My memoir started out as a simple desire to share my fun dating stories as a woman in her late 50s. I had broken up with someone I still loved, and had created a ‘dating project’ to get over him and discover the best type of man and relationship for me: I set a goal of 50 first dates, had 50 dating and relationship adventures over 2.5 years, and found my partner, whom I’ve now been with for 10 years. I had a wonderful time dating and I knew that many older women did not, and I had found my partner and I knew that many women were searching for theirs, so I wanted to share dating inspiration and hope. That motivation kept me going for the 10 years it took to write the book and publish it. However, between that idea, and the book that came out 10 years later this past November, I took a lot of steps that made me a better writer and a braver woman and made the book a deeper story.
First, in order to write the story, I had to move from being a social science statistical report writer to a writer of scenes and story—I had to learn how to write memoir. And that included not only writing about the dates in compelling scenes, but about the sexuality that was part of my life and many of the dates. I also had to provide the context of the dates, which was my New Age-y world of personal growth-oriented conscious people involved in workshops, spiritual ceremonies, respectful polyamory, and sensually and sexually open communities – a context that I could barely see to write about since I was so steeped in it.
Second, even though I thought I had a pretty clear story—girl wants a boy, searches for him, and finds him—I had to shape the story into a structure that made readers want to read it and keep turning the page, including deciding how to start and end the story. I had to learn to trust myself to know the best way to tell my story.
And third, as publishing and publicity drew nearer, I had to face the fact that I was putting out a very personal story into the world, and I had to get very clear and brave about standing behind and promoting my story, which I now saw as 3 books in one: 1) an approach to dating that made it an enjoyable and successful journey of self-discovery; 2) a model of a confident woman in her late 50s enjoying sex and touch, and 3) a glimpse into that New Age-y world of personal growth workshops, spiritual ceremonies, and sex-positive communities. Becoming clear and brave showed me the power of memoir to tell the truth about our lives and how important that is.
What members will gain/learn from this presentation.
- The value and challenge of using a variety of teachers when learning to write memoir
- The need to shape a story, even when you have a good story already
- Becoming clear: Learning to trust yourself and the story you want to tell
- Finding the best beginning and end to your story
- Becoming brave: How publishing my story made me braver.
Carolyn Lee Arnold drew upon her thirty years as a social science researcher and ten years as a relationship workshop assistant to create the dating project in Fifty First Dates after Fifty. A native Californian from Los Angeles with a New England education, Carolyn found her true home in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she prepared for dating and life by attending spiritual ceremonies, working in free clinics, leading women’s backpacking trips, hiking the local green hills, identifying as a lesbian-feminist in the 1970s and ’80s, and earning graduate degrees in women’s studies, statistics, and educational research. Fifty First Dates after Fifty is her first book. She is working on her second memoir, about her lesbian-feminist years. Still a feminist, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner, one of her fifty dates. For more information, including dating resources, visit carolynleearnold.com.
Sign up below to receive Zoom access info and recording.