An Interview with June NAMW Member of the Month, Linda Lacey Missouri

Linda Joy: Tell us what you are writing about

Linda: I grab a memory that’s alive and wrestle it into submission! I’m writing short pieces—high points, low points, and turning points—to catch the essence and meaning of my life’s journey.

Linda Joy: Who is your audience?

Linda: I’m basically writing for my own self-understanding. However, I get an immediate thrill out of seeing my name in print. I was happy when my story about my grandparents was published this spring in The Searcher, a publication of The Southern California Genealogical Society. I called it How They Met: A Timeless Tale Inspired by a Clock.

Linda Joy: Is there anyone who does not want you to write your memoir? Why not?

Linda: One in particular! He’s my own Inner Critic who likes to interrupt the flow of writing to point out flaws or give advice. He intrudes on my efforts by saying, “These words aren’t good enough. You might as well stop. Do something of real value. This is too hard for you. Go have fun.”  My writing suffers when I let his opinion be the final word. I need to respond with, “Wait a minute. I’m not wasting my time. If you’re trying to motivate me, you’re having the opposite effect. I don’t need to be perfect. It hurts me when you comment on my early drafts. I’ll call on you when I need your critique.” The trick, however, is catching my critic before he’s moved right in and taken over.

Linda Joy: What are the most significant turning points or influences in your life?

Linda: In my 20’s I lost my brother to mental illness. With my heart broken open with grief, I was propelled into my own mental health journey. I worked with a counselor at the university to uncover my hidden needs and trust another person with my inner thoughts. She recommended I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hanna Green who wrote about her own schizophrenia. In that book I found the words to start understanding my feelings about my brother’s illness. Later, I discovered Jungian analysis where I circled into deeper layers. I kept a journal, drew my dreams, and took banjo lessons. Nature became a healing salve when I watched Darwin’s finches build nests on the Galapagos Islands. I worked as a teacher, appreciating differently-challenged children. Then, achieving my license as a counselor, I worked with children using non-verbal play therapy methods, including Jungian sand play.  Currently in private practice in Long Beach, California, I work mainly with adults.  With courage, they recover their authentic voice.

Linda Joy:  What books do you value?

Linda: I consider my stuffed shelves of books as part inspiration, part companion. I dip intuitively in and out of mostly nonfiction books, psychology, memoir, and poetry. I’m rereading The Women We Become: Myths, Folktales and Stories About Growing Older by Ann G. Thomas, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller, Lessons in Becoming Myself , a memoir by actress Ellen Burstyn, The Healing Imagination, the Meeting of Psyche and Soul by Ann and Barry Ulanov, The Great Failure, My Unexpected Path to Truth, a memoir by Natalie Goldberg, and Another Country, Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders by Mary Pipher. At poetry readings my senses delight in rhythms expressed through word and image. I loved hearing my favorite poets in person:  Maxine Kumin, David Whyte, Quaker Jeanne Lohmann, Mary Oliver, and Robert Frost.

Linda Joy:  What ways do you nurture your writing life?

Linda: When I go to live theater, I notice what makes a captivating scene. I watch the reaction of actors who are not talking. I look at childhood photos and Mom’s old collection of daily diaries to stimulate my memory. Before I begin to write, I often play my cedar flute. I do a movement from Tai Chi to elicit a more balanced spaciousness. The presence of my cat Katherine Gandy comforts me while I write. I value my friends for their objective critiques of my writing. A retreat at Camp Writing Bear in Santa Rosa, CA filled me with inspiration. A weekend retreat led by Linda Joy Myers in Calistoga, CA gave me time and a safe place to write an early draft of a difficult conversation with my mother. For five years I’ve attended a memoir writing class at a community college in Orange, CA. Teacher of the year Dawn Thurston gives right-on suggestions to each of us after we read our story out loud. I like Dawn’s website and blog at www.memoirmentor.org.

Linda Joy:  How did you discover NAMW & what made you decide to join?

Linda: Thankfully, I read Linda Joy Myers’ book, Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story. Then I looked her up online. Maureen Murdock was being interviewed that day for NAMW members. Because I liked Maureen’s book, The Heroine’s Journey, I joined immediately! The NAMW teleseminars bring me fresh ideas and companionship in the often isolating work of writing.

About Linda Lacey Missouri:

Linda Lacey Missouri’s fascination for creating words on paper began in earnest when she turned nine.  She used hunt-and-peck on the family’s manual typewriter.  She told simple stories and jokes.  She asked Chicago neighbors and Missouri relatives to pay 2 cents for a carbon copy of My Noodle Scribble.   She loved the challenges of being editor in chief of her high school newspaper and assistant press officer for an Anglican society in England.  She taught a university extension course in Decisions through Journal Writing and considers herself a reporter, never a writer. One story at a time she is beginning to redefine herself as a writer.

To contact Linda Lacey Missouri, see the article she wrote at www.junginoc.org