Memoirists are the bravest of writers. In exploring the journeys of their lives, they inevitably delve into the private (and imperfect) lives of others. Not only do they worry about awkward family gatherings, they also risk claims of defamation and invasion of privacy.
Can a memoirist write about surviving abuse without getting sued by her abuser? Can a soldier write about PTSD without revealing the incompetence of commanders and therapists? Yes, but common sense and a cool head are key. Considering the tens of thousands of memoirs published each year, there are relatively few lawsuits. Claims are difficult and expensive to prove. Most targets don’t want to call attention to a matter best forgotten.
However, it’s important for memoir writers to be smart about the legal risks. They need to learn how to distinguish between the ones that are important to the narrative arc and the ones that are not.
In this session, we will cover
- The components of a defamation or privacy claim
- Some real life (and often colorful) examples
- Useful guidelines for avoiding problems
Helen Sedwick is an author and California attorney with thirty years of experience representing businesses and entrepreneurs. Publisher’s Weekly lists her Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook as one of the top five resource books for independent authors. Her blog coaches writers on everything from saving on taxes to avoiding scams. For more information about Helen, check out her website at http://helensedwick.com.