We all have a story to tell whether we publish it or keep it for just ourselves…

Memoir Writing Can Inspire, Illuminate or Entertain

“Everyone, at one time or another, has wanted to express his or her story. Writing a memoir to read privately, share with family or friends, or publish is an emotionally satisfying way to gain perspective on your experiences while sharing your unique voice.”

Read more from Personal Tales here.

The above quote comes from the daily inspiration found at dailyom.com

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Call today to set up a 30″ complimentary sample session to see what we might create together: 206.617-8832 or design your own package.

Good Readers Make Great Writers

"Summer Reading" Jennifer Young

My author friend and writing tip blogger, Mary Clare, urges her clients to “use the summer months to read a lot.” I find myself hovering over my keyboard in the winter months as my favorite form of hibernation. I’m fairly certain that I’m not alone here in the Pacific Northwest.

But, in the summer months, my favorite writer friends and I use beach time as a way to catch up on all the reading we missed all winter. If you’re like me, these include the books collecting dust by on my bedside table.

From June 1st until Labor Day, I find it helpful to read books in my favorite genre, memoir (given that I’m Your Memoir Mentor and Writing Coach!).

If you’ve gotten halfway into writing your manuscript and feel stuck, choose books that’ll kick start your imagination—it works.

Just yesterday, I recommended to one of my most prolific clients that she read the very last chapter of Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club. Why would I do such a thing? My client is finishing up her very last chapter of her memoir-like novel and wants to bring it to a close with a bang not a whimper (a la T.S. Eliot). If I were her tennis coach, I’d recommend she play with the best to improve her game.

Mary Karr’s first memoir (and the two that followed) blasts her reader with truths unimaginable in the last 15 pages. Why not learn from the great writers working in your genre?

‎”I read hungrily and delightedly, and have realized since that you can’t write unless you read.” ~ William Trevor

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832 or pick a package.

For Whom Am I Writing A Memoir? Does it Matter?

Think about your reader; she'll thank you.

“Your diary is meant solely for a reader of one.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Writing a memoir can be liberating, perhaps even illuminating for you as well as your loved ones—even if your story is news to them. It can be a poignant way to reflect on your life up until this present moment. But, unless your writing from life is a diary, don’t forget to think about your audience, your future readership. Ask yourself, “For whom am I writing this memoir?

In Faith Born of Seduction, my first published book, though not a formal memoir, I chose to use my life experience as the lens to read the lives of other women—the ones just like me—who had been struggling with weight, food, body image and religion (spiritual issues) after experiencing domestic and sexual violence. These were concerns of mine and after attending so many support groups for one or the other issue (food and religious imagination, abuse and body image, etc.), they all seemed to come together again and again. I had to write about this crystalization AND still, I was afraid of “outing” myself and my upstanding, Roman Catholic family. Like the nine women I interviewed, I decided to remain anonymous. For some of the authors I work with, remaining anonymous feels to be the wisest choice. Why? Whether it’s true or not, some authors choose this kind of protection because of one or more of the following concerns:

1. They’re on the run.

2. The unveiling the truth of their experience makes them feel vulnerable.

3. They’re not ready to deal with the repercussions of their disclosures.

4. They’re ashamed of their past experiences and/or the unskillful choices they’ve made.

I came out of the shadows in my second book, Loving Life As It Is. I published that one myself. Those stories were my own and drew from my experiences within the institution of marriage, my audience was other people like me…people—probably women who peruse those self-help aisles in bookstores—who felt like fools for getting married when anyone in their right mind would not have made the same mistake. In this recollection, I kept in mind an anxious reader who might want spiritual and philosophical support because the only free support groups available to them seemed to be found in churches or 12-step groups—ones fraught with god talk. Because I was a philosophy professor who looked at psychology and gender issues within world traditions, I had ample material to guide women to think outside the cultural traditions that may have led them to make self-abandoning mistakes in partnering.

My third book that held a memoir-like framework is called Cracking Up: A Letter to My Nieces. It was meant to be a sardonic warning to girls raised with strict “good Catholic girl” mandates. That my nieces may never be the actual readers of this book, doesn’t diminish the utility of having them in mind. The majority of girls and women will find themselves in those pages whether they are as “liberated” as Lady GaGa or as conservative as Ann Coulter (sometimes called “Beltway Barbie”).

My fourth book, Polishing the Mirror, was also a book for which I used the lens of my (midlife) life after job loss to support others feeling similar horrors of confusion and existential despair. I I figured cultivating calm, stilling thoughts, dusting off social conditioning, and letting go of worry about the future certainly couldn’t hurt t before “going out there” to trade your talents for pay. It offers about 90 days of techniques and clever questions to help the reader uncover hidden passions, psycho-social temperament and natural talents, which, in turn, give them an increasingly sharp focus for going forward. I continue to find these methods helpful and still share them with my clients. Again, the reader’s benefit has been my priority—of course I like to test the benefits myself first.

I’m fairly sure my readers have been glad to have been considered so important to me. Thinking of my writing as a missive for them continues to guide me when I feel like I’m losing focus or forgetting the purpose of the book that I had in mind originally. I encourage you, memoir writer, to think about them not just for them but for yourself.

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832 or pick a package.

“Never abandon the book, no matter how much we advance technologically.” ~ Patti Smith

Just Kids, rocker Patti Smith’s memoir about her relationship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and the artistic and political scenes of New York City in the 1970s, won the National Book Award for non-fiction Wednesday night.

Rocker Patti Smith

Read more HERE!

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832 or pick a package.

Will A Memoir about Social & Gender Justice Sell? Should Profit Concerns Stop You?

How could Two and A Half Men be popular (#1 sitcom) and The Roseanne TV show remain off the air? Roseanne Cherie Barr (born November 3, 1952) answers this question in New York Magazine (below):

“Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in, and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you. Based on Two and a Half Men’s success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. Charlie Sheen was the world’s most famous john, and a sitcom was written around him. That just says it all. Doing tons of drugs, smacking prostitutes around, holding a knife up to the head of your wife—sure, that sounds like a dream come true for so many guys out there, but that doesn’t make it right! People do what they can get away with (or figure they can), and Sheen is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the “culture.” Where I can relate to the Charlie stuff is his undisguised contempt for certain people in his work environment and his unwillingness to play a role that’s expected of him on his own time.

“But, again, I’m not bitter. I’m really not. The fact that my fans have thanked and encouraged me for doing what I used to get in trouble for doing (shooting my big mouth off) has been very healing. And somewhere along the way, I realized that TV and our culture had changed because of a woman named Roseanne Conner, whom I am honored to have written jokes for….”

Read more here under the New Yorker Essay called: AND I SHOULD KNOW

Award-Winning author, Feminist/Working Class Comic and TV icon, Rosanne Barr

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832 or pick a package.

Barr now lives in Hawaii, where she farms macadamia nuts. She has a new book, Roseannearchy (Gallery; $26), and will return to TV in Roseanne’s Nuts, a Lifetime reality show.
To wit (according to Wikipedia): Besides being a best-selling author, actress, comedian, TV producer and Director, Roseanne Barr is a Macadamia Nut mogul in Hawaii. Barr began her career in stand-up comedy at clubs in Colorado in the 1980s. Her big break came in 1987 when she was cast in her own sitcom, Roseanne. The show was a hit and lasted nine seasons, from 1988 to 1997. Barr won both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work on the show. In addition, she has won six People’s Choice Awards, three American Comedy Awards, a Kids Choice Award, a GLAAD Media Award, and the TV Land Innovator Award. Barr starred in the film She-Devil (1989) and had a voice role in Look Who’s Talking Too (1991). In 2004, she voiced one of the main characters in the animated film ”Home on the Range. After her sitcom ended, Barr launched her own talk show, The Roseanne Show, which aired from 1998 to 2000. She later returned to stand-up in the mid-2000s.

Memoir Writing Contest deadlines and themes for 2011

We announced our 11 memoir writing contests for 2011 in our blog post on January 7. Since many people come directly to this Contest tab on our website, we are repeating the information here. We are quite excited about this year’s contests and look forward to receiving your contest entries. As you’ll see, the themes relate to the months but can be interpreted in many ways. We are always open to creativity.

As we like to say, “You can’t win unless to take the first step to enter.” Sometimes submitting to a contest means moving outside our normal comfort zones. However, we invite you to do just that. Share you stories with others.

By now there’s only a few more contests for memoirists via our site.

Memoir Writing Contest #5 for 2011: Deadline is May 31, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Theme: Remembering Junes of the Past. Contest entries might focus on celebrating Father’s Day. Did you and your siblings get or make your father a special gift or meal? Did Father’s Day have any special traditions when you were young? What about Father’s Day celebrations as an adult? In most states, June represents the end of school, an occasion marked with joy by children but not necessarily by all adults. All types of memories are welcome here. Father’s Day this year, by the way, is June 19. The winner(s) will be published in June.

Memoir Writing Contest #6 for 2011: Deadline is June 30, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Theme: Independence Day. You might take this topic literally or figuratively. Let your mind wrap around a special July 4th and tell us about it. Or, you may have your own story of independence from a bad job or a bad marriage. Focus your story on independence. The winner(s) will be published in July.

Memoir Writing Contest #7 for 2011: Deadline is August 31, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Theme: Labor Day. This topic is meant to expand rather than restrict your creativity. You might have a story for a specific Labor Day. But you can also consider when you were in labor with your first child or when you were first in the labor force or going back to school right after Labor Day. The winner(s) will be published in September.

Memoir Writing Contest #8 for 2011: Deadline is September 30, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Topic: Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. As you may know by now, Halloween is Kendra’s favorite holiday. Our Rosie the Riveter bandana is always popular to create an easy and inexpensive and EMPOWERED look for a Halloween party or even for handing out treats to the children who ring your doorbell. Send us your story of a Halloween costume or Halloween party. Maybe you’ll recall the excitement of going out trick or treating with your parents or when you first took your child for the candy walk. The winner(s) will be published in October.

Memoir Writing Contest #9 for 2011: Deadline is October 31, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Theme: Gratitude. This is a special topic. Thanksgiving is a time to consider all that we are grateful in our lives. No matter today’s circumstances, we can still express gratitude for friendships or kindnesses or health or family or co-workers or surroundings or music or … Write to express your gratitude. The winner(s) will be published in November.

Memoir Writing Contest #10 for 2011: Deadline is November 30, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Topic: December Holidays. Stories of the holiday season are an important part of our experience base from childhood through adulthood. Although we have both sad and happy memories of earlier times in our lives, let’s focus on happy or poignant moments for the November 2011 contest. The winner(s) will be published in December.

Memoir Writing Contest #11 for 2011: Deadline is December 31, 2011. Memoir Writing Contest Topic: Writers’ New Year’s Resolutions. This contest is different. Send us your New Year’s resolutions and we’ll publish a collection of them. Inspire yourself with your resolutions and we’re share them with others. Before December 31, 2011 brings the year to an end, be ready with your writing goals for 2012. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know if you got there? Resolutions will be published in January 2012.

Tips for Writing Memoir Contest Entries:

1. About 1000 words but we accept fewer and greater.

2. Copy your entry into the text of an email to: Matilda@womensmemoirs.com (WomensMemoirs.com). We can accept .doc files but it is easier for us to take your entry from an email. Do not submit .pdf files.

3. Attach one or more .jpg or .tif images of your photos. We can re-size them if we publish your story so you don’t need to worry about that.

4. Remember that you are submitting a story. This means that there needs to be a turning point or a consequence or a life lesson learned — not just a string of events.

5. Include details from the five senses, when appropriate. They help to involve readers in the story.

Read more about this HERE!

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832 or pick a package.

Is all memoir, by definition, self-involved?

mirror, mirror on the wall,
who’s the fairest of them all?

When Luca Spaghetti (yes, that’s really his name) was asked to show a writer named Elizabeth Gilbert around Rome, he had no idea how his life was about to change. According to Gilbert, Luca became her “guardian angel” and was determined that his city would help her out of her personal crisis.

Spaghetti’s memoir Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome expounds on several “fish-out-of-water” moments while visiting the United States.

It culminates with the episodes in Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, told from his side of the counter and, without a doubt, is a book that fans of Eat, Pray, Love will relate to as its companion. But, to pick up his book in hopes of reading a compelling, stand-alone memoir will surely disappoint.

Some readers might think Luca Spaghetti should stick with what he knows rather than broach the world of writing memoir. After all, he knows a lot about a lot of other things. He was born and lives in Rome. He loves Roman cooking, American music, and the Lazio soccer team. Before embarking on his own travel memoir in America, he was a practicing accountant. As the work reveals, this memoir is his first attempt of writing a book.

There are more than a few of us who would not be called “eat, pray, love” fans.

I have often asked myself, “Is all memoir, by definition, self-involved?” Sam Anderson offers us a brilliant review of Luca’s book in contrast to Gilbert’s. Anderson wondered if reviewing such a book might be too strange, i.e., writing about a book that’s about the experience of being in another book that was all about the experience of writing a book, “the whole thing might collapse under the weight of so much self-reflection.”
I’m convinced Anderson’s review will offer readers (and would-be memoirists) several points to consider when reading/writing in this genre.

Sam Anderson’s recent New York Times article Eat, Pray, Love, Rinse, Repeat claims, “If novels are mirrors held up to nature, memoirs are mirrors held up to mirrors. Gilbert has a thing for mirrors. At one point, in the world’s greatest pizza shop in Naples, she turns to her reflection and whispers, solemnly, “Thank you.” This isn’t a flaw; it’s what makes the form [of memoir] great, at least when it’s properly done.

“We know, in this life, nothing but selves—our own and others’ projections, endlessly multiplying, coming at us from every direction at once. Memoir is the most direct form of capturing that complexity.

“Gilbert more than other memoir writers, has managed, somehow, to push the genre’s built-in self-involvement to a whole new level. The truly special thing about Eat, Pray, Love is not its humor or its wisdom or its perky invocation of “exotic” local color—all of which are real, and often enjoyable. It’s that it is a completely inescapable vortex of recursion: a self-generating, self-sustaining, self-replicating machine of perpetual self-reference.

“It feels practically avant-garde in its determination to pull itself out of its own belly button. Its cover should have been an M.C. Escher painting of Jorge Luis Borges riding on a snake eating its own tail.”

Read more of Anderson’s review HERE.

Want to write a different kind of memoir? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832 or pick a package.