Author Archives: Linda Joy Myers

Public Memoir Writing Roundtable with Jane Friedman & Linda Joy Myers **September 2, 2010**

Jane Friedman-The Most Progressive Media Professional You'll MeetEvaluating Your First Page for Red Flags

Date:     Thursday September 2, 2010

Time: 4 PM PDT |5 PM MDT | 6 PM CDT |  7 PM EDT

Cost: FREE FOR EVERYONE (NAMW Members–The dial in details can be found below–if you can’t see them, simply login to the member area to view this post.  If you are not an NAMW member, simply sign up for this free call by using the form near the bottom of this page).

[private_NAMW]Telephone Conference call-in number: (323) 417-0075
Telephone Conference call-in code: 123631#[/private_NAMW]

Not Available for the Live Call? Post your questions in the comments section of this page OR email them to info@NAMW.org.

NAMW members will be able to access a link to download the audio mp3 of this call following the event.

Not a member? Sign up below and you will receive an email with a link to download the call, shortly following the event.

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Our first FREE Memoir Roundtable Teleconversation will be held this THURSDAY, on September 2nd at 4:00 PM PDT|7:00 PM EDT via telephone. Everyone is invited to attend these new FREE monthly Teleconversations. This month, NAMW President, Linda Joy Myers will be joined on the line with Jane Friedman, Contributing Editor at Writer’s Digest. Linda and Jane will discuss and accept your questions regarding the theme of Evaluating Your First Page for Red Flags. The format for this call differs from our Monthly Member-only Teleseminars in that it is an informal discussion Roundtable that you can be part of to exchange ideas with not only the expert but other NAMW members. Besides offering you a direct connection with experts–a benefit that will help you to develop your ideas and hone your skills as you write, edit, revise, and publish your memoir–you will have the opportunity to develop relationships within the NAMW memoir writing community.

Please join us for these special events that are open to the public. No RSVP is necessary for NAMW members.  Simply use the dial-in information above.  If you are not an NAMW member, simply sign up below!  We look forward to meeting you there!

If you are not an NAMW member, sign up below to receive the call-in details via email AND receive a link to an audio recording of the call shortly following the call!


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The Power of Memoir to Heal

By now, many people have heard about the power of memoir writing to help the healing process in mind and body. As I mentioned in a previous post, because of my book The Power of Memoir, I receive many questions about memoir writing and healing, and I’m answering them here through a series of posts.

Writing to heal yourself is a very powerful process. If a writer has a deeply personal and painful story, how should he begin to get it onto the page?

Start by considering the special moments in your life, the turning points that changed the direction of your life in a significant way. Make a list of these moments, at least ten to twenty, and write down the significant event and when it occurred. Memoirists can feel overwhelmed by the large number of memories they have, so the turning point and timeline tools that I talk about in the book help to organize memories. We need to sift through to find the most important stories as a spine around which to build a longer work.

I also suggest that writers keep track of the “dark” and the “light” stories so they are not so overwhelmed by the more painful memories, and make sure they follow a “darker” story with a happy one that allows them to sink into the fullness of a delicious pleasant memory.

Learning about story structure and scenes is another way to contain and put in perspective the events of our lives. A story, unlike a journal entry, has a structure—a beginning, middle, and an end, and is constructed with a goal in mind and a plot with dramatic action.

When we write a scene, we find ourselves in the places and times of our lives in a kind of creative hypnosis. A story uses scenes to bring the past to life. A scene takes place at a particular moment in time, and draws upon the use of sensual details—smell, sound, texture, description, color, and taste, along with characters, dialogue, and action. In a story, we are both the narrator and the “I” of the story—the main character. This dual point of view helps to create a witnessing experience of ourselves as we write from our current point of view about who we once were, an artful weaving of then and now, past and present.

Alice Miller, a Swiss psychiatrist, said that being witnessed is a significant part of the healing process, and points out that while we need others to witness us and our stories, we can witness ourselves by becoming self-aware.
Writing allows us to witness the stages of our lives, and when we read others’ memoirs, we witness and empathize with them, thus deepening our connection with humanity and giving us new ways to think about our own lives.

If you have memories you don’t want to detail in your memoir, create distance. Write about what happened in the third person: “she” or “he” instead of “I.” Write as if you are watching the event unfold in a movie. Write a scene about a difficult incident, but make it turn out the way you wanted it to, ending it positively. Tell what happened before and after a difficult incident. Write around it, but not about the event itself. These techniques are protective–when you are ready to go deeper, you can do it later.

To tune into this powerful work, keep adding to your list of turning points. And remember this: the researchers that explored writing to heal found that writing happy stories was nearly as healing as writing about painful moments.
Remember that when you write your memoir, you are weaving a new tapestry of your life one story at a time.

The Power of Writing Memoir: Dark and Light Stories

One of the most important subjects that writers confront is to keep a balance when writing the darker stories that may arise while writing a memoir. In The Power of Memoir I discuss balancing the light and the dark stories and why this helps the writer and the reader. During my writer’s workshop at the National Association of Memoir Writers, we discuss how to keep writing when some of the true stories that need to be written bring us down, tempting us to lose perspective about our stories and ourselves.

Research has shown that writing positive stories about ourselves is as healing as writing about bad memories, but I’ve observed big changes when writers dig in the darkness for deeper levels of truth. We all want to avoid unnecessary pain, yet healing comes from balancing our system and not staying trapped in memories and negative feelings about the past. Our fears, anger, jealousy, insecurity, and hurt are real, but they can interfere with living with a sense of peace, forgiveness of self and others, and juicy creative energy.

Writer’s I’ve worked with find it helpful to weave back and forth between the dark and the lighter stories to create balance, and recover from the heaviness of writing painful stories. The path of emotional healing is like cleaning out an old wound: it hurts while we are cleaning it out but we feel better afterward.

Make a list of the dark topics that you suspect are important, but aren’t yet ready to write. List them by title or theme. Write down the age you were when these difficult times happened. Write down what you did to cope with the event at the time. How do you feel now about the incident? What would you have liked to happen differently? Place these stories on a timeline so you can get a perspective on the clustering of events.

Make a list of the light stories, stories that bring you a feeling of well being, happiness, contentment, and safety. They may include memories about love, spiritual experiences, and miracles. Stand fully in the light of the positive stories and feel them in your body. Hold the images of the positive stories while you consider the dark stories list. This technique helps to integrate the polarities of our psyche.

The reader needs relief too, as most readers will put a book down if there are uninterrupted dark stories. I alternated dark and light chapters in my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother so the reader could enjoy moments of lightness and joy while also learning about the story of abandonment that weaves through the book, and I brought the reader to an ending with forgiveness and healing.

The power of writing a memoir is that the truth really does make you free. You don’t have to share your story with anyone. Having the freedom to express yourself freely and fully can release you from the story you have lived, and allows you to move forward with grace and forgiveness. Keep writing!

Leave a Comment or Question to Enter for a Chance to Win a Copy of Mary Lynn Archibald’s Latest Memoir!

Just a reminder that, TODAY, is Mary Lynn Archibald’s stop at the NAMW Blog as part of her WOW! Women on Writing Virtual Book Tour. Be sure to stop by and leave a question or comment for Mary Lynn or email them to info@namw.org to be automatically entered into a drawing to win a copy of Mary Lynn’s latest memoir, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue.

She’ll be with us all day to answer your questions! You can also still listen in on a fantastic and entertaining Author Reading by Mary Lynn, which is now available on the NAMW website. You can choose to listen in on the website or download the mp3 of the memoir reading to your portable device to listen to at your leisure.

If you are already a member of NAMW, thank you.  And if you are considering membership and have questions, please contact us at info@namw.org or you can reach Staci in our Member Benefits Department via telephone at (877) e-memoir.  Either way you choose to contact us, we’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have.

Be Brave.  Write Your Story!

P.S.  There are still a few spaces left in Linda Joy’s Intermediate to Advanced Writing Groups.  Sign up today before they are full!

Secrets and Tips: Write a Powerful Memoir

The release of The Power of Memoir–How to Write Your Healing Story has given me the opportunity to answer questions about memoir writing, from truth to secrets, from families who support the writer to families who threaten to sue if the memoirist tells “the truth.” I’m posting some of the questions every few days to help memoir writers caught in the dilemma between truth, memoir, family, and fiction.

Many writers are torn between the desire to tell the truth and the internal/external pressure to keep family secrets. What do you recommend they do?
It’s important first for the writer to get her story on the page, to write her own truth. Each person has a point of view and his own story that no one else can tell, so he needs to claim it and discover its wisdom by writing about it. This process creates a new perspective that brings forth layers of memories and insights. Exposing these layers is part of the healing process.

And there’s the hot topic in all my workshops: secrets. Secrets are energy magnets. The force it takes to keep secrets hidden is energy that could be used for growth and creativity. So often though, the shame and guilt associated with secrets keep feeding the darkness and the fear. Secrets maintain a great power over us, and we are diminished by them. We become co-conspirators to family dynamics that we don’t agree with and want to break away from. So we get caught in a conflict—to speak or not to speak? Do we remain closed and complicit, or open up and take the risk of losing friends and family, of being ousted from the family, or shamed once again into submission? These are choices that we need to make consciously and with care.

I tell my students to be open to writing two versions of the story: first, write for yourself, to clear out your emotional closet and sort the events that are jumbled up in your mind. Research has shown that writing the unadorned truth is powerful and creates changes in the brain—in other words: it’s healing.

When you put real people in your book, especially if they are identifiable, they should be notified. Even if all the portraits are positive, we’re exposing a real person to the eyes of the world. The convention is to have people read the sections they appear in, if you are on speaking terms. If not, change the names and identifying characteristics, even if that means changing names for the character, the streets, town and anything that exposes them. If published, the legal branch of the publishing company can vet the manuscript as well, but since so many memoirs are self-published, I think it’s important for people to keep these ethics in mind.

Putting the publishing concerns aside for a moment, I think the writer first needs to listen to the voice within, the true author of the story–yourself. Write what you have to say as if no one will read it–you can review it later. You will be different from the writer who began the story. Writing the story will transform you, heal you, and give you a feeling of empowerment.
Be brave–write your story!

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