Welcome to all of our new and existing NAMW members and to the new subscribers to our newsletter! We love connecting with you and learning about your memoir writing life, challenges and questions.
Spring is here! Finally. It is glorious to welcome the new buds and shoots, and smell the nectar in the air! I recently drove up to Grass Valley California for the SeeJaneDo Conference—more about that in a minute, and was bathed in the sensual delights of spring—bright colors, warm air, and the sense of joy that abounds with birds chasing each other on breezes and the sounds of frogs connecting for the season.
It is a time of renewal after the exhaustion of winter and darkness, a time of welcoming the light back into our days and even our nights as the days stretch out toward the Solstice. In our writing lives, we encounter these cycles, from the darkness of a story or event, or the parched feeling we get from not writing, to feeling fulfilled again when the spring of our creativity flows and we drink from it, seeing words and images appear as if by magic on the page. That is flow, that is when we are ON!
Writing about the natural world and the specific details around us is what we call “Writing about Place.” I was in the Gold Country where there are signs about the old gold mines, there are horses grazing and Forty-Niner images, showing me the specificity of where I was in the world.
I’m so pleased to have two guests for the May Roundtable who will talk with me about the importance of writing about place—Tracy Seeley and Shirley Showalter. We all have something in common—the Midwest—but no matter where you are from, you need to include in your “book world” where you are in all the scenes of your book, and how that world of place affects you. In my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother, I often referred to the Great Plains landscape. It was a part of my soul, I was woven into it, so there was no way to write my memoir without taking the reader into that world of power and beauty. Tracy focuses on the landscapes of Kansas in her book My Ruby Slippers, and Shirley often speaks about the world of the Mennonites where she grew up. Each place is unique, each location specific and special. Be sure to join us to get more tips on how to write about place in your memoir.
I’ve always enjoyed the quote by Dr. James Pennebaker, “Writing is a way of knowledge,” and have written about this idea in The Power of Memoir and various blog posts. The quote turns me toward dreaming and imagining how writing is a way of knowledge at each step of my growth and development, and I see this path as significant for the writers I coach.
I’m pleased to continue the idea of writing as a path and a journey with Catherine Ann Jones for our May NAMW member teleseminar this month. We have a lot in common—writing is an art that unites creativity with knowledge, we know that writing will open for us amazing riches and new learning. I’m looking forward to my conversation with Catherine, and I hope that all you members tune in.
And I have to mention the excitement in the air as we celebrate our 3 year anniversary here at NAMW!
Remember–be brave, write your stories!
Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., MFT
NAMW President & Founder
We have several events and new workshops that are being planned for the coming months at NAMW that will be helpful to the development of your skills as writers, memoirists, or personal historians. You can find all the finalized events for May & June outlined below, but please be sure to visit the NAMW website often for new additions!
June NAMW Public Memoir Writing Roundtable Tele-conversation: Travel Writing & Memoir with Alexis Grant, The Traveling Writer & Elizabeth Evans, Literary Agent—FREE FOR EVERYONE, watch your email inbox for additional details, coming soon!
Monday June 13, 2011
Summer Workshop Preview: Write your Story Now: Memoir Writing Summer School–Inspiration and Craft with Mark Matousek & Linda Joy Myers—FREE FOR EVERYONE, MORE DETAILS COMING SOON!
Memoir Writing Summer School with Mark Matousek & Linda Joy Myers. Join us for a summer of Inspiration and Craft during our flexible workshop schedule of summer programs. Watch your email inbox for additional details, coming soon!
NAMW Featured Member
We are pleased to announce that Linda Hoye has been selected by the NAMW Advisory Board as the NAMW Featured Member of the month for May 2011! You can visit the NAMW website toread our interview with Lindaand watch for her guest blog post coming soon to the NAMW blog!
Congratulations, Linda! We are very proud to have you as an NAMW member!
I’m obsessed with place, where geography and human stories meet. In fact, I made my search for a deeper sense of place the subject of my memoir My Ruby Slippers: the Road Back to Kansas. I’d lived a mobile, unsettled childhood and felt disconnected from where I’d grown up, a place I’d gladly left at seventeen. But decades later, when I decided to write a memoir, I went back. I wanted to understand how Kansas had shaped who I was and to reclaim it, forging a deeper connection to my home place than I’d ever had before. In the process, I reclaimed a part of myself.
Our life’s events don’t just happen; they happen on a stage that holds not only our story but many, many others. So however we feel about a particular place in our lives, or whether the drama that unfolded there was one of joy or sorrow, the invitation in writing memoir is this: explore the personal and other meanings of your place. Doing so can not only help you locate your story in a concrete and complex world, it can help you discover its larger meanings and connections.
One place from my childhood gives a great example of how exploring a place can lead to deeper meanings. Goodland, Kansas, where my family lived when I was four and five, is a small, wheat town in far western Kansas. I remembered very little about living there, except for a few details of a park across the street from our house and the ice cream drive-in where I lost my first tooth. But one of the most emotionally charged events of my young life also happened there: we moved away in the middle of my kindergarten year. I’d longed for kindergarten, and I loved it. So my whole life, I’ve vividly remembered the sound of the car tires on the town’s brick streets, and the windows of my school rolling by as we drove out of town. I also remembered holding myself very still so that I wouldn’t cry. And I remembered the silence in the car. No one in my family spoke.
Learning about the power of creating your story and seeing yourself as a hero/heroine of your own life helps you to understand your past, your identity, and how you can shape the future. Knowing that each step your ancestors have taken has brought you to this moment where you are empowered weaves the past and present into a colorful tapestry that helps inspire the world.
There were so many ways I learned about creating positive change in the world and honoring stories at the SeeJaneDo conference this last weekend in Grass Valley, California. This organization focuses on how women can change the world, and was founded by Elisa Parker and Jesse Locks. I didn’t know much about their work, but a friend said the conference last year was amazing, and I should present workshop on memoir writing this year. I was accepted into the program, and found it energizing and transformational. Among many others, I was inspired by Nina Simons, who co-created Bioneers and Kathy LeMay, a fund raiser and so much more. Her personal story had people in tears, showing how the power of story can affect people profoundly. One of the keynote speakers was Jean Shinoda Bolen, a Jungian analyst from San Francisco whose books I’ve read and admired for over four decades. It was fantastic to meet so many women, young, middle aged, and older, and find new friends in the groups we formed.
As I looked out at those who came to the memoir workshop—a full house—I was struck by how individual all the faces were, how each person was glowing from within from the power of their story, their knowledge, and their wisdom that if shared, truly can change the world. As we spoke together, we all were woven into an ah-ha moment about the uniqueness of each story and the importance of getting our stories into the world.
I was pleased to share with them our work at The National Association of Memoir Writers, and I’m happy here to share the SeeJaneDo energy. Men were included as well, welcome as partners, supporters, and tech staff, though they had to dedicate the bathroom to 250 women!
I’m jazzed to see how many people can write their story and share it through all the various means available these days, from blogs to ebooks, to print books. As we say at NAMW: Be Brave, Write Your Stories! We all need to know who you are and what you know that will enlighten all of us. In this way, we can transform the world. We become the hero and heroine of our own lives.
When and how have you been a hero/heroine in your story?
What heroes and heroines do you know and admire? Write a story about them.
Use scenes—writing in the moment of an event—and sensual details—smell, sound, colors, and feelings—to bring yourself into that time—your hopes, dreams, body, mind, and soul quest.
Write about road trips where you came upon a magical landscape that surprised you. What state of mind were you in, and what happened when you were in the landscape?
Write about a house that was important to you. Describe it carefully. If you have a photograph of this house, write from the photo.
What happened in that house, and how did it shape you?
Professional Writers of Prescott (PWP) is pleased to announce their call for entries for the 2011 Writing Contest for Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry.
Monetary prizes will be awarded in each category for first, second and third place winners of original work, not previously published. All winners will be invited to read from their entries at the November meeting for Professional Writers of Prescott . Deadline: May 31, 2011.
When television producer, Martha Williamson, asked me to write for her hit series, Touched by an Angel, I said I preferred to make up my original stories. So she asked me to make up a few and pitch them to her. She told me that if she did not like any of my stories, she would give me a story to write. I pitched nine original stories, and the one she chose for me to write first was the only one of the nine that was inspired by an incident from my own life. I was psychic as a child and would often tune out and listen to inner music, so my teacher thought I might be hard of hearing. This diagnosis began a series of doctors and examinations to find out what was wrong with me. Of course, nothing was wrong. I was simply creatively entering into my own world. So this was the starting point for what became the episode, A Joyful Noise. It is about a little girl who hears angels singing and is sent to a psychiatrist to rid her of her voices. In the end, it is the psychiatrist who is changed by the little girl and her angels. Olympia Dukakis plays an archangel in this episode. This was one of Oprah’s favorites — she once screened a clip on her weekly television show. So, the moral is: dare to be personal.
What is the emotional personal thread from your own life which can be woven into your story? Answer this, and you will have the key to meaning for yourself as the writer as well as for the audience, who will identify with your feeling. It is no coincidence that the greatest novels and plays are often inspired by the author’s own family background. Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day Journey into Night, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, or Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel are all examples of this form of inspiration. Consider fiction no more than disguised autobiography. It need not be literally autobiographical, of course, just emotional autobiographical.
Subjectivity is necessary for all great art. Story is no exception. I will go on record and say that subjective point of view from the writer as well as the subjective response of reader or audience is the most important aspect of any book or movie. This is why sometimes our favorite movies or books are not classics, but simply something we strongly identify with. They hit a nerve. A disaster film depicting a great love story, Titanic became the best selling movie of all time (before James Cameron went animation on us). One of my favorites is Anne of Green Gables about a little girl with too much imagination. Ask yourself what is your favorite book or movie, the one you like to return to, and it may surprise you that it may not be a great classic, but simply the book or movie you love. Craft without art: it works but who cares? The audience must care. Caring sells tickets. We care by identifying with the main character, something within must emotionally connect to our own life.
Keep writing! If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a workshop, teleseminar or roundtable topic please let us know. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.orgThank you very much for your support of the National Association of Memoir Writers!
Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.
James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D.professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal
...the NAMW memoir classes with Linda Joy Myers are wonderful
I loved Linda Joy's two-hour workshop on memoir writing! She gave us such terrific information--all of which was helpful no matter what stage of memoir writing we were in. She has such an embracing style--this was not like most teleseminars I have taken, in that Linda Joy encouraged participation of the audience (she did not mute us), and no matter what participants said or asked, she always made everyone feel like their contribution or question was valued.
This tele-seminar is such an inspiration and so valuable to me expanding ways of thinking and creating…. makes me SPARKLE like Veuve Clicquot! Sharon, Thank you so much.