Author Archives: Erica

Featured NAMW Member – Leslie Johansen Nack

Leslie-2015finalLeslie’s memoir starts in a broken home in the 1970s and moves into a coming-of-age adventure when, at the age of 14, she and her two sisters have to batten down the hatches on their 45-foot sailboat to navigate the Pacific Ocean, as well as the stormy temper of their larger-than-life Norwegian father.

It is the story of how a young girl comes into her own power and strength against all odds in a dysfunctional family having the adventure of a lifetime. Young Leslie embraces the sailing experience and turns it into a growth and maturation process, finding both beauty and spiritual solace in the natural world.

After her mother and father divorce at age seven, and full custody is given to her father, Leslie quickly learns the hard lessons of being Dad’s favorite. The abuse begins at age nine and doesn’t end until she begins to fight back at fourteen.

9781631529412At twelve, the family moved from their 63-acre rustic ranch in Northern California to a 45-foot sailboat in Southern California where they spent two-and-a-half years living aboard their boat preparing for the trip of their father’s dream.

On February 5, 1975, they left everybody they knew, including their mother and began the journey, landing first in French Polynesia. Fourteen is the first of two books in a story of courage and hope, and of one girl’s fight against an overbearing, abusive and sometimes irrational father who demanded the best, while sometimes doing less than the best himself. You will be inspired by Leslie’s courage and fight and be amazed at all she encounters and overcomes.”



Leslie Johansen Nack graduated UCLA with a BA in English literature. She is a member of the National Association of Memoir Writers and San Diego Writers Ink. She lives in San Diego and has two children with her husband of twenty-six years.

Who’s the Author? What are the Rules? Writing Stories from the Point of View of Another

Denis Ledoux

May Member Teleseminar

May 13

11 am PDT   12 pm MDT   1 pm CDT  2 PM EDT

Denis Ledoux is going to join us for our May 13 Member Teleseminar to talk about the idea of co-authoring his memoir A Sugary Frosting, —which is composed both  of stories from his late wife Martha and of stories he ghostwrote. In order to preserve her legacy, he “wrote” the book based on her own stories which were mostly beginnings and fragments of stories she had begun. When I asked Denis to join us to talk about the idea of authoring someone else’s voice, I did so because so many people now are wanting to present the stories of their loved ones. They’re not so much writing their own memoir, but capturing the voice and stories from the point of view of someone else, usually a close family member. Is this still a memoir? What are the rules? The world of memoir is shifting and evolving, and we’ll explore that during this discussion.

Here is what Denis has to say about this presentation.

When you are both a story teller and a story keeper, in thirty-one years of being in relationship with someone who is verbal—very verbal, you get to know many of her stories. A number of them you have heard not only because they are told directly to you as you went about your day—perhaps driving together into town or as you sat in the 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 auditor—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 her memoir, A Sugary Frosting, I collected her compositions into a manuscript and soon realized there were details missing—details that I knew were necessary to create meaning in her story. I found myself adding her words that lived within me and my memory into the narrative. Eventually, more of the stories originated in my recall than from her original composition.

What to do with this? I wondered if it was 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’ve long practiced. A good ghostwriter is always writing in the subject’s voice. He uses the vocabulary of the subject and he enters into the sensibility of the person whose story is being preserved.

This writing as if one were part of the sensibility of the subject has always been an energizing challenge of ghostwriting. When I found myself writing something that fit the drama of Martha’s story as I saw 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.

I’m comfortable with calling A Sugary Frosting a fictionalized memoir but to me it’s a co-authored memoir.

In this teleconference I’ll share the process of writing A Sugary Frosting.

You will learn about:

  • How to compile and gather the legacy stories
  • Seeing through the eyes of someone else as you write
  • Preserving the voice of the original author
  • Finding the arc of your story



Denis-Ledoux (1)Denis Ledoux is the founder, director, and editor-in-chief of The Memoir Network, and its predecessor, The Soleil Lifestory Network, and the author of the classic  Turning Memories Into Memoirs, A Handbook for Writing Lifestories, and originator of the Turning Memories® Workshops.

He has worked with thousands of first-time and experienced writers through his workshops, as a writing editor, coach, and ghostwriter.

Denis holds a master’s degree in education and, in another life, taught English, creative writing, French, and Latin at both the high school and university levels. He especially enjoys the challenges of working with writers of all levels of accomplishment to craft insightful and well-written memoir out of  personal and family histories.

He was twice chosen for a Maine Individual Writing Fellowship and his collection of short stories, Mountain Dance, was selected for a Maine Fiction Award.

Denis Ledoux lives and works in his native Maine.



Featured NAMW Member – Viga Boland

NTFMF-Banner-220From the ages of 11-24, I was sexually abused by my biological father. My shame was so intense I told no-one, including my husband of over 40 years about my past until I was in my mid 60’s. This first memoir, “No Tears for my Father” was written with the full encouragement and support of my husband and 2 daughters. In graphic detail, as that is the only way this story could be told and be honest, I shared my memoir from before the abuse began to where I finally left home and got married. This book is the first of 3 memoirs: at the request of friends and fans, I wrote a followup memoir of recovery, rebirth and self-discovery as a person worthy of love titled “Learning to Love Myself”; the third memoir titled “Voice from an Urn”, was written to answer readers’ questions about my mother’s role in the incest.



viga-250pxViga has written 4 memoirs, facilitates memoir writing for her local library. To help other memoirists fulfill their writing aspirations, she promotes their editorials, stories and poems by blogging and podcasting from her other website, Memoirabilia. A retired septuagenarian, according to her husband, she has never been busier, as she travels around offering hope and encouragement to victims of violence though speaking engagements. Her mantra is “I am who I think I am…and I better like that person!”

Writing and Publishing Dog Medicine—a Best Selling Memoir

Julie Barton

Member Teleseminar

April 22

11 am PDT  12 pm MDT   1 pm CDT  2 pm EDT

Julie BartonIn this month’s teleseminar, we’ll talk about how I came to writing memoir, my writing process, and how the actual writing is where the joy is. We’ll discuss overall story arc—one of the hardest things about memoir—and I’ll reveal a great (though difficult) method that helped my book go from good to great. If there’s time, we’ll discuss my road to publication and the wild ride that landed my book in the hands of the president of Penguin Books. We can discuss the vast difference between being published by a tiny indie publisher versus being published by one of the big New York houses. There are pluses and minuses to both! Also, promotion: the dreaded word for us introverted wordsmiths. It doesn’t have to be as awful as you imagine.

What you will learn:

  • How to have patience with yourself and write a little bit each day
  • Revision, revision, revision. Revising as a way to introduce story arc.
  • My unusual publishing experience: being published by a tiny indie press then picked up by Penguin Books.
  • Promotion: yes, it’s as important as they say it is. How not to hate it.


Dog Medicine book coverJulie Barton is a writer, mother of two and animal lover who lives in Northern California. Her memoir, Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me From Myself will be published by Penguin Books on July 19th, 2016. (The book was initially published 11/15 by Think Piece Publishing.) Julie has a B.A. in English Literature from Kenyon College, an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a M.A. in Women’s Studies from Southern Connecticut State University. Julie’s writing has been published in Brain Child MagazineThe South Carolina ReviewLouisiana Literature, Two Hawks Quarterly, Westview, The Huffington Post, and more. Mostly she just tries to be kind to people and animals, avoid judgement, appreciate nature, and write every chance she gets.

Related links for Julie Barton:

April Roundtable Discussion–Free to All

Jerry Waxlerjerry_9-12-14

My Twelve Year Odyssey to Turn life into Memoir

Thursday April 7, 2016



Our guest this month is Jerry Waxler, my colleague and friend since I began the National Association of Memoir Writers. Jerry is also on our advisory board, and we have had many conversations about his memoir journey, mine, and the issues that all memoir writers have to solve as they finish their book and move toward publication.

Jerry has taught several classes here at NAMW, and is a passionate advocate for memoir writers. Now that his book is done—yay—we thought it would benefit memoir writers who struggle with the same challenges as Jerry did to hear about how he managed to confront his memory, moments of shame and embarrassment, the need for privacy, and the long writing and editing process.

Jerry’s odyssey to write his memoir began in 2004, when he decided he would try to make sense of the years between 1965 and 1975. At first, writing the story seemed impossible. He was not a story writer and he could barely remember those times when hippie dreams almost unraveled his sanity. Twelve years later, in 2016, he published, Thinking My Way to the End of the World. In this roundtable we’ll accompany Jerry through his journey, as he proceeded from the initial motivation, to gathering anecdotes, creating scenes, organizing, revising, polishing, self-doubts, and finally publishing the memoir.

You will learn:

  • How to discover and uncover your most important memories
  • How to sort through the many moments of your life to find a structure for your memoir
  • The ways that your writing community can help you find your way
  • How viewing writing your memoir as a journey can give you courage to keep going
  • What you need to know about revision and editing
  • How to easily publish the book YOU want to write

Jerry Waxler, M.S. writes, speaks, and teaches about how to awaken human potential through writing. Jerry’s blog includes four hundred essays that form the basis for his book Memoir Revolution which champions the social trend to turn life into Story. His degree and experience in Counseling Psychology provide the background for his self-help guide, How to Become a Heroic Writer, about overcoming the mental challenges of being a writer. His own coming-of-age memoir Thinking My Way to the End of the World is about his attempt to grow up into adulthood during the 60s. For more information see

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