Writing Your Story Will Change You

Writing Your Story Will Change You

Writing Your Story Will Change YouDo you have a family story that won’t leave you alone? Have you spent time not being sure you should or can write it?

That’s how I felt as I approached trying to write both memoirs—Don’t Call Me Mother and Song of the Plains. I tried to push aside completing my first book because it was painful to drop into the past again and revisit scenes of abuse and loss when I was a child, though I relished the happy moments with family, my cello teacher, and friends. I didn’t think I could write; I was afraid to put things on the page that were true but unspoken. I knew that my family would severely criticize me for it—if they were alive. But even though they weren’t, it was still a challenge to keep writing through the layers of time. I worried about being exposed about my life and my crazy family if I were to finish the book, which lead to twelve years or writing and rewriting before I felt I could let it go. There was shame, too, in having lived through some of the events in the book. Do any of these concerns go through your mind about your memoir?

A couple things kept me going: I wanted to write a book that would support other people who had grown up either abandoned or lost to help them seek healing and resolution. And, I wanted to write the book I had looked for on the shelves as I lived through my story.

When it was finally published, I discovered that I was part of a larger community of people, all who had been silenced and were afraid to speak their truths, but gradually, there was permission through writing memoir, a fairly new genre when I started writing, to write the stories that no one knew. The stories where I was the only witness. Through being able to be connected by the Internet, and social media like Facebook, communities have been built that share similar issues and themes.

To learn more about my new book Song of the Plains, please visit http://lindajoymyersauthor.com

Writing your story will change you! As you are writing your story, perhaps you already have experienced a shift in perspective about your life, your family, and the events you lived through.  Our stories carry a wisdom we didn’t know we had. Memoir makes its demands on us, pressing us for stories we’ve never written before, leading us into moments and memories as we drop into another time and place. To write a memoir means to wrestle with truth. We are the narrator and witness to the life we’ve lived. Writing a memoir means that we learn how to move through time as we draw upon writing craft to create a world the reader can relate to, a world that brings them into the magic of a story.

To support your journey into memoir, I hope you can join us this May for two major memoir events at the National Association of Memoir Writers.

First, our NAMW Member monthly webinar, May 12. Structure is such a challenge, and Beth Barany is going to offer several possible solutions that can solve the puzzle of structure for your memoir.

I’m thrilled to present our FREE NAMW Memoir Telesummit Webinar on Friday, May 19. This talented and well known group of presenters will talk about truth, trauma, resilience and how to tackle challenging themes. Join us for a memoir event that can change your life, for the better!

May 19, 2017

Free Day Long event: 10 AM/1PM to 2 PM/5 PM

We’re very excited here at NAMW to offer a day long discussion about truth in memoir–one of the hottest topics memoirists discuss online, in forums, and in running Facebook posts!

As memoirists, we have to struggle with “the truth.” When we write our stories, we search to discover and reveal various angles of the truths in our lives. As complex humans, there are multiple and sometimes paradoxical truths—love and hate, letting go/holding on, attraction/repulsion desire and rejection of intimacy, and countless other opposites that are part of life. In our stories, one scene may highlight one aspect of truth, and then in another we’re someone else. The characters in our stories may have conflicting presentations   and we feel complex emotions about these real people who become our “characters.” In a world that asks for us to have a single opinion or reaction that defines, writing a memoir and facing its complexities can get challenging. Sometimes we’re tempted to give up. As one of my students said, “I keep changing my mind about what I think and feel each time I write my story. I need to know what position I should take. Shouldn’t I have this all sorted out by now?”

The secret to writing a memoir is that it’s more of a journey and a process than a single destination. We are always becoming and learning as we write. In writing a memoir we uncover surprises, some of which we don’t want to know about. As I wrote both Don’t Call Me Mother and my new memoir, Song of the Plains, I encountered bumpy emotional rides. In my new memoir, I tried to pull back even deeper layers of truth that I either couldn’t write about yet in my first one, or I couldn’t bear to share with the world. By investigating our story, new truths were revealed. Today we are going to investigate truth—how to find it, why we try to avoid it, and what to do when it speaks deeply to us, body and soul.

Join this FREE special webinar on May 19 with these deep and engaging presenters who have agreed to spend time with us. The day will be one of exploration and insight, and I hope you will find support and inspiration for your own work through this special event.

Spring Membership Sale

A memoir tells the story that otherwise would be lost.  If you are writing a memoir, you probably are aware of the various layers of excitement/worry/curiosity/ and passion that goes with such a project. It takes craft and creativity, persistence and motivation to write a story about your life. It means you are vulnerable and exposed too, even to yourself. I know this well. have just finished writing my second memoir Song of the Plains—A Memoir of Family, Secrets, and Silence, and I can tell you I went through, and am still going through, all the ups and downs that you do as I wrote the book. And now I’m going to share it with the world. Gulp!

I kept asking  myself why I did this—again—and found an answer, or answers: because I have a story that I believe is particularly mine, yet has universal elements in it that we all share: mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and a search for identity. It’s about blood ties, and the land where bones are buried. It’s about failures and secrets and successes, and hope. All our stories are about these things in one way or another. The trick is to find your particular vision and voice, the threads of your story that you weave together for us to read. 

Here at the National Association of Memoir Writers, our goal is to help you learn new skills and to lift you up as you work on your story. This year we added two new features: our monthly programs are in a webinar format, which makes learning and connecting even easier and more fun. And at our group coaching sessions members have been making new friends and finding writing buddies that help them on the journey. Our Roundtable webinars feature new authors just like you, who have crossed the finish line into “published author.” Some of these writers have been NAMW members and now are authors! Their books are winning prizes! This is very exciting.

We’re celebrating a creative spring this year, and the fact that memoir is still wildly popular and a genre that isn’t going away! There are more ways than ever to be published and share our stories, so keep writing! 

To help you celebrate we’re offering a special spring sale of $40 off our regular membership price—Only $109 for a year membership.  Renewals are also discounted $40 off and are only $107.  Our sale begins Friday, April 14th and ends at midnight on Monday, April 17th. 

You receive two new bonuses with your membership: The audio and transcript of What Made Liar’s Club a New York Times Bestseller—a four week course taught by Brooke Warner and me a year ago. And the audio and transcript of How to Tell the Truth Without Ending up in Court, a webinar by Helen Sedwick, an attorney that specializes in what writers need to know. We have many other benefits so you can find them here.

 

 

Exposure in Writing, My New Memoir, and Finding Freedom from the Past

April flowers

April flowersIn April, the colors are yellow, and green and blue skies, a season of life surging upward toward the sun. When we writers feel this upward movement of energy, we need to catch the wave. After all, there are plenty of times when despite positive energy and sun and the potential for creativity, we can feel blocked or silenced or scared to have our lives exposed—an almost inevitable reaction when writing a memoir.

This spring, I feel this kind of hesitance myself, despite the fact that I’ve published several other books including my first memoir Don’t Call Me Mother. I felt so exposed, lifting the veil from private to public on my family’s craziness—three generations of mothers who abandoned their daughters, mothers who rejected their children until the end of their life. There were wicked adoptive mothers, and molestations, and ongoing emotional abuse. What a mess!  Many of my students bring up the issue of not wanting to hurt other people by what they reveal in their memoir—and I can relate!

Song of the PlainsSo now, I’m finding myself a bit blocked as I prepare for what is truly a joy for me—the release of my new memoir Song of the Plains—A Story of Family, Secrets, and Silence. In this book, I unravel the complicated threads of our generational story in a new way—from the point of view of an adult who has spent over forty years trying to find the layers of truth—what happened, when, where, and who did what to whom. Forty years doing research to uncover where my mother lived as a little girl—I knew nearly nothing about her. And when was it that my grandmother, who ended up raising me, had left my mother as a little girl? I tracked their traumas, and the historical context of their lives as women and girls. Children in those days, and when I was raised as well, were taught, Children should be seen and not heard. Women, too, were supposed to bow to the rules and voices of men. My grandmother was born in the 19th century, and my mother five years before women had the vote. The patriarchal rules were going strong in the fifties when I grew up, when girls were urged to get their MRS degree in college, though it was also the first generation when going to college was an option. In my search, I discovered the key to how my grandmother offered me options that she never had.

I found some of the answers to the past in dusty courthouses, local libraries, and finally, on Ancestry.com. I share with the reader what I find out, and how the shackles of the past are released with each new discovery.

The Truth about Trauma

The other reason I explore these themes in my new memoir has to do with the new research about the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Through my training in family therapy in the eighties, I knew about generational patterns that were psychological in origin, but now DNA research shows that we carry traumas from previous generations with us. All my life I felt this to be true in my body, and as a result, did a lot of body therapy among other kinds of therapy to try to heal. The good news from research and books available now, including the research by John Evans, Dr. James Pennebaker, and Mark Wolynn is that the way the heal is find the family story, and find your own voice. We can use our stories and our writing to heal what was broken.

Whatever stage you are now, just know that word by word and chapter by chapter you are supporting the healing of the generations, and that you are planting seeds of freedom for the legacy you leave behind. You’ll be hearing much more about these topics this spring. On May 19, for our Memoir Telesummit, we have some amazing guests for you on exactly this topic, so stay tuned! We’ll have those details up on the site soon so you can sign up.

April Events

We’re also excited to special guests this month at our April Roundtable webinar April 6—Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on the topic of exposure in memoir and fiction and what to do about it. And Jed Diamond, an expert on the topic of men in family and relationships for our Member Webinar on April 21. Sometimes people ask us if we include men in our programs, and the answer is always yes! NAMW is about helping all voices find their stories and express their truths.

See you at the events this month. Brooke Warner and I are hosting a fantastic All-Day Memoir Conference Turn Up the Dial on Your Memoir on April 28, and our FREE event on Love Warrior on April 17. Be sure to sign up to keep learning and connecting with all things memoir.

What Made Love Warrior a Best-selling Memoir?

An Examination of a Memoir That Bares the Soul (And Spares No One)

4-WEEK CLASS
Class dates (Mondays): April 24, May 1, May 8, May 15
4pm PT | 5pm MT | 6pm CT | 7pm ET

Classes are one hour long and we record all sessions so that you can watch the recordings if you have to miss a class.

 

EARLY REGISTRATION: $75 through April 17th

Regular registration: $89

Go to this page to register.

 

love-warriorLove Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton, has the kind of elements of pain that most memoirists struggle to write. She grapples with addiction, painful insecurities, her husband’s infidelity, maternal overwhelm, her rocky marriage, and questions about her own lack of sex drive. Tackling a single one of these issues is tough; to expose all of them and handle them with care is enormously brave. In this free webinar, memoir experts Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner will address the fears that invariably come up for writers looking to write their deepest truths and expose their most intimate—and often shameful—secrets. This webinar will address the fallouts too—and touch upon how sharing your truth has a way of both leveling everything and setting you free.

 

Class 1. Why Theme Is Memoir’s North Star (April 24)

  • How theme informs your scenes and why to keep your themes front and center while you write.
  • How to use through-threads to highlight your themes.
  • Tracking Glennon Doyle Melton’s hard themes of infidelity, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction juxtaposed against the hopeful ones of healing, commitment, and love.
  • Tips for how to think about theme in your own writing, and why nailing down your own themes is the best gift you can give yourself as a memoirist.

Class 2. The Singular Power of a Clear Narrative Voice (May 1)

  • A look at Glennon Doyle Melton’s use of the Voice of Innocence vs Voice of Experience and how to integrate both of these narrative techniques into your own writing.
  • The power of sequencing—keeping your reader on track with what you knew when to create a more intimate and compelling narrative.
  • Pacing 101—tracking Love Warrior’s timeline and structure to showcase how to control your pacing, and why it matters in good storytelling.
  • Outlier narrative techniques in Love Warrior—and how they support the story and add to good storytelling.

Class 3. Reflection and Takeaway—Bringing Home Why Any of It Matters (May 8)

  • Understanding the difference between reflection and takeaway, using examples from Love Warrior.
  • Why takeaway can elevate a good memoir to a great memoir.
  • How Glennon Doyle Melton uses takeaway to pierce the hearts of her readers and invite them more deeply into an exploration of their own lives.
  • How and where to integrate reflection and takeaway into your own memoir so it’s both seamless and packs a punch.

Class 4. Baring It All and the Fallout (May 15)

  • The real-life fallout of writing about intimate and personal topics and family.
  • Glennon Doyle Melton in the news following the dissolution of her marriage after writing this memoir—and what she’s had to say about it.
  • How to decide what you’re going to share, and how to float test bubbles to see if you’re ready for the consequences.
  • The payoff of baring it all.

 

EARLY REGISTRATION: $75 through April 17th

Regular registration: $89

Go to this page to register.

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