Author Archives: Erica

Writing Another Person

Author: Denis Ledoux

Writing another person’s memoir can be called writing biography rather than memoir. You are, after all, not the subject.

But, are there occasions when a biography can justly be called a memoir?

In my penultimate book, A Sugary Frosting / Life in a 1960s Parsonage, I used life stories that my late wife Martha Blowen had composed—and I added text. And…

I called it a memoir.

Was this appropriate?

 

How did I presume to call it a memoir and not a biography?
When you are both a story teller and a story keeper, and being in relationship with someone who is verbal— very verbal, for thirty-one years, you get to know many of her stories. A number of them you have heard not only because they were told directly to you as you went about your day—perhaps driving together into town or as you began your morning facing the woodstove sipping your coffee—but also because she told them to others in your presence. Often, details are added in this retelling or an emphasis changed for the benefit of the new audience—and, unexpectedly, you understand an angle to the story that had eluded you earlier.

Martha wrote a number of her stories, always in segments. She intended to write a memoir, but her life was cut short by breast cancer before she could realize this goal.

Wanting to compile a memoir, I collected her compositions into a manuscript and soon realized details were missing, details that I knew not only to be true to her storyline but also necessary to bring out the meaning of her story. Soon enough, I found myself adding her words that had lived within me into the narrative. These words soon contributed not only scenes and conversations, but also whole stories I had received from her. Eventually, more of the stories originated in my recall then from her composition.

 

What to do? Was it all right for me to write so extensively in the first person?
Because I have been a ghostwriter for many years, entering into someone’s sensibility is a facility that I have long practiced. A good ghostwriter is always writing in the subject’s voice—in the first person. He uses the vocabulary of the subject and he enters into the sensibility of the person whose story is being preserved.

When I wrote my mother’s memoir, We Were Not Spoiled, I used stories my mother had told me, and I used stories from memory—stories I had been part of or stories my mother may have shared at another time. But, this was decidedly different as I read everything back to my mother and she responded to the text. I was a bit of the author and a lot of the ghostwriter.

In the case of A Sugary Frosting, and My Eye Fell Into The Soup, Martha was not available to read back to.

 

The responsible take on writing someone else’s memoir
Writing in the voice of the subject has always been an energizing challenge of ghostwriting. In writing A Sugary Frosting, when I found myself writing something that fit the drama of Martha’s story as I understood it, but about which I was not certain, I would feel a tug toward what felt like “The Story,” toward something that demanded to be told. When I felt this pull, I sensed that I was being directed towards the factual, towards authenticity.

There were other times, fortunately, when I felt uncomfortable. Perhaps I was imposing my “take” on her story? I decided to leave this material out.

The bulk of the text in A Sugary Frosting presented as Martha’s memoir has been ghostwritten. I don’t think the reader will realize where the stories she wrote end and where the ones I ghosted begin. That is as it should be. A ghostwriter must be invisible—or why call us ghostwriters?

 

But is it okay? Where do I presume the authority?
For starters, I promised Martha that I would write her stories—for our grandchildren who were not yet born—and for readers. This gave me a sense of writing in her stead—and it bestowed a certain authority.

She had also said, “I trust you not to write anything that would embarrass me.” I have endeavored to use that request as a guide—and that too has given me a sense of authority to write her story.

I believe Martha would have approved of A Sugary Frosting and would easily have called it her memoir. But…

For those readers who are still unsettled, I am perfectly comfortable with your calling this a “fictionalized memoir” or a “memoir fiction”—but what I believe it to be is a co-authored memoir.

 

Writing My Eye Fell Into The Soup
After Martha’s death, I very much wanted to write an account of her illness. I knew to do that, to really do credit to the etiology of her illness, I had to go earlier in her life. I felt that her cancer–cancer was called the disease of hopelessness in the 19th century–had roots in her early family life. The influence of these years perdured into the present.

Because of this belief, I wrote A Sugary Frosting. The, having written that book, I wanted to write about the time of her illness—which was my real goal. This task was actually easier as had her voluminous journals to quote. When I combined them to mine, I had a text.

Even in My Eye Fell Into The Soup, I had to create some text. Sometimes, it was to explain an element and other times it was to create a transition from one entry to another, a transition that she had not made but which was necessary for the reader.

 

In conclusion
I have one more volume to write of Martha’s illness, and then I will be through with writing biography as memoir. I have no intention of ever writing a straight biography.

 

Bio
Denis Ledoux’s flagship book, Turning Memories Into Memoirs / A Handbook for Writing Lifestories [available both in e- and hard copy], has been joined on Amazon by a number of other how-to books. Among them are Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop YouStart Your Memoir Right and the free Memoir Writing 101. In the summer of 2017, he published the e- and the hard-copy of My Eye Fell Into The Soup / A Journal Memoir of Living with Stage 4 Cancer. It is drawn both from his wife’s journals and his own. My Eye Fell Into The Soup is the third in a series of five memoirs focused on his wife. The first in the series, The Nice-Nice Club Holds Its Last Meeting, is available free on Amazon.

  1. To access the most current catalog of his writing books, his memoirs, and other titles, visit the memoir store.
  2. To read over 500 free articles on memoir writing, go to http://thememoirnetwork.com/memoir-blog.
  3. To participate in the free membership offering multiple downloads: http://thememoirnetwork.com

 

 

Explorations Beyond the Traditional Memoir: Taking the Authority to Write another Person’s Story – Signup

Denis Ledoux

July Member Teleseminar

July 21, 2017

11 AM PDT  12 PM MDT   1 PM CDT  2 PM EDT

When you write your own memoir, you have access to the expert: you. While this is not easy, there are fewer hurdles to manage when writing about your life than when you write someone else’s story. You have to get into the point of view of someone whose life you have not lived. While writing through the eyes of someone else is related to ghostwriting, it’s different and Denis will discuss these differences.

In this presentation, Denis Ledoux, memoir writer, teacher, coach, editor and ghostwriter will share what he sees as the differences between ghostwriting and claiming another’s point of view. He wrote his mother’s memoir We Were Not Spoiled [written with her as a somewhat-passive informant] and his wife’s, A Sugary Frosting—A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage and My Eye Fell into The Soup—A Journal Memoir of Living with Stage 4 Cancer [written after her death].

Denis will discuss:

  1. Assuming the authority to write the memoir of another person from the first person and why that is essential. Assuming this authority separates memoir from biography.
  2. When you can do this and when you can’t.
  3. Using Memory Lists to outline and explore the person’s life. Memory Listing is perhaps as close as you get to a magic bullet to banish writer’s block and keep you writing month after month.
  4. Researching the bigger picture to have a context for writing about a life with perspective and historical insights.
  5. Interpreting the person’s life using the Memory List, your intuition, and research. Interpretation can be dangerous territory, and Denis will offer suggestions for navigating it safely to publication.
  6. Finding and working with review persons to help authenticate / validate what you wrote.

Denis Ledoux’s flagship book, Turning Memories Into Memoirs / A Handbook for Writing Lifestories [available both in e- and hard copy], has been joined on Amazon by a number of other how-to books. Among them are Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You, Start Your Memoir Right and the free Memoir Writing 101. In the summer of 2017, he published the e- and the hard-copy of My Eye Fell Into The Soup / A Journal Memoir of Living with Stage 4 Cancer. It is drawn both from his wife’s journals and his own. My Eye Fell Into The Soup is the third in a series of five memoirs focused on his wife. The first in the series, The Nice-Nice Club Holds Its Last Meeting, is available free on Amazon.

  1. To access the most current catalog of his writing books, his memoirs, and other titles, visit the memoir store.
  2. To read over 500 free articles on memoir writing, go to http://thememoirnetwork.com/memoir-blog.
  3. To participate in the free membership offering multiple downloads: http://thememoirnetwork.com

August Roundtable Webinar- FREE to All – August 3, 2017

There Was a Fire Here: A memoir that rose from the ashes

Risa Nye

August 3, 2017

4 PM PDT  5 PM MDT  6 PM CDT  7 PM EDT

My book began as a string of short pieces, each one memorializing something of importance I’d lost in the 1991 fire that destroyed over three thousand homes in my city. The fire made an appearance in nearly everything I wrote afterward, either in passing or as a focal point. I didn’t imagine that the pieces I was writing would somehow fit themselves into a book. It took many years, a dedicated effort through an MFA program, a year of not writing, and some excellent coaching to see that these memories—and more—could be stitched successfully into a memoir.

The story I wanted to tell wasn’t just my story: it involved a widely publicized event that cost 25 people their lives. I had to make sure I got the details right to honor them and others. Luckily, I had the chance to do interviews. I’d also kept newspaper articles and a journal from that momentous time. My biggest challenge was digging deep into my memory to recall the horror of those early days, and confronting the moments when I was at my lowest.

What you will learn:

  • My book came out on the 25th anniversary of the fire. It’s never too late to start a project when it involves a story that will not let you go
  • Even if it begins as a disorganized “crazy quilt,” and you doubt it will ever become a book people will want to read, others can help you visualize the story you want to tell and help silence that inner critic who asks, “So what?,” “Who cares?,” and “Why now?”
  • You have choices about how to frame and structure your memoir: how I modeled mine after several of my favorite memoirists
  • Do the research, ask the questions, get it as right as you can—then keep writing
  • The cover matters! How to make sure the cover reflects the story within

Risa Nye is a California native. Her books, articles, and essays can be found at www.risanye.com. She co-edited the anthology Writin’ on Empty: Parents Reveal the Upside, Downside, and Everything in Between When Children Leave the Nest. Her Ms. Barstool column and other articles appear in Berkeleyside.com. She also writes for EatDrinkFilms.com. She returned to graduate school in 2009 and earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Her memoir, There Was a Fire Here (SheWritesPress) was published in 2016.

Explorations Beyond the Traditional Memoir: Taking the Authority to Write another Person’s Story

Denis Ledoux

July Member Teleseminar

July 21, 2017

11 AM PDT  12 PM MDT   1 PM CDT  2 PM EDT

When you write your own memoir, you have access to the expert: you. While this is not easy, there are fewer hurdles to manage when writing about your life than when you write someone else’s story. You have to get into the point of view of someone whose life you have not lived. While writing through the eyes of someone else is related to ghostwriting, it’s different and Denis will discuss these differences.

In this presentation, Denis Ledoux, memoir writer, teacher, coach, editor and ghostwriter will share what he sees as the differences between ghostwriting and claiming another’s point of view. He wrote his mother’s memoir We Were Not Spoiled [written with her as a somewhat-passive informant] and his wife’s, A Sugary Frosting—A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage and My Eye Fell into The Soup—A Journal Memoir of Living with Stage 4 Cancer [written after her death].

Denis will discuss:

  1. Assuming the authority to write the memoir of another person from the first person and why that is essential. Assuming this authority separates memoir from biography.
  2. When you can do this and when you can’t.
  3. Using Memory Lists to outline and explore the person’s life. Memory Listing is perhaps as close as you get to a magic bullet to banish writer’s block and keep you writing month after month.
  4. Researching the bigger picture to have a context for writing about a life with perspective and historical insights.
  5. Interpreting the person’s life using the Memory List, your intuition, and research. Interpretation can be dangerous territory, and Denis will offer suggestions for navigating it safely to publication.
  6. Finding and working with review persons to help authenticate / validate what you wrote.

Denis Ledoux’s flagship book, Turning Memories Into Memoirs / A Handbook for Writing Lifestories [available both in e- and hard copy], has been joined on Amazon by a number of other how-to books. Among them are Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You, Start Your Memoir Right and the free Memoir Writing 101. In the summer of 2017, he published the e- and the hard-copy of My Eye Fell Into The Soup / A Journal Memoir of Living with Stage 4 Cancer. It is drawn both from his wife’s journals and his own. My Eye Fell Into The Soup is the third in a series of five memoirs focused on his wife. The first in the series, The Nice-Nice Club Holds Its Last Meeting, is available free on Amazon.

  1. To access the most current catalog of his writing books, his memoirs, and other titles, visit the memoir store.
  2. To read over 500 free articles on memoir writing, go to http://thememoirnetwork.com/memoir-blog.
  3. To participate in the free membership offering multiple downloads: http://thememoirnetwork.com

 

 

Fourth of July Sale 2017

Over the next few days, we celebrate our independence. At this time of year, we celebrate being part of a country that created a new identity with new ideas: freedom of speech, the belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When we write a memoir, we’re engaged in bringing our memories to life! We gather the stories of our life together in a narrative that makes sense and connects the dots between past and present. That’s how writing a memoir empowers us: piecing together fragments, weaving themes, and discovering hidden parts of ourselves, our family, and our identity. It can be an ongoing experiment!

Independence is the hallmark of writing. We want to support you and celebrate being free to write and share the stories of your life. It’s great for you, and it’s a valuable legacy for family and friends.

This weekend, we’re offering you the opportunity to join NAMW at $20 off our annual membership fee.  From July 1 to midnight July 4–it’s just $129.00 for an annual membership, and $119 for renewals!

When you join NAMW this weekend, you’ll receive the full benefits of membership as well as our new guide, Secrets, Lies and Scandals Behind Closed Doors –Challenges with Family and Truth When Writing a Memoir as well as access to the audio recordings of the Telesummit “Breaking Silence.”  NAMW features a variety of industry pros and fellow writers throughout the year for our members.  We provide resource to inspire you and encourage you to keep going on your journey toward publication, whether it’s a blog, a book, or articles.

Writing your story offers your family and audience a slice of life, a personal history that tells a bigger story about where you are from, your traditions and your cultures.

Join NAMW today and we’ll support you in your journey toward healing and sharing your life’s stories!

12-Month NAMW membership, $149 $129

add to cart

12-Month NAMW renewal, $139 $119

add to cart

Testimonials

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

Kathy Pooler