Author Archives: Erica

Unlocking the Power of Humor in Your Memoir

Susan Sparks

December Member Teleseminar

December 16, 2016

11 AM PST    12 PM MST    1 PM CST   2 PM EST

We’re so happy, literally, to have Susan Sparks as our guest for the end of the year member teleseminar. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to have a writer, trial lawyer, standup comedian and Baptist minister—and my friend–Susan Sparks whip up an entertaining and instructional discussion. She is going to be funny and also offer us an angle through which to view our work as creative artists: humor. Many of you are writing serious stories, but still, a story can be told so many different ways.

I’m jazzed to be talking with Susan for our December teleseminar! I hope you can join us live on the phone, and if not, members will all receive the audio as our Christmas present. No, actually, you always get the audio after each of our teleseminars.

Have a great holiday season, everyone.

 

From Susan: 

susan-sparks

Humor is, perhaps, the most undervalued tool we have—especially as artists. Laughter brings perspective, forgiveness, empathy and power to us as writers and depth, craft, intimacy, and honesty to our work. This is not about being a comedian. This is about discovering the gift of joy and hope in our own voice. Let’s find it together and take our work to new levels!

TAKEAWAYS:

  • Discover the deeper power of humor and it how builds intimacy and honesty with your reader/listener
  • Learn specific tools used in standup comedy that can improve your writing
  • Identify places to find material
  • Understand the times humor doesn’t work
  • Learn how to use humor to deal with the hecklers, such as rejection letters and the voices in our head
  • Discover how to use humor to address difficult topics, conflict, and crisis

 

BIO:

susan-sparks-laugh-your-way-to-graceA trial lawyer, turned standup comedian and Baptist minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is America’s only female comedian with a pulpit. After ten years as a lawyer moonlighting as a standup, Susan left the practice and spent two years on a solo trip around the world, including working for Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Upon returning home, she earned a Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, writing an honors thesis on humor and religion entitled “Laughing Your Way to Grace.”

Currently, the Senior Pastor of the historic Madison AvenueBaptist Church in New York City (and the first woman in its 165-year history), Susan is also a professional comedian. She tours national with a Rabbi and a Muslim comic in the Laugh in Peace Tour. Susan’s work with humor and healing has been featured in such media outlets as the Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, CBS, CNN, and ABC. A blogger for Huffington Post and Psychology Today, her book Laugh Your Way to Grace, was named a best spiritual book and featured in USA Today and Good Morning America.

 

 

December Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Jill Kandel

The Power of Words: 20 Years of Writing 

December 8, 2016

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

jill-kandelI have been a writer for twenty years and am so excited to talk about some of the many things I have learned. I will be talking about four main areas: My journey into writing, the work of writing, the fear of writing and the power of writing.

Listeners can expect to learn some practical tips on time management and the work of writing. I will talk about overcoming various fears including being too old, getting it wrong, and offending my family. I also would like to speak about the power of writing and the fulfillment joy it has brought to my life.

I began writing at the age of 40. I do not have an MFA. And yet, I have written a memoir that received two awards and have had essays published in top journals across the U.S. I hope listeners will come away from the discussion with both practical tips for improving their writing and a generous heap of encouragement. Writing is hard. But it is also enormously worthwhile.

 

What you will learn in our discussion: 

  • Encouragement for those who are beginning to write later in life
  • Practical tips on time management
  • Ideas on how to improve your writing
  • Advice on the business side of writing and resume building
  • Thoughts on managing the fear of writing
  • Inspiration from the power of writing

 

BIO:

Jill Kandel is a memoirist and essayist. She is the author of: So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village, winner of both the Autumn House Nonfiction Prize and the Sarton Women’s Literary Award in Memoir.

Kandel recently won second place in the Magic of Memoir essay contest. Her writing has been included in several anthologies including The Magic of Memoir (She Writes Press), The Best Spiritual Writing 2013 (Penguin Books) and Becoming: What Makes a Woman 2013 (University of Nebraska Press).

Kandel’s essays have been published in many literary journals including The Missouri Review, The Pinch, The Gettysburg Review, River Teeth Journal, Under the Sun, Image Journal, and Brevity.

For more information visit Jill on her website where she blogs about her writing journey and about living between cultures. She is currently blogging about the Netherlands, WWII and euthanasia, as she prepares to finish her second memoir. www.jillkandel.com

 

Listen to the recording below:

Dipping the Madeleine: How to Find Hidden Memories as You Write Your Memoir

Barbara Donsky

November Roundtable

November 18, 2016

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

We are pleased this month to explore the issue of memory itself, with some inspiration by Marcel Proust and our guest, Barbara Donsky, author of Veronica’s Grave. Her introduction to our November roundtable follows. Remember, it’s National Lifewriting Month, so celebrate by working on your memoir and inviting your memories to play.

________________________________________________________________________

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray … when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane …. and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and garden alike, from my cup of tea.

                                                                  —Marcel Proust

After dipping a madeleine in a cup of verbena-infused tea, Proust’s boyhood memories played out before his very eyes. After a few more sips and a few more dips, he transformed his entire life — all that he knew about history, cultural mores, social privilege, art, science, and human nature—into what is arguably the greatest novel of the 20th century. If not a memoir, it’s an autobiographical treatise in the guise of a novel. Dipping the madeleine proved an antidote to the much-dreaded writer’s block.

What Proust stumbled upon was a way to feed the artist within.  And what about you? Have you tried ‘dipping the madeleine,’ found ways to nourish your artist-soul? As memoirists, we are called upon to revisit our earlier selves. To do so, we need something that will trigger the involuntary memories, many of which have lain dormant for years.

When involuntary memories arise, we see the past as if it were the present, according to Proust. And that’s very much how it felt, when I visited the apartment building on Ryer Avenue in the South Bronx where we had lived until my mother died. It was then I could see in mind’s eye the black-and-white octagonal tiles that had been in the bathroom. Feel the silkiness of the tufts on my mother’s chenille bedspread. Hear the music of the Big Bands coming from the radio. Things that I had not thought about in years.  All of which came together to form the opening segment of Veronica’s Grave.

Neuroscientists tell us that our memories are not lost, but contained within the cells of our body. That said, in order for an involuntary memory to surface—to move out of the hippocampus into the realm of consciousness—requires a trigger.

Fortunately, ‘triggers’ can be found everywhere if we are open to them. A trigger could be something as ordinary as a conversation overheard on a street corner. Or the feel of a starchy linen napkin (as was the case for Proust).  For authors juggling the hurried demands of everyday life, it often feels as if there’s little time to collect one’s thoughts, no less to listen to them.

When doing readings and book signings for my book Veronica’s Grave, one of the questions that has come up regularly has to do with my writing schedule and how I managed to find the voice of a young girl.

I will discuss:

  • Strategies for opening the gates to the sub-conscious, and letting involuntary memories rise into consciousness.
  • Rise and Shine!
  • Recharge the synapses
  • Start the Day with Self-Affirmations
  • Write the Morning Pages
  • The Virtues of Longhand
  • Trust the Voice in Your Head

 

Bio

e_037972_150519Barbara Donsky is a native New Yorker born in the South Bronx, a neighborhood that by the ‘70s and ‘80s had become synonymous with urban dysfunction.

Author of the newly-released Veronica’s Grave: A Daughter’s Memoir, she graduated Hunter College magna cum laude; was elected to three honorary societies—Phi Beta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi and Sigma Tau Delta; and earned a doctoral degree from Hofstra University. Publications include a dissertation Trends in Written Composition in Elementary Schools in the United States, 1890 -1960. Articles in educational journals including “Writing as Praxis” and “Trends in Elementary Writing Instruction”. And a short story— “The Trouble with Harry”—published in the Naples Review in Florida.

A reading specialist with a private practice for school-age children and an adjunct professor at C.W. Post College on Long Island, Barbara served for many years as a trustee, board president, and capital campaign coordinator of the Boys and Girls Club of Oyster Bay-East Norwich.

For work done on behalf of the Club, Barbara was named ‘Woman of the Year’ by the Boys and Girls Club and honored by the Township of Oyster Bay for her ‘public-spirited contributions advancing the general welfare of the community.’

Living in Manhattan with her husband, she blogs at https://www.Barbaradonsky.com

 

Listen to the recording below:

Choosing a Book Designer that Fits Your Soul and the Soul of Your Memoir

By Robin Brooks, The Beauty of Books

robin-brooksYou have written your memoir. You have put your heart and soul into it. It is your life. It is your breath. It is who you are. Now it is time to put your memoir out into the world. What is the process for doing this? Who are you going to choose to work with who will take the time to listen to the deepest cadence of your memoir and to you, the one who wrote it?

What are the things to know about the person who will take the words you have written on many pages and give them a form which honors all the time, effort, and heart you put into it?

Practical considerations for choosing the right designer:

  • Always use a book designer, not just a graphic designer. There is specific knowledge that a seasoned book designer has that a regular graphic designer does not.
  • Choose a book designer who knows the ropes in terms of choices for printers, whether traditional offset, short-run digital, or true print-on-demand. After talking with them, see if you feel confident they will be able to act as your guide in this area.
  • Make sure the book designer you hire is excellent at meeting deadlines.
  • Make certain you choose a human being, someone you find easy to communicate with. Producing a book together is an intimate process of back and forth communication and follow-through, and it is not a short collaboration.
  • What are clients saying about working with this designer? What do the testimonials on a designer’s website say? It’s not only important that a book designer be proficient. He or she needs to be a good person to work with, for your soul and for the soul of your memoir.

 

Practical points for your book’s cover and interior:

  • The title of your memoir should include key words that convey what your book is about. Your cover should include one or more key images that support and in some way personify the title and overall message — or soul — of your memoir.
  • When prospective readers are looking at books on display in bookstores or on Amazon, they are scanning the titles and covers for what jumps out at them and appeals to them in that moment. A cover needs to quickly imply what’s inside so a prospective reader can make an immediate choice, soul to soul, as to whether they want to buy a book right then and there. For a commercial book, you should be able to read the cover from at least six feet away.
  • For the interior, it is imperative that a book designer understands on a gut level who you are and what you are trying to express. Does this person have the ability for subtle sensitivity to fonts, spacing, tone, and white space that will enhance and support your soul’s story, whether it is one of triumph, love, or tragedy, etc.?
  • Be that prospective reader when you look at a designer’s website. Do you respond to what you see? Can you tell that the book designs support the story and the personality of what the books are about?
  • Choose a designer who is capable of working with the right subtleties for YOUR memoir. Choose what feels right to YOU.

What about self-publishing?

Unless you have a large budget and can afford to pay for at least 500 books printed through traditional offset, the best route these days to self-publishing your book is to print-on-demand with both Create Space and Ingram.

With Create Space, you get an instant book page on Amazon with its tremendous accessibility for readers. With Ingram, because returns are easy, all brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries will choose to buy through the Ingram catalogue.

If you purchase your own, you will use the same ISBN and Library of Congress Control Number for both.

What about marketing?

There is social media, direct mail to your target audience, Pinterest, Bublish, IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) which includes so much, book awards, readings, etc., etc., etc. An excellent book marketer to know about is John Kremer at www.BookMarket.com. What marketing plan fits your life and who you are?

Which book designer is right for your soul and for the soul of your memoir?

This is a choice that must support you because, when you write your memoir, you are opening your soul to your readers. This is a decision that comes partly from the gut and partly from concrete information. You’ll need both because you will want to work with someone who honors and supports your soul, as they also help you bring into the world the soul of your memoir. I look forward to discussing these issues and more at the National Association of Memoir Writers Telesummit November 11.

 

Bio

Robin Brooks of The Beauty of Books has been a graphic designer for 40 years, designing everything from ads, brochures, newsletters, magazines, corporate identities, packaging, websites, and books, including some for Viking Penguin and the Waldorf Schools of North America. In the last eight years or so, she has focused on books, specializing in memoirs and personal histories and designing books, too, for artists, poets, and those who write about spirituality.

Robin is also a published author who writes about healing, and an artist. She received her MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and her art has shown nationally.

www.thebeautyofbooks.com

http://www.robinswebs.com

http://www.bloomingofthelotus.com

Featured NAMW Member – Cindi Michael

The Sportscaster’s Daughter

SportscastersDaughter_VERSA.inddMillions of people watched sportscaster George Michael each week on the Sports Machine, including sometimes his daughter Cindi. Cindi Michael appears to live a charmed life: she’s happily married, has a successful career, and is a loving mom to two wonderful children. Yet she longs for a father who hasn’t spoken to her in twenty years, and even secretly watches him on TV when the longing becomes unbearable.

When Cindi was eleven, her father fought for sole custody of her and her siblings, raising three children on his own despite being a bachelor and rock ’n’ roll DJ in New York. But with his rising fame as the host of the popular show Sports Machine, his 80-hour-a-week work schedule, and his second marriage, the close relationship Cindi shared with her father began to crack; she did everything to earn his love and attention, but for perfectionist George, it was never enough—and when she was eighteen and a freshman in college, in a burst of anger, he told her never to come home again. As the years went on, Cindi struggled to steel her heart while still remaining hopeful that they would one day reconcile, just as her father did with his own dad, and transcend painful family patterns that span generations. Candid, moving, and ultimately hopeful, The Sportscaster’s Daughter is a family story of forgiveness, faith , and strength.

 

Bio

cindimichaellowresAfter moving from Maryland to Switzerland to Texas to Michigan, Cindi Michael now lives in rural New Jersey, not far from where she spent the golden years of her childhood highlighted in her memoir. She’s happily married to an Englishman and is a die-hard football and swim team mom. Her day job as a technology and big data expert takes her to clients around the world, and she is the author of five business and technology books. She holds a BA in English from the University of Maryland and an MBA from Rice University. She has won two creative writing awards for her short stories.

 

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