Secrets Lies and Scandals Behind Closed Doors
Challenges with Family and Truth When Writing A Memoir
A Memoir Writing Guide from NAMW
New for 2017 is Secrets Lies and Scandals Behind Closed Doors, the National Association of Memoir Writers guide to uncovering and dealing with family secrets and lies. This new guide deals with writing a memoir and truth telling in documenting your life’s story. When you set out to shake the family tree, use this guide to provide motivation and help you to keep going along the way.
To get started, download your copy here.
Breaking Silence Teleconference – Writing The Truth in Memoir
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 how shame can help to silence our voice. We call the voice that creates writer’s block the ”Inner Critic,” but at the core of the Inner Critic is doubt and often it’s shame. 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.
The talented and courageous presenters of this conference have worked with layers of shame to be a champion of writing the truth in their writing, teaching, and publishing. They have helped many writers find their voices and get their unique and important stories of love, suffering, courage, and trauma out into the world.
Writers need to grow beyond and write past the silencing they have received throughout their lives, a silencing that keeps us from writing our stories, from telling our truths. During this daylong event, the presenters will talk about how shame silences us, and offer you permission to write the stories you have hidden, run away from, and/or denied—to yourself first, and family and friends.
The intent of this conference is to encourage writers to be vulnerable and to take their power back, not to be “small” as Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says. It’s important to find our voices and our courage to reveal, at first to ourselves, then to the larger world, the truths of our lives. At this conference, we want to use terms like “shame” in a forward-thinking way, instead of hiding it the way society encourages, as Amy Ferris, one of our presenters, has worked to do. We’re putting it on the table and looking at it head on, naming it—which is always the first step in healing and change.
We will discuss the problems we face as people who have been silenced, and how to dare to break through to a new level of Being, voice, and writing.
Confessional and (Finally) Proud of It
Sue William Silverman
In this hour, I will discuss the importance of all of our voices. How do we overcome shame and learn to be proud of our stories? How do we discover the courage to tell family secrets…or any secret that remains in darkness? As the author of three memoirs, I’ve learned that each one required me to address a different aspect of the shame inherent in speaking one’s truth. In my first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I struggled with the shame of revealing such a personal family secret as incest. In Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, I struggled with the revelations of disclosing secrets about my own sexuality. Then, in The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, I worried how my own tribe, fellow Jews, would react to a memoir of a Jewish girl who grew up wanting to be Christian. I understand the challenges that every essay, story or memoir presents and encourage a conversation about these issues. I believe there are powerful reasons for all of us to tell our stories anyway.
• We find redemption through understanding the past
• We find redemption through the organizing principles of writing
• We find redemption through the life force
• We find redemption through helping others to heal
• We find redemption through confession
Sue William Silverman’s new memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, is published with the University of Nebraska Press as part of their American Lives Series (series editor Tobias Wolff). Her two other memoirs are Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction a Lifetime television movie, and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book, Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir, won Honorable Mention in ForeWord Reviews’ book-of-the-year award. As a professional speaker, Sue has appeared on such shows as The View, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN-Headline News. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Please visit www.SueWilliamSilverman.com.
Awakening to your greatness
Amy Ferris loves inspiring people to write/right their lives. her passion is for everyone to awaken to their greatness. in order to awaken to our greatness, we must be able to look shame and fear and guilt and our deepest uglies in the eye and say, no more. writing those stories, sharing those stories, releasing those stories are so extraordinarily powerful. because once you share them tell them, release them they no longer hold you hostage. this is about transforming all of our scars into stardust, all our flaws & imperfections into glitter, and breaking-through the i am not enough syndrome.
You will learn:
1) that you do in fact have a story that will set you free
2) that you don’t need to be a writer to tell or share your story
3) that you are not alone in your shame, guilt, fear, worry, sadness.
4) that the smallest detail can become an entire book
5) writing/righting your truth takes courage, and courage comes from standing up and saying: this is me, and i am enough
Amy Ferris is an author, screenwriter, essayist, playwright and editor. her memoir, marrying george clooney, confessions from a midlife crisis (seal press) was adapted in an off-broadway play in 2012. she has written films (mr. wonderful, anthony minghella, director and funny valentines, julie dash, director), tv, and has contributed to numerous anthologies, including the one she co-edited, dancing at the shame prom (seal press). she was guest editor-in-chief for two magazine, glossies, where she created the annual all women’s issue. amy lives in pennsylvania with her husband and two cats. she is very content on most days.
Linda Joy Myers
We have all been silenced in various ways: family rules to not air the family laundry, society’s rules to be quiet unless you have something nice to say, the rules to be “good” which means to be quiet and docile. The rules to keep the secrets in the family or risk losing their approval.
In my work with writers, I hear themes that we call the Inner Critic: “I can’t write that,” they whisper. Or “no one else knows all these things in my memoir—what will happen when they read this?” They feel embarrassed and ashamed of their story and often who they are, the life they lived. Some writers get physical symptoms from digging deep in their memories—headaches, heartaches as they drop into the mind and body of who they were in the past. It’s well known that writing helps to heal, thanks to the studies by Dr. James Pennebaker, but the act of writing for each of us is a moment to moment act of courage, an act of encounter that can free you from your silence.
Coeur, meaning heart, is the root of the word courage, and it’s our heart, our deepest truth that we must write from. Readers want to know who you are in your memoir, and to do that you need to be authentic, to draw from your deepest truths.
In this hour, we will explore what it takes to break open, to write past shame and silence and create a memoir that is heartful and speaks universally to your readers.
We will discuss:
• How to recognize the barriers that silence you
• The studies about how writing heals body and mind
• How “the rules” of silencing are imbedded in our family and social history
• How we learn shame, and how we heal it
• Techniques to help you fully encounter your memoir and write freely
Linda Joy Myers is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers and a therapist for 35 years. Her memoir Don’t Call Me Mother—A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness is a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Award, a finalist in the IndieExcellence Awards and received Honorable Mention in the New York Book Awards. She’s also the author of three books on memoir writing: The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, Journey of Memoir, and Becoming Whole. Linda co-edited the anthology The Times They Were A’Changing—Women Remember the 60s & 70s, a ForeWord Review Book of the Year finalist. Her fiction, non-fiction, and memoir pieces have been published in literary journals and online. She writes for the Huffington Post, and co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months. Linda is a speaker about memoir, healing, and the power of writing the truth, and offers editing, coaching, and manuscript evaluation for writers. Blog: memoriesandmemoirs.com
Is it possible to get over your desire to scream at certain people whose experiences have deeply hurt you? As a creative writing teacher for over 25 years, focusing on memoir and personal essay for the past 15, I have encouraged writers to overcome their fears and doubts; I’ve encouraged them to slip out of the shadows in their work, to be fearless. I’ve always believed, and have taught my students, that our deepest shame and doubt often turns out to be our greatest strength, and that our secrets can make for powerful stories that resonate powerfully with readers. So when I hit the wall as I was writing my third memoir, Desperado’s Wife, although I was stumped for a long time, I also knew I was onto something.
The story of my marriage to a man I met while he was serving a life sentence in prison, and in the decade-plus during which I fought, coped with, and survived the prison system, I came to realize a number of things: I had a desire to prove something to all those naysayers; I longed to fight back against those who had fired me from jobs, castigated me and my family; I wanted to scream at those who had turned their backs on us. But a scream never encourages listening, as it is seldom beautiful or inspiring to hear (or to read). To write a book that would resonate with others, I had to learn what was beneath that scream, to uncover what secrets I had buried under the fury. Desperado’s Wife took me a decade to write, and in that decade I learned invaluable lessons for uncovering our buried secrets, lessons I’ll share during this hour.
We will discuss:
• Paths to uncovering your subconscious agendas and how they hobble you
• How to distance yourself from fury and sorrow without silencing your deepest truths
• The power of (wise) readers as allies
• What to do about those whose opinions you fear
• How others’ stories can move you beyond (and beneath) your own doubt and shame
Amy Friedman is an author, editor, ghostwriter and creative writing teacher whose most recent books include Desperado’s Wife: A Memoir, a book that led to her appearance on the Katie Couric show and ultimately to her co-creating, with her husband Dennis Danziger, the nonprofit POPS the club (www.popstheclub.com), for high school students whose lives have been touched by prison. Desperado’s Wife is currently being developed as a television series, and Amy’s most recent book, One Souffle at a Time: A Memoir of Food and France, co-authored with Anne Willan, will be released in paperback in 2014. Amy’s articles, essays and stories have appeared in magazines, newspapers and numerous anthologies, and since 1992 she has written Tell Me a Story, a weekly story for children syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate that has spawned three books and three award winning CDs. Amy teaches memoir at UCLA Extension, The Skirball Cultural Arts Center, Idyllwild School of the Arts and in private workshops. For more see her website www.amyfriedman.net.
Writing Shame and Trauma for Publication—How to Write in the Space between What Happened and What People Can Handle
In my fourteen years in the publishing industry—eight of those as an Executive Editor at Seal Press, a women’s press that makes it a point to publish women’s issues, including works of trauma—I was honored to have had the opportunity to work with many courageous authors who risked a lot to tell their truths. It’s something you have to weather and brave; yet it feels extra hard when you’re baring your soul about issues that you’ve long kept secret, issues that took years to see the light of day.
Writing shame and trauma for publication requires some distance on the part of the writer. Many aspiring writers believe that the more outrageous their story is, the more likely it is to be published. But this is not true. I call this the “Trauma Olympics,” and I will talk about why trying to trump someone else’s trauma never makes for good writing. What matters most is your authenticity and willingness to “walk the radical edge,” as David Whyte so eloquently talks about. Where writing trauma and shame are concerned, you may experience internal discomfort, mental discord, and even physical symptoms. This is common. But unfortunately, the publishing industry doesn’t care.
If you want to publish, you have to dig deep, but you can’t be self-pitying; you have to show all, without being too graphic; you have to show the underbelly of what happened, yet remain somewhat dispassionate.
So how the hell does anyone actually do this? In this hour I’ll share successful memoirs that have done trauma and shame well, and why they’ve succeeded. We’ll also cover how to be self-aware enough in your own writing to appeal to an audience, and how to know if you’re ready for publication, and what to do if it turns out you’re not (hint: it doesn’t mean you stop writing).
In this hour you will learn:
• How to write authentically, yet keep the reader in mind
• How to walk the “radical edge”
• How to expose your deepest truths yet avoid the “Trauma Olympics”
• How successful memoirists expose their trauma and shame
• Techniques for self-awareness as you prepare for publication
Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of What’s Your Book? and How to Sell Your Memoir. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. She sits on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW). Her website was selected by The Write Life as one of the Top 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014. She lives and works in Berkeley, California.