Can You Complete Your Memoir If It’s Fueled by Anger?


Judy Golding portrays the Lord of the Flies author as a man who could be a wonderfully entertaining father but also capable of cruelty towards his offspring.

In her memoir, Children of Lovers Judy Golding writes that “I need to make these two men one, the warm, embracing man I adored, and the indifferent, sometimes self-centred, occasionally cruel man, who could drink too much, could be crushing, contemptuous, defeating, deadening. This is hard.”

Speaking at the Telegraph Ways With Words festival, Judy, now 66, said that she “did not take lightly the decision to lay bare the family’s secrets.” Golding goes on to explain, “I hesitated hugely and was bolstered by very good friends, one of whom said to me every few months, Are you going to tell the truth about your father? I know that I come over as quite angry and in a sense you have to be fuelled by a sort of anger. But I certainly don’t regret it.”

Golding and his wife, Ann, were devoted to one another—to the exclusion of Judy and her brother, David. The title of the memoir is taken from the proverb the children of lovers are orphans.

“Every parent—and this is true of my parents as much as anyone—would like to do the best for their children. But it’s certainly true that their relationship did feel exclusive to me and I think to my brother as well,” she said.

“I just felt my parents looked at each other and found in each other a mirror. They were entwined in some fairytale and we were on the outside. But children normalise those things and get on with it.” Judy said of her father, who died in 1993: “He was an extremely funny man, and I remember as a child lying on the floor and my stomach hurting because I was laughing so much…. But you saw the other side too and that was his tendency to—there is a phrase for it now—self-medicate with alcohol.”

Despite that, “the overwhelming thing for me was that I just loved him,” she told the audience. “And I think, really, when all this other stuff is gone through, the biggest thing for me is writing about him and telling stories about him.”

“The benefits [of being Golding’s daughter] far outweighed anything else and one of the benefits was just living with this astonishing man.”

Read more here. review:

The Children of Lovers are Orphans Proverb Bestselling novelist, author of Lord of the Flies, William Golding was a famously acute observer of children. What was it like to be his daughter? In this frank and engaging family memoir, Judy Golding recalls growing up with a brilliant, loving, sometimes difficult parent. The years of her childhood and adolescence saw her father change from an impecunious schoolteacher to a famous novelist. Once adult, she came to understand some of the internal conflicts which led to his writing. The Golding family life, both ordinary and extraordinary, always kept its characteristic warmth, humour, complexity, anger and love, danger and insecurity. This is a book about family and parents, about lovers and their children, and about our impact on one another—for good or ill. It’s a frank and engaging family memoir by the daughter of one of our best-loved and most influencial authors.
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.

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.

Memoir can introduce to our closest friends and loved ones a bigger picture of who we are, a self they only knew in bits and pieces…

When writing a memoir, you recast yourself as a writer and as a person. It may not be the point of doing it but it surely is the outcome.

Friends of decades tell you they learned things about you they never knew. Even your spouse will register surprise, if not about information then about the context you’ve given it. My friends, anyway, did that after they read Faith, Interrupted, and so did my wife. With her, it was the degree to which I miss the faith that dominated my life (happily, for me) until I went away to college and for more than a decade after.

Eric Lax, author of "Faith Interrupted"

Reading Faith, Interrupted gave my wife a new insight into me, even 28 years into our marriage. This surprised me and made me realize that we tell our stories in bits and pieces, and so often they don’t coalesce into a whole narrative.

Read interview (in full) HERE.

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation via email:  If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.

Who Has Guided Your Life As A Writer? Do Writers Need Mentors?

Zen Practitioner and Straight-forward Writer's Guide

“We are here; we are human beings; this is how we lived; how writers must think. Our details are important.” ~ Natalie Goldberg, author and Zen practitioner

Natalie Goldberg (born 1948) is an American author and is best known for a series of books which explore writing as Zen practice. Goldberg lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

See Goldberg’s Downloads and Books:

Chicken and in Love (1979)
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986)
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life (1990)
Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America (1993)
Banana Rose (1995)
Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World (1997)
Thunder and Lightning (2000)
The Essential Writer’s Notebook (2001)
Top of My Lungs (2002)
The Great Failure (2004)
Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir (2009)

A brief video interview HERE on How to Write

P.S. Not everybody loves best-selling author Natalie Goldberg as their writing mentor… some prefer a more traditional role model like Sol Stein’s, Stein on Writing.

Stein says that “In fiction, the supreme function is not to convey emotions but to create them in the reader.”

Sol Stein is considered by many to be a master editor, publisher, novelist, and writing instructor that knows what writers face when they sit down before a blank page. Several of his books offer handy A–Z reference help for common and more complicated questions: writer’s block, writing a difficult scene, preparing a manuscript for publication or submission, plotting, developing a character, and dozens of other topics, listed alphabetically in the table of contents.

Sol Stein, Editor, Author and Writer's Guide

One of his bestselling books is entitled The Magician. As an editor, his authors included James Baldwin, Elia Kazan, Jack Higgins, and many others. Stein has lectured widely on creative writing, and was given the Distinguished Instructor Award by the University of California at Irvine in 1993.

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary book consultation via email:  If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.

How Do We Know When It’s Time To Quit Being A Writer?

Let me tell you a story. I have only shared this story with one person before. It’s that embarrassing. When I was 19 years old, I decided it was time to “take things more seriously” as a writer. “Taking things more seriously” entailed dropping out of school in the middle of the semester, telling nearly no one that I was leaving, and driving up to New England (where I had grown up) so I could separate myself from all distractions and just … simply … write.

[I wrote and] printed this manuscript at a Copy Cop in downtown Boston and spent about five days editing the manuscript on paper, with a red pen, feeling very official. After transferring the edits to my computer, I reprinted it. And then … I headed for the Houghton Mifflin headquarters, right there on Berkeley Street, with several hundred printed pages tucked under my arm. I fully expected to march upstairs, speak to someone, and leave with a publishing deal. By the time I made it back home, my family and friends would all be impressed; they might even throw a party in my honor; I would never have to work another day in my life, would never have to do anything but write.

I entered the lobby of the massive building where Houghton Mifflin resides, and I asked the security guard—this griffin guarding the endless treasure of my literary future—what floor I needed to visit. Before he could supply me with an answer, a man nearby interrupted.

“Is that a manuscript?” he said.
“Yes.” I faced this man. I stood up taller.
“You can’t just take it up there, you know.”
“You need a literary agent. Did you know that?”
“Go home and look up literary agents; you need one to get published.”

Home was nearly 2,000 miles away, but I followed his advice. I went home. And it was five more years before I finally landed a literary agent. During those five years, I went through three manuscripts I thought were “definitely it” before writing The Great Lenore and realizing that “definitely it” felt a whole lot different from what I’d been feeling before. I then passed through a full year of near-misses with The Great Lenore before finally landing an agent.

A few months after I landed an agent, she decided it was time to shrink her agency, and she dropped me off at the Agent Orphanage. I began to wonder if I was being impractical. If this would ever happen. If I should just plain quit. I wondered if I was the only writer who ever felt this way.

A couple months ago, I e-mailed about 100 agents, asking them, “What is the biggest mistake writers make when querying you?” More than 50 agents responded, and after I compiled these answers and posted them on my blog, the traffic on my website exploded, and my inbox swelled with fresh correspondence. Much of this correspondence came from writers who vented about the difficulty of procuring an agent or of breaking into the publishing world. Some of these writers even made themselves vulnerable enough to wonder, right there in their email to a stranger, “Am I being impractical? Should I just give up?

During those times when I felt this way myself, I came to the following conclusion: Sure, I dream of someday publishing a novel. Heck, I dream of publishing a string of novels. I dream of these novels being well-received and widely-appreciated. But never, at any point, have I written for these reasons. These are the goals, certainly; but all along,

I have written to write. I have written because I have no choice but to write. If I ever try to quit, I’ll just come right back.

In truth, my path has probably not been so different from the one you are traveling yourself, or (you better start preparing now) the one you will travel yourself. And unless you are a masterpiece of mental toughness and emotional unassailability, you will sometimes find yourself asking that dark question: Is it time to just plain quit?

The answer, of course, is simple: Can you quit? Chances are, you probably cannot. So keep writing,

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers—they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.” ~ Sinclair Lewis

Dear Writer – because that is what you are. Whether or not you have a novel in bookstores. Whether or not the whole world has read your writing. Whether or not anything of yours is ever published, as long as you live, you are still a writer. It is part of who you are. Keep writing. It is never time to quit.

Learn how to win a free copy of JM Tohline’s novel The Great Lenore HERE.

JM Tohline is the author of "The Great Lenore" (June 2011), a work of literary fiction, which is currently available for pre-order. He spends his time writing, reading, and wading waist-deep in lakes. E-mail him at

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation via email: If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.

How Do You Find Your Voice?

“When you are developing your voice, start where you are. Let the essence of you come through, and avoid trying to imitate famous voices. Write in a natural way—that is, don’t be a writerly writer. Just get down what YOU have to say, and when you revise, tighten and rewrite for content and clarity, but let your personality shine through.” ~ Linda Clare

Subscribe to Linda Clare’s Daily Writer’s Tips HERE!

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email:  If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.

What If Your Memoir is Politically Incorrect?

Sally Ryder Brady’s memoir, A Box of Darkness, is a politically incorrect book insofar as it is full of a widow’s disbelief: “How could you, my husband of 46 years, be gay?” For the years that her husband and she lived together under the auspices (and privileges) of “marriage”, almost everyone with a job was “in the closet” unless they were activists working on Gay Rights legislation, liberation and awareness.

Sally Ryder Brady can sympathize with her gay brother-in-law, and can see with a compassionate eye almost anyone else negotiating “coming out” as gay whether they are living within a marriage or not. But, she cannot believe she could be “the last to know” in her own experience. This discovery is the pivot on which this memoir swings. Ryder Brady’s story, like many family-centered memoirs, unveils a half-century of repressed truths. Through the act of writing, she hopes to get not only her head but her heart around what she cannot at first believe.

The author is neither naïve nor does she lack cultural awareness of “the homophobic times” of her 46 year old marriage. After all, Ryder Brady is a well-educated writer, agent, teacher, and editor as well as the author of a highly successful novel, Instar, an illustrated book of adult humor called Sweet Memories, and two other books of non-fiction. The work is as honest as it is artful.

What Ryder Brady does so well is to bring the reader inside her bafflingly raw experiences after finding her husband’s gay porn when going through his things after his death. She relays her plight with uncensored candor; she’s one who feels her passionate life with a beloved, for almost half of a century, has in it many hidden rooms and unanswered questions that continue to haunt many years past the marriage’s (and her husband’s own) demise. Is her horror full of homophobic judgments? You decide.

For readers who want to understand read A Box of Darkness.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly:

“‘It’s not hard to identify my emotions. What’s hard is filling in the gaps of a forty-six-year love affair,’ confesses Brady (A Yankee Christmas series) in her account of life with longtime Atlantic Monthly Press editor-in-chief Upton Birnie Brady.

“In 1956, 17-year-old Ryder met Upton when he cut in on a dance at the annual Boston Cotillion. Feeling an immediate rapport with the dashing Harvard student (‘our bodies fit, leg to leg, pelvis to pelvis’), she harbors hopes of meeting him again. They do, and in 1962, they marry. Soon after, Brady experiences Upton’s spiraling anger and depression, and begins scavenging for insights into Upton’s character (through Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited) and proof (e.g., a cassette of Everly Brothers songs).

“The shock of finding gay pornography in Upton’s bedside table drawer, yields unexpected gifts along with pain. Readers will be captivated by Upton’s ability to resuscitate a fading antique carpet with crayons; make elegant clothing for his wife (with whom he had four children); plan and execute formal dinner parties; and dance a hypnotic merengue. Diagnosed by his therapist with narcissistic personality disorder, Upton, in Brady’s view, is both superhero and deeply flawed man; her memoir is as searing and tender as the life she describes.”

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email:  If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.