During the spring every year, I am privileged to be part of two literary events. In March in San Francisco there is an event sponsored by the Soul Making Literary Contest and Pen Women West. Winners of the fiction, poetry, memoir, and creative nonfiction read their winning entries and are congratulated on their creativity and skills. A marvelous woman named Eileen Malone organizes the contest, advertises it, and then throws a wonderful reading/party/celebration of art and creativity at the Koret auditorium at the San Francisco Main Library each year.
I am the judge and sponsor for the “Linda Joy Myers Memoir Prize,” which means that I get to read a lot of memoirs during each Christmas holiday! Many dozens of entries invite me into the hearts and souls of the writers and their families, losses, joys, and insights. It is so difficult to choose winners each time, but what a fun job! It is always an enjoyable afternoon listening to readers, some of whom fly in from the east coast, to read at the event.
Juicy creativity abounds as we listen to poetry, short stories, novel excerpts, and memoir. I think everyone attending begins a germ of a new story or poem that day. It is a very inspiring afternoon!
Each spring I am blessed to gather with writers and soul seekers at my Body and Soul retreat in Calistoga. The brilliant spring weather teases us as everyone enters the journey of writing stories and discovering transformation as the weekend evolves. The work of memoir writing—the way it works upon us—can be seen as the stories reveal layers of self and history that has been forgotten or lost along the way. Each story and sharing of story builds upon the previous ones. The room is suspended with ahas along with occasional tears as the power of the story and the witnessing that occurs when sharing deep personal truths moves us all.
By the end of the weekend, the stages of memoir writing that I often talk about are obvious and easy to identify: purging out the old by writing raw, learning how narrative structure contains and reveals; in stage three, the writers gain a new perspective about their memories and their experiences, ending with new writing, even and more resolved about the various issues that they confront through story.
Keep in mind these stages as you write, knowing that where you begin is not where you end up. It is truly a journey and a satisfying one that can change your life! We are all part of a wonderful network and connection through creativity and the written word. How lucky I feel to be part of this, and be able to do what I love!
Keep writing! Enter contests and put your writing out into the world. You will learn a great deal in the process, as you develop your writing skills even more, and you might win too!