Why Keep A Journal?

“Keeping a journal is the foundation of creative writing.” ~ Susan Tiberghien

Susan Tiberghien and friends

Why keep a journal? Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • To establish the habit of writing.
  • To find out what’s up with me (emotionally).
  • To capture memories.
  • To discover what I think and feel about what’s going on in and all around me.
  • To find my writer’s voice (i.e., there’s power in authenticity).
  • To take risks and experiment with my writing.
  • To plant seeds for poetry, personal essays, my memoir and memoir coaching.
“Just begin to write. Start with a date and title. Get whatever comes to mind down on paper or on your computer screen. Only buy writing on a regular basis, getting into the habit of writing, will you become a good writer.” ~ Susan Tiberghien

Why do you keep a journal?

Susan Tiberghien is an American-born writer living in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds a BA in Literature and Philosophy (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and did graduate work at the Université de Grenoble and the C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich. She has published three memoirs, Looking for Gold, One Year in Jungian Analysis (Daimon Verlag, 1997, Circling to the Center, A Woman’s Encounter with Silent Prayer (Paulist Press, 2001), and Footsteps, A European Journal, 1955-1990 (Xlibris, 2004) and numerous narrative essays in journals and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. Her new book, One Year to a Writing Life, Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft, was published in September 2007 (Da Capo, Perseus Books.)

Read more about Tiberghien on Journal Writing from my favorite blogger, Dave Hood, HERE.

One Year to a Writing Life

Looking for Gold

Footsteps on the Path

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.

How Do Writers Get Unstuck?

“There is probably no hell for authors in the next world—they suffer so much from critics in this one.” ~ Christian Nestell Bovee

If you are stuck, are you saying things like this about your manuscript?

• This has become so disorganized that the outline makes no sense.
• I can’t seem to finish.
• There’s something critical missing.
• I’ve been stuck for so long that I can’t seem to get going again.
• Every time I think about working on it, I put it off.
• I think my manuscript has great stuff in it, but I don’t know who would want to publish or buy it.
• I make strides on it once in a while, but I have trouble putting consistent time into it.

These problems are neither unique nor insurmountable. The fact is: books continue to be published every day—190,000 a year. So take heart, it’s not just you! Many people don’t know how to begin writing a book, let alone completing, publishing and marketing it.

This 190,000 figure should be taken as a rough guide because this doesn’t take into account the huge amount of books of local history, course textbooks, or other books that don’t require ISBN numbers.

Thanks to the invention of digital printing, we’re free to get just one or one-thousand copies of our own books printed, so whereas once the publishing industry was akin to an exclusive club where publishers thought they were gods, new authors, like us, can authorize ourselves.


“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie

First, you need to think about what has been stopping you from making forward progress. If you have stopped making progress on your book project, do any of these excuses sound familiar?

• I’ve lost track of the big picture. Every time I sit down to write, I get bogged down in the details and I’m not sure if what I’m writing is relevant.
• My life is full of distractions. I need someone to keep me focused and push me forward.
• I know what I know, and others have assured me that my knowledge is valuable, but I’m not sure how to pull it all together into a book.
• I need to focus on earning and don’t have time to write.
• My mate thinks writing isn’t the best use of my time when our mortgage needs to be paid, and the kids need dental work, etc.

These problems need not stop you. Published authors aren’t really any different from anyone else; they’re just audacious. People who write (or make any kind of art, for that matter) often have family and financial obligations. Think about Nabokov, the author of Lolita, et al., he had seven children and an ill wife. He did most of his writing in the bathtub (the only room in the house where he could be alone in relative quiet).

J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, as everyone knows, lived in her car and flopped on couches of various friends due to financial woes. Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison both had financial distress and children to tend to and yet, both made time to write. Morrison swears her first two books were written on her kitchen table between meals or before going off to work.

I try to remember this warning given to me by author Barbara Sher, “A dream without action will make you crazy and action without a dream is a nightmare.” Another trick that helps me get unstuck is to take the focus off myself and commit to my would-be readers. After I make the mental commitment to completing my manuscript, I feel the momentum that helps me turn my dreams (of becoming an author) into a reality.

Subscribe to my blog (up in the far right corner on this page); it’s full of tips to jumpstart your creativity. Learn new tricks of prolific writers and memoirists every week with my help. Such guidance will keep your book project at the top of your mind and inspire you to get your book done sooner rather than later. Stay inspired by reading auto/biographies and memoirs of other writers.

Still feeling overwhelmed? 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.

Embrace Your Inner Magician

“Memory is a Fickle Beast!” ~ Suze Rotolo

Rotolo, an artist and teacher, grew up in Queens. She began dating Dylan in the early 1960s, after meeting him at a marathon folk-music concert at the Riverside Church in New York City. She was 17 at the time.

Suze Rotolo and Bob Dylan

Suze Rotolo, artist, poet and teacher and Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ muse has just died of lung cancer (February 25, 2011). A beautiful writer in her own right, Rotolo has left behind a memoir where she not only reflects upon her brief time with Dylan in the early 1960s folk scene in Greenwich Village, she takes a closer look at the nature of memory. Here are a few excerpts from both her NPR interview with Terry Gross and from her memoir A Freewheelin’ Time.

“I acknowledge that memory is a fickle beast. Fragments of stories stride in and out; some leave traces, while others do not. Secrets remain. Their traces go deep, and with all due respect I keep them with my own. The only claim I make for writing a memoir of that time is that it may not be factual, but it is true….

“I see history as a reliquary—a container where relics are kept and displayed for contemplation. So much has been written about the sixties that the more distant those years become, the more mythic the tales and the time seem to be. Facts and statistics are pliable. Truth and accuracy are truly Rashomon-like. Each story is true from the teller’s perspective; the weight shifts. My decision to add my relics was not an easy one. Hindsight meddles with memory, after all, so the best I can do in writing about those long-ago years is to try to make them recognizable.

“The stories I tell are about my place within that time and about the early years that made me who I was when I migrated from Queens, New York, to Greenwich Village. The backstory has to be considered: where my family came from, who they were, and all the other bits and pieces that make a person whole. I reminisce to the best of my ability.

“The 1960s were an amazing time, an eventful time of protest and rebellion. An entire generation had permission to drink alcohol and die in a war at eighteen, but it had no voting voice until the age of twenty- one. Upheaval was inevitable. Talk made music, and music made talk. Action was in the civil rights marches, marches against the bomb, and marches against an escalating war in Vietnam. It was a march out of a time, too—out of the constricted and rigid morality of the 1950s. The Beats had already cracked the façade and we, the next generation, broke through it.

“Traveling with the past within us, we were ready to roll into the future. It has now become a historical time made up of many personal stories, songs, and sidebars. There are many reliquaries from that era in American life. This is mine.”

Read entire NPR review here.

From A Freewheelin’ Time by Suze Rotolo, published by Broadway Books.

A key feature that I find in all good memoirs shines through when the writer explores her own life through the lens of a third thing, i.e., writer’s memories, the relevance of her reflections to the would-be reader and, finally, the writer’s particular moment in time. Suze Rotolo does all three of these things.

From the back of Suze Rotolo’s A Freewheelin’ Time the readers find ample motivation to give this book their undivided attention.

“This story is rich in character and setting, filled with vivid memories of those tumultuous years of dramatic change and poignantly rising expectations when art, culture, and politics all seemed to be conspiring to bring our country a better, freer, richer, and more equitable life. She writes of her involvement with the civil rights movement and describes the sometimes frustrating experience of being a woman in a male-dominated culture, before womens liberation changed the rules for the better. And she tells the wonderfully romantic story of her sweet but sometimes wrenching love affair and its eventual collapse under the pressures of growing fame.”

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email: AuthorizeU@gmail.com.  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.

You Needn’t Be A Writing Pro to Write from Your Life

Jane Lynch of "Glee"

Jane Lynch of "Glee"

Jane Lynch of the award-winning TV show, Glee, is in the middle of writing her memoir. She says, “I’m no pro but I’ve got a story to tell.” She goes on to share more about her process of completing her manuscript and promise to her readers here (below):

“I’m in the process of writing [my book] – it’s been announced and everything, so I guess I’ve got to get it done,” Jane told a CBS interviewer named Laura. “My wife is helping me a lot. We’re sitting down and it’s just really been an amazing thing. We’re going through pictures and kind of seeing how I walked through life and hoping that it will help somebody else basically.”

“What will we learn about you that we don’t know?” Laura asked the actress.

“I’m an alcoholic,” Jane, who no longer drinks, said. “I’m a perfectionist. I’m a control freak. But, I have a lot of awareness around it these days because now I’m 50 years old and I’m supposed to have awareness. So hopefully I have a story to tell to the fellow control freaks out there!”

For Jane, hitting the five-decade mark has been sheer joy – bringing with it wisdom, love, a dream job — and she’s having “the time of her life.”

“I’m a mother — I have a 9-year-old child that [I] just inherited and an 11-year-old I just inherited and [I am in] this wonderful marriage to this wonderful woman,” Jane told Laura of her June 2010 marriage to psychologist Lara Embry.

Read more about Jane Lynch HERE.

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email: AuthorizeU@gmail.com.  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.

Trickster: An Anthropological Memoir by Eileen Kane

Eileen Kane’s experiences seem so similar to my own. I’m thrilled to see her pull so many things together in one memoir in a skillful, playful and talented-writerly way. She seems to be my kind of PRO!

I love this description:

“Eileen Kane is a professional anthropologist, with the fieldwork to prove it, but she made her mark in the world educating the rest of us shmucks, not the cognoscenti. I think that was probably more valuable to us.

“Her memoir, TRICKSTER, of her first foray into fieldwork is replete with humor, detail and wisdom. She spins the tale of a young female anthropologist venturing out with insecurity into a male dominated world, in 1964, right after her marriage, risking everything, including the cross looks from folk in her home town.”

I, too, feel my non-academic book (a self-published memoir called Cracking Up) may have helped—and entertained—more people than my academic books (published by NYU Press). Who knows?

Best to all of you memoirists out there. Keep on writing. If I can be a published writer, you can, too!


Get your 15-minute complimentary sample session now. Set up an appointment via AuthorizeU@gmail.com

Memoirs Are Rarely about Romantic Bliss or Love that Brings Contentment, but…

Here are a few to read for inspiration that have captured the more nuanced shades of the people, places and things we humans love: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers; Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogran; Geography of the Heart by Fenton Johnson; Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov; Comfort me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl; The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls; Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams.

Why are both readers and memoirists drawn to learning from broken hearts? Read more HERE.

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email: AuthorizeU@gmail.com.  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.