Featured NAMW Member – Coralease C. Ruff

cora4

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.

The Memoirist’s Dilemma—Vulnerability and Truth in Memoir

The Memoirist’s Dilemma—Vulnerability and Truth in Memoir

The Memoirist’s Dilemma—Vulnerability and Truth in MemoirIsn’t it amazing that we’re invited into strangers’ living rooms and lives and psyches, even their bedrooms, in a memoir? And we, as memoirists, are told that in order to write a good memoir, we must open up our lives this way! We have to become that open, that vulnerable. Many times during workshops I have likened this revealing process we’re supposed to do in memoirland to being on stage without our clothes on, and this still seems true. I’m nearly done with my second memoir, and I’m no extrovert, but I did find new layers to explore in this new book. I also had the same doubts and fears that I had last time. I kept writing anyway. That’s what we have to do if we are to reveal anything meaningful or useful to ourselves or our readers

People have different levels of comfort with sharing and showing personal details of their lives. But it’s not only our lives that we open up to the scrutiny of others, it’s our dreams, our thoughts, our shame, as well as our secrets joys and pleasures. For some people, this is tougher than they imagined. I hear that all the time in our Write Your Memoir in Six Months class—sometimes a bit of buyer’s remorse—but really, it’s fear. It’s the old teachings that we shouldn’t speak out or write out the truths of our lives. That we need to keep everything tucked away, even the things that might inspire others and change their lives.  The real secret of life might be that together and with compassionate hearts, we can all help each other in this journey called life, and our books, and thoughts and truths can be a way to do that.

During the NAMW group coaching each month, free to all members, everyone introduces themselves and says what their memoir is about and why they are writing it—which elicits oohs and aahs from the rest of the group, because each story has a core of courage, each reveals the vulnerability of the writer, and at the same time, the stories offer us nuggets of wisdom. We cheer everyone on each month, and after a while, we celebrate the progress everyone has made.

To feel more comfortable with writing your memoir, you may need to explore your vulnerability.

  1. Write down what you least want anyone to know.
  2. Write a list of all the things you think your family and friends will say if they read your memoir.
  3. Write about your fear of being seen or that people will find out some of your secrets. Freewrite these scary bits to get them out of your head.
  4. Then make a list of the ways you feel your story will help others—think of ten messages you will deliver in your book.
  5. Write about why you want to write your memoir, and about the journey you have already taken so far.
  6. If you have any sticking points about writing a memoir, explore what they are through your journal. We all have these issues. We have to sort them out, let them have a voice, and then we can contemplate what to do about them.

Vulnerability and the willingness to write an honest memoir that pursues truth and her authentic voice is one of the themes of the July member teleseminar with Karen Lynch. Please join us as she discusses her memoir Good Cop, Bad Daughter and how she chose what to put in and what to leave out, among other interesting topics.

August Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Virginia-A.-Simpson-1

Meaningful Misery: Why Writing a Memoir is a Worthwhile Struggle

Dr. Virginia Simpson

August 4, 2016

4 PM PDT  5 PM MDT  6 PM CDT 7 PM EDT

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

 

Bio:

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.

www.virginiaasimpson.com

www.drvirginiasimpson.com

July Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Sharon and Carol

Sharon and CarolThe Rewards of Private Publication

Sharon Lippincott and Carol Broz

Thursday July 7

4 PM PDT   5 PM MDT 6 PM CDT 7 PM EDT

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.

 

Testimonials

Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.

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