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.

Memoir as Graphic Novel

How can a graphic novel be poignant? I mean, aren’t we reading “the funnies”? (as my grandfather would say about newspaper comic strips). In the United States, “comics” are often considered “low brow” or popular mass entertainment, whereas in trade publishing, the term “graphic novel” refers to material that would not be considered a novel if produced in another medium. It is also sometimes used to create a distinction between works created as stand-alone stories, in contrast to collections or compilations of a comic book series published in book form.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

In Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home, she tears out a strip from her rich and multi-layered literary life and invites us to peer in to the Victorian house where startling secrets were kept. Bechdel’s young-adult protagonist wrestles with potent truths about herself alongside dizzying family revelations and spins these painful findings in artful (sometimes hilarious) ways.

Much like John Barth’s Welcome to the Funhouse, Bechdel takes on excruciating themes for such a short work of writing. With “page-turning” plotting commonly associated with more traditional genres and subgenres of classic and contemporary storytelling, Bechdel’s Fun Home inscribes itself deeply into its readers.

I now understand why my family guest, Mikael Rudolph, could not put down Bechdel’s book until he was finished reading it. Before his visit, I thought graphic novels were “graphic” as in “graphic violence” or “graphic porn.” Not that these themes are wholly unrelated to Fun Home but Bechdel’s courageous storytelling, not the book’s images, is what give readers the biggest jolt.

Publisher Comments:

This breakout book by Alison Bechdel takes its place alongside the unnerving, memorable, darkly funny family memoirs of Augusten Burroughs and Mary Karr. It’s a father-daughter tale pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel’s sweetly gothic drawings and—like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis—a story exhilaratingly suited to the graphic memoir form.Meet Alison’s father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family’s Victorian house, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter’s complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned “fun home,” as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift…graphic…and redemptive.

About the Author

Alison Bechdel has been a careful archivist of her own life and kept a journal since she was ten. Since 1983 she has been chronicling the lives of various characters in the fictionalized Dykes to Watch Out For strip, “one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period” (Ms.). The strip is syndicated in 50 alternative newspapers, translated into multiple languages, and collected into a book series with a quarter of a million copies in print.
Order Fun Home HERE.

Why Do I Resist Getting Started Writing My Memoir?

LIFE Magazine (1922)

Why Do I Resist Getting Started Writing My Memoir?

1. Writing about yourself often brings forward lots of uncomfortable feelings.

2. Sharing your life story brings you face to face with all your demons and worst fears.

3. It’s common to doubt that there’s an urgent need for the world to hear what you have to share.

4. Thinking that what you’ve created won’t be respected or valued if you bring it into print.

5. Unrelenting self-criticism stops you (and most of us). You judge everything you are writing so harshly in-the-moment that you shut down and never get anything on paper. Remember, no first draft means no final draft (or publication).

6. Feeling that “it’s all been said before.” No one likes feeling exposed as lacking originality. But, the truth is, no one sees the world through your eyes but they’d like to; so get started now.

How Do I Get Unstuck?

1. Identify the reader that you want to reach with your story. What do you want her/him to know?

2. Start sharing stories from your heart not your head (work to connect rather than impress your reader).

3. Dorothy Allison encourages us to “think of the thing you’re most afraid to share and start your story right there.” I, too, find that what is most embarrassing is most universal. I’m convinced readers want to identify with you…this really works.

4. Show events to your reader, don’t tell them to your diary (or daily log). Think in terms of sharing scenes that mattered to you from your life not facts. People care about meaning making not precise names, dates and places. As Margaret Atwood says, “A diary is meant for an audience of one.”

5. Use pictures from your past (at any age) no need to start at the beginning of your life, go to what moves you and you will draw the picture for your reader—it’ll move her/him, too. Goosebumps on my arms are my gauge that I’m speaking from the heart in an authentic or vulnerable way.

6. Let your first draft be uncensored. Keep writing. Go for bulk or poundage. Keep in mind the fact that your inner-8th grader knows how to convey your story in very clear and simple ways.

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation 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 choose.

Two Memoir Writing Contest Announcements

First, are you looking for a great contest to enter? Lynn Goodwin just sent me a notice about her memoir (and fiction) contest. She wrote:

Give this contest a try, what do you have to lose?

“Writers can never have enough opportunities to share their work. We look forward to reading your best prose.”


You have just more than a month to enter — plenty of time to write a new piece or to polish a vignette you’ve been working on.

Second, Kendra and I want to remind you about our March memoir writing contest with entries due March 31. This year, each of our contests features something about the coming month — the month in which we announce the winner(s). That means our March contest is featuring April — anything about April that you’d like to write. It might be April Fools Day or Easter or spring showers, or your birthday or…

Write like an 8th grader:

For example, I remember April Fools Day when I was a child. My father always fixed coffee in the morning. It was part of his ritual. He then took a cup to my mother who soon afterwards launched into the day’s activities. But for that little bit of time, I could join him in the kitchen and have him all to myself. One April 1, I thought up the clever idea to say to my father: “Daddy, Daddy. There’s a spider in your coffee.” The first time, he looked at the brewing coffee, and said, “Where?” I jumped up and down saying, “April Fools Day.” Lacking imagination, the next year, I did the same trick. He once again looked around expressing concern as if I had him totally fooled. His willingness to reenact this scene for several years (probably more than I want to acknowledge) was pure Daddy. He loved people and gave me unconditional love not just on April 1 but every day.

Perhaps you have a special memory of a day in April from your past. You’ll find all the contest rules on: http://womensmemoirs.com/contest. Be sure to submit your entry by March 31.

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.

“How do you make ‘the big bucks’ writing a memoir?” ~ client

Town Idiot

The answer? Be Charlie Sheen! To make “big bucks,” you need not be talented, a writer, or a brilliant marketer. You need to be Charlie Sheen.

Charlie Sheen has been getting more air time recently than the president of the United States, the conflicts in the Middle East and the winners of the Academy Awards. Combined.

The first day of March (on the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese occupation in 1919), Charlie Sheen has been shopping a book deal — the starting bid $10 Million!

Charlie Sheen tells TMZ he’s writing a tell-all book about life on the set of “Two and a Half Men“—with details about what led up to the final implosion—and he wants at least $10 mil for the publishing rights. He says, “I want the world to know what really happened behind-the-scenes of the show during his 8-year run … the good times and the bad … and he plans on naming names—including co-stars.

What is with human interest in stars falling? Why are we fascinated with people who have gone out of control (in terms of their judgment)?

Silly stories about Charlie…


Let’s think of other reasons to write a memoir… see my articles published on EzineArticles.com

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.

Writing Your Memoir From Vulnerability

DESCRIPTION of Shani Raviv’s Being Ana: a Memoir of Anorexia Nervosa

“I passed by the full-length mirror on the wall near the door. I caught a glimpse of a very thin girl with dead, straight, long, dry peroxided hair and a skimpy outfit like a whorish doll. I turned sideways to look at her. I saw a child. I saw a witch. I saw a dumb blonde.
It took a few seconds for my mind to register that the girl in the mirror was me. I looked her up and down. I was thin, blonde and tanned and I was still not happy.”
Being Ana is the story of one young woman’s fight to find strength in vulnerability, truth in her identity and meaning in being herself.
Shani Raviv is a struggling adolescent living in an eccentric, all-female, diet-free household in South Africa. At age fourteen, belonging to a girl clique, she gets hooked on a system of counting calories that traps her inside a crazed mind.
Over the next decade, Shani embarks on an unholy pilgrimage: from aerobics addict to Israeli soldier to rave bunny to wannabe reborn, she tries to find self-worth in sex, everlasting happiness in drugs and alcohol, comfort in cutting, and above all, salvation in starving.
A spiritual epiphany one night awakens her to the fearful realization that she has lost her sense of self to Anorexia (Ana). Shani has to decide whether to surrender and risk losing Ana-which was all she knew-to go in search of nourishment and her true self in a sane and sober world.

“I feel that the need to provide an intimate look into an anorexic mind has never been more crucial than it is now. As eating disorders reach pandemic proportions, anorexia nervosa is gaining a reputation for being a legitimate psychiatric disorder,” Ms. Raviv says. “Anorexia is much more than a diet gone wrong, a coping mechanism, an addiction or a girl’s vain attempt to perfect her image; anorexia becomes your life, your vocation, your ugly truth. However, choosing to surrender and seek help is a decision that can lead to full recovery.”

Shani Raviv is the author of the recently published, Being Ana: a Memoir of Anorexia Nervosa. Ms. Raviv is a South African/Israeli freelance writer, columnist and copy editor who has written for leading South African newspapers and magazines. She lives in Seattle, WA and leads creative writing and mini-memoir writing workshops and offers readings and talks for “being Ana.”

See 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.

Does Playing Have Anything To Do With Writing?

Playing has everything to do with good-enough writing. If we can’t start, we’ll never finish. Thus, I make writing anything into a game because I have a fairly simple kid within me who likes games and will take on any dare. I’ll say, “Hey, I dare you to write a really crappy version of that assignment you’ve been given (or have given yourself)!”
“Your brain is most intelligent when you don’t instruct it on what to do”
~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Seriously, without fail, this invitation provokes me to give it a try. Why? Because I can’t fail at producing a really crappy version of anything and I hate to fail. What’s more, if there’s no version to work with, there’s nothing to share with the world (via publishing).

Such tricks (and their inevitable treats that follow) may get even the stuffiest intellectuals down on the ground with paint on their hands. When writing has no more at stake than finger painting, we’re all a bit more willing to throw ourselves into the game of creating. I know; I’ve been using this trick on myself since 1985 (graduate school at Princeton Seminary).

“I can’t write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.” ~ Walter Raleigh, Sr.

Keeping your writing simple isn’t done just for you to get something out and down on paper, it can save your reader a lot of hassles. Consider this: if you cannot say what you mean in one page, you may need more time to keep writing in your journal (or on those pesky scraps of paper). Ask your inner writer, “What am I trying to share with my ‘just right’ reader?”

“Elevator speeches” can help, i.e., can you talk about your book project in the time it takes to go from the 1st floor to the 9th floor of a building? Using such a facile technique doesn’t mean the book will be thin soup for the reader, rather, they’ll have a sense that you’ve been working with a clear head and have a strong sense of where you will be taking them on their reading expedition.

Another trick I’ll use to stay connected to my reader is to keep in mind (as my imaginary audience) an intelligent and curious 8th grader. If I cannot connect with her, hold her attention, interest her, or help her flourish in a way that she’ll understand, then I’ll be missing most readers all together.

As a university professor and an academic writer from 1993-2005, I have developed lots of methods to impress my competition (the few readers of academic journals who love to find logical holes in other people’s arguments). While my skin got thicker every year, I lost my capacity to relate to my ideal readers.

Now, I write to connect, not to impress. My recommendation to you is this: “Have a non-academic friend read your book, preferably a teenager who loves to read. She or he may be your best test-reader and will offer you the most helpful feedback!” Of course, if you want further guidance and even more simple tricks-of-the-trade, give me a call.

Jennifer Manlowe, PhD is an author, educator, writing and publishing coach with over 20 years of experience helping people express themselves in ways that bring joy, self-sufficiency, good pay and a sense of contribution. She loves hearing from readers and writers and is eager to support them as they launch their creative work in the world!

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.