Author Archives: Erica

Their Stories, Our Stories- Fiction or Memoir?

Barbara Stark-NemonBarbara Stark-Nemon
August Member Teleseminar
August 19, 2016

Publishing my novel, Even in Darkness, gave me the opportunity to bring a loved one’s legacy to the page. During the many years of research and writing, the decision to write a novel (rather than a memoir or biography), based largely on a true story, brought with it important considerations.  During this seminar participants will consider

  1. How I come to this conversation- brief intro to Even in Darkness – historical fiction based on a true family story
  2. The importance of a good story, and a well- researched and articulated sense of time and place
  3. Is yours a legacy story? What other purposes does the story serve?
  4. Important questions anyone should think about before writing a legacy story about a real family, especially if it is written as fiction.



Every story needs a narrator, and I  stepped up early in life. I learned storytelling, and a fascination with the magic of language from my grandfather. He wove unforgettable tales of a former life in Germany to his family in America. I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book, or flying around the neighborhood on my bicycle, and learned to speak the languages of my German family, and later, the signs of the deaf children with whom I worked.

An undergraduate degree in English literature and Art History and a Masters in Speech-language Pathology from the University of Michigan led to a teaching and clinical career. Everywhere, there were stories. I’ve come to appreciate the way different languages impact the form of narratives, and the need to be heard and seen that we all share.

I live and write in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan



Related articles…


Featured NAMW Member – Coralease C. Ruff

cora4In January, 1997 my world as I knew it came crashing down around me. My 21-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, where she had gone to serve as a missionary.  This journey of survival took me through some very dark and scary valleys, over some gigantic mountains, and finally through some calm and soothing meadows. I cried many tears, felt excruciating heartache, anger, fearfulness, and appreciation, and yes, gratitude. I worked hard at learning to live with my loss, and discovered it is possible to survive and go on living a reasonably meaningful life.  I learned it can be difficult to find original information on first-hand experiences of grieving individuals. I am writing my memoir Still Living Still Loving After a Child Dies– to fill that void.

In my memoir, I want to share the lessons learned and insights I gleaned from nearly 20 years on this journey. I want to provide hope, inspiration and support to grieving parents through the rough terrain of loss and devastation to a sense of peace in a future without their child.  My picture of how grief softens over the years should instill confidence in parents that they can survive.  Finally, I present coping strategies for getting through the difficult times and resources for dealing with grief.

I have been a member of NAMW for three years, and completed theWYMI6M course in December, 2015.   I enjoy participating in the monthly coaching calls and became a writing buddy to Lynette from Richland, Washington who once lived in my community in Vienna, Virginia. I didn’t know it at the time, but her kids attended the same school that our kids attended.  We now support each other in our memoir writing efforts. NAMW provides numerous and valuable memoir writing resources as well as mentoring and networking opportunities.

August Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Meaningful Misery: Why Writing a Memoir is a Worthwhile Struggle

Dr. Virginia Simpson

August 4, 2016


I’m pleased to have a conversation with Dr. Virginia Simpson, author of The Space Between- A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life. I learned about her story as she was working on it, and know some of what she went through to gain the insights and ultimately the rewards from all her hard work—as a writer and her emotional journey. I look forward to our conversation!



This is from Virginia:

If writing a book were easy, most people would be authors. Writing is demanding and I believe nothing requires more of us than writing a memoir. As I wrote my book The Space Between, I was impressed with the emotional challenges that came with excavating and bringing my memories to life. Writing a memoir demanded that I reenter a time in my life when I faced a tough challenge: a life-threatening illness resulted in my mother coming to live with me. This meant that we had to navigate shifts in the balance of power between us, struggle with personality conflicts, and face the anguish of watching her mental and physical decline. During this process, we were healing the wounds between us. It wrote it all down, first in a rough draft and then several revisions. Working with a writing coach, taking classes, and reading memoir, fiction, and craft books, helped me on my journey.

The more I wrote, the more I discovered the deeper meanings and lessons I learned from being with my mother intimately every day. As I witnessed our lives, I gained more clarity about how both earlier events and daily struggles affected our relationship. Eventually, I was able to let go of past hurts.

My mother taught me about courage and the ability of the human heart to expand even at the most challenging time of life. Writing reminded me of some painful times, but there was such a reward as I kept working: I brought a fresh understanding to my relationship with my mother and myself, and discovered the power of love I had never known before.


Today, I will talk about the painful, yet rewarding journey of writing a memoir.


  • Writing thru pain – jumping past yourself to write your memoir
  • Remembering – how to mine your memories to find a deeper meaning
  • The importance of including events that move the story forward
  • Your lousy first draft – this is not the time to give up
  • Birthing your creation – challenges and rewards of bringing your book out into the world
  • Decisions about publishing, cover design, and building a platform



Virginia-A.-Simpson-1Virginia A. Simpson, Ph.D., FT has worked in the field of death, dying and bereavement for more than 30 years, and is the Executive Counseling Director for hundreds of funeral homes throughout the United States and Canada. She is also founder of The Mourning Center for grieving children and their families, and author of the memoir The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life (She Writes Press, April 2016) about her journey caring for her ailing mother. Virginia has appeared on numerous television and radio programs and has had articles about end-of-life issues published in The Desert Sun, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) Magazine, Next Avenue, ThirdAge, and Home Care For You. Virginia holds a Fellowship in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education & Counseling (ADEC) and has been honored for her work by the cities of Indian Wells, Indio, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage, California.


Listen to the recording below:

How to Write the Book You Want to Read

1796431_10203712985597627_6803690186445630552_nKaren Lynch

July Member Teleseminar

July 22, 2016

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

We’re pleased to introduce you to Karen Lynch as our guest this month. Karen is the author of the memoir Good Cop, Bad Daughter-memoirs of an unlikely police officer. I began reading her book, thinking I’d browse a little, then found I couldn’t put it down.  I noticed that she made it a real page turner. Asked her to be our guest for this month to share with us what she learned about writing a great story, and to tell us why she felt it was important to write her memoir.


From Karen:

It’s becoming more and more challenging to keep readers engaged in long form literature. The multiple distractions of everyday life pull us away from the once leisurely experience of sitting down with a good, long book. If we want to keep our readers turning the pages, we must be conscious of their reading experience. In early drafts, getting out our story is the first priority. But as we edit, we think about the story from the reader’s point of view. And as we will discuss, creative writing, and editing use different parts of the brain.

Write the book you would want to read. Is your narrator engaging the reader from the beginning? If the reader loves the narrator or is even just interested in her, we will go along wherever she takes us. If the narrator is dull we put the book down. Your narrator need not be likeable, but she must be interesting. Show us early, maybe in the first five pages, that we are in for an interesting ride. Steve Almond calls this, “Getting the reader in the car.”

The reader wants to know what she will gain from going on this journey with you. Will we gain wisdom? Are you entertaining? Will we just get on for the ride because it’s fun? Is it your lyrical language that draws us in? For some readers, the poetry of the language is enough; for most, we want to know there will be a good story, with interesting characters.

During the interview we will discuss, among other things:

  • How to get the reader interested in your book in the first five pages.
  • Mini-cliffhangers and how they keep the reader engaged….. ex: The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • Writing about people who are still living, who may not like their portrayal in your book.
  • What you will gain by writing memoir, regardless of whether you’re published.



Karen Lynch was a Homicide Investigator for San Francisco Police Department, and prior to being promoted, worked as a patrol officer for nine years. After 29 years of police work, and a bout with breast cancer, she retired to become a full time writer. Her memoir, “Good Cop, Bad Daughter-memoirs of an unlikely police officer,” is the story of how being raised by a bi-polar mother, and a tribe of hippies provided Karen the perfect training to become a cop. She is a native San Franciscan, and proud Cal Bear. She has been married to Greg for 26 years, and they have three children. Other publications: Lucky Drive essay in Transitions anthology, NBTT Publications; In the Long Run essay published on Manifestation; Thorazine essay in Shades of Blue anthology, Seal Press Web site: Readers can follow me on my Facebook page, Good Cop, Bad Daughter.




July Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Sharon and CarolThe Rewards of Private Publication

Sharon Lippincott and Carol Broz

Thursday July 7


What do you do when your story seems too personal or controversial to share with the world at large, but you want your family to have the option of ordering copies any time? Do you wonder if it’s worth the effort and whatever expense to publishing a finished volume that you will never promote and few will read? Join us as Sharon Lippincott and Carol Broz talk about how Carol solved puzzles like these before publishing a family history memoir.

Four generations of Carol’s family had lived in the same small community in western Pennsylvania, often at the mercy of progress. Carol heard these stories as she grew up, and noticed quirks of various family members as well as stories of tragedies and triumphs. As she grew older, she became burningly curious to know more facts about historical events and to gain more insight into complex personalities and relationships within the family.

Finally, after holding onto information unearthed by her parents, adding to their research, using compiled notes, and mining memories of family members, a coherent image gradually emerged. She spent years writing stories about family members, obtaining feedback from writing groups along the way. Eventually she compiled a volume of family stories, using accounts of personal experiences to tie them together. She explains:

As I wrote, I determined to tell the family’s story with truth and honesty to the best of my ability. I was determined to help family members understand the forces that helped shape us all into the people we are today, and to do it with love and compassion. My intent was to inform, to make future generations aware that they are descended from tough, strong stock, able to survive hardships and obstacles.

Carol did battle with her inner critic all along, and when a valued family member expressed objections that critic went on steroids. Ultimately that critic was tamed and she distributed finished copies to dozens of family members. Grateful responses continue to pour in.

Sharon and Carol will talk with me about these points:

  • How to decide between public and private publishing.
  • How to make your book available to family without inviting the world to buy it.
  • Working with your inner critic to make an informed choice.
  • Dancing with the elephant when family members disagree.
  • Value to family members of sharing these stories and rewards of doing so.


Short bios:

Carol Broz initially chose to mask her identity and keep her book title private for reasons we’ll talk about in the program. She hopes that sharing the story of her writing process and publishing decision will help others with similar dilemmas discover the benefits of publishing small.

Sharon Lippincott, a member of the NAMW Advisory Board, lives in Austin and teaches lifestory and related creative writing classes. As a friend of Carol Broz, she has followed the progress of this book for years. She prepared the book for publication and helped Carol find a publishing strategy that worked.


Listen to the recording below:


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