking my laptop so I can work on the two books I’m writing, another memoir and a how-to book, title to be shared some time in the new year.
We are planning to offer the retreat again next year, so if you aren’t able to come now, we’ll miss you, but stay tuned for future announcements and early bird sign-ups.
Keep writing! We’ll send photos and news about the retreat in the October newsletter.
In the meantime, join us for our September member webinar—this time we are using the webinar format for our presentation so you can see what makes a great—and a not so great—book cover. We want to urge you to take seriously that people—and bookstores and reviewers—DO judge a book by its cover and how to avoid the pitfall of a bad cover that won’t show off your book the way it needs to be. It’s a journey when you write a book to learn the professional standards of the industry so you can shine!
September Member- Only Webinar
We DO Judge a Book by Its Cover – Secrets You Don’t Know About Cover Design with Michele De Filippo and Sonia Marsh
Friday – September 26, 2014 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT
Early Bird Pricing for Breaking Silence, and Low Low price for NAMW Members…
Breaking Your Silence Teleconference
November 14, 2014
Join us for 6 hours of amazing presentations by women who have walked the walk. The conference will be recorded if you are unable to attend. Sign up today.
If you register now, you will receive early bird pricing PLUS two bonus eBooks! This conference will address the issues that memoirists deal with constantly- how to find your voice and break the silences that plague our deep writing!
It’s time to find your voice and break your silence — and write the memoir you want to write! During this day long teleconference, we will be addressing the “secret” issue of shame for writers. We call the voice that creates writer’s block the ”Inner Critic,” but at the core of the Inner Critic is shame and doubt. Please join these amazing women who are willing to share their stories of shame, doubt, and how they have broken through and helped others find their voice. I’m so pleased to have with me at this conference Sue William Silverman, Amy Ferris, Amy Friedman and Brooke Warner.
Roundtable for October
Time: 4 PM PDT / 7 PM EDT
Experts: Mary Gottschalk and Carol Bodensteiner
Topic: The Big Decision: Memoir or Fiction?
Dear Linda, I just experienced my first ” Roundtable ” since joining. Unfortunately I’m on a satellite phone and it cut out before the question time. I’m presently writing a memoir about part of my life that involves similar aspects to Mary’s memoir. At the are of 20 I bought a boat in England and sailed it to New Zealand. After that I built another boat in the mountains of New Guinea and sailed it back to France. The whole voyage took 10 years and is a bit overwhelming to write about at the moment, being a beginner writer so I’m starting half way with the building of the second boat in New Guinea. My early life was growing up on my Dad’s little farm in rural England so, strangely my memoir involves some of Carol’s subject matter. I hope to include this as flashbacks and somewhere along the line, come up with a reason why I went adventuring.
While sailing I wrote a fairly detailed log and I wanted to ask Carol if she found her journal a bit confining to her later imaginative writing and how to branch out from it. Also, my writing has very little dialog and I wonder how important dialog is. At the moment I’m trying to write in the present tense which rules out comments on the future of places I visited (like the Somali coast). Whoops, sorry this is so long . Would appreciate any comments or advice you or your guests might have. Martin.
Sorry you weren’t able to ask your question. You can go to Carol’s website and see if there is a way to contact her about it perhaps. Some dialogue is part of story writing. It breaks up the ongoing narrative block of text, and is a part of characterization. So you might want to study up on writing dialogue. You have to decide what tense is best, and know that it’s all an experiment. If it’s your first draft, be willing to have at least 10-20 more versions, if not more than that as you learn what the memoir wants from you! I hope you join us again on our free Roundtables or consider finding further resources in the membership side of NAMW, with many dozens of helpful audios, transcripts etc. Best of luck!