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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.

The Creative Process

The Creative Process

The Creative ProcessHow do we create something out of nothing? Or perhaps a better question is—how do we create, period? Where does the creative impulse come from, and how can we find it? How do we know when we have “it”?

These circular questions arise with writers and all creative artists, and there is no answer that fits everyone. The “answer” is the process itself. As a writing coach and teacher, it seems important to have us examine the energy and art of being creative, and be able to find ourselves in the flow of it.

What’s interesting is that the process takes focus, yet we need to allow time to be unfocused, which invites the unknown to make its way into our consciousness. Most writers talk about how they find themselves as a channel for a force that moves through them. They are not “trying” to write. Then there are those times when no matter what we try, we can only squeeze out a few lines. And they are bad lines at that. What to do?

Last year, I had to stop writing the memoir I was working on at the 85,000 word mark when I realized that I was coming at it with a theme and voice that wasn’t working out. And worse, I felt that the voice of the narrator was wrong. I began to feel that the writing didn’t fit my inner intention, which wasn’t clear until I had written nearly the whole book. Well, I can say it was a bit disconcerting, but by then, I was relieved to make the decision to stop because the sense that it was not going in the right direction had been niggling at me for some time.

I was not sure that I would find the “right” voice, but I knew that I had to go into silence to discover it. I allowed myself to stop thinking about the book and find silence within, where perhaps something new might be born. I read novels, poetry, and allowed my imagination to flitter about while taking care not to pounce on any particular idea. I didn’t write anything down during that month-long period. I meditated on the idea that my creative process would let me know when there was something interesting to pay attention to, and sure enough it did. About five weeks after the experiment started, a phrase popped into my mind in a voice I felt I could live with. They turned out to be the first lines in the book I’m about to publish.

I learned so much from writing the first version that I abandoned. I knew what I needed to leave out, and I had a clearer sense of my themes and how to carry the project through.

Writing a book is a fraught activity. There is no guarantee that you will get to the end with something you feel good about. It can feel fine then jump off the rails just when you feel you have “arrived.”

The lesson, I believe, is to write with faith and hope, and not get attached to the outcome. To listen and capture what arises, in hopes that we can keep going. It’s important not to worry about the process Worry creates a blockage and that doesn’t help. We want to keep the flow going as much as we can, and enter into the stream where we flow into the next paragraph and chapter, one by one. The book begins to build itself, it begins to become what it’s trying to be.

I hope you can join us on Friday, March 17, when Kay Adams will talk about Writing Your Creative Manifesto!

February Roundtable Webinar – FREE to All- February 9, 2017

Lizbeth Meredith

Writing a Book with Benefits: Steps I Took to Take Care of My Memoir’s Future Readers 

February 9, 2017

 4 PM PST  5 PM MST  6 PM CST  7 PM EST 

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters recounts the Lizbeth Meredith’s two year struggle to bring home her internationally abducted daughters from Greece to Alaska. It’s the story of a 29 year-old woman whose life was marked by domestic violence and childhood kidnapping who faced a $100,000 problem on a $10 an hour budget. More than simply a missing children’s story, Pieces of Me is also the story of the generous community in Anchorage, Alaska and a growing support system in Greece who joined Lizbeth’s efforts to make the impossible a reality.

It is a 2016 USA Best Book Awards Finalist in Women’s Issues.

 

“Why now?”

I’ve been asked this question repeatedly since publishing my memoir in late September of 2016. And honestly, it wasn’t as though I hadn’t been trying.

I began my journey in memoir in 1996, just after I returned with my daughters to America after recovering them from Greece, where they’d lived in hiding for two years after my ex-husband spirited them away.With my journal in hand and cassette recordings I’d made to track events, I began to write my book.  I was 31 then, my traumatized little girls were 7 and 8 years old. I was young and headstrong and raw from my experiences, and I wanted to share my story in part to get even. I wanted to get even with a justice system that had failed me, both in the states and in Greece. I wanted to get even with the people responsible for my daughter’s kidnapping. And I wanted to anyone and everyone who continued to ask battered women “Why do you stay?” that a victim leaving a violent relationship was not surefire way to end the abuse like I had once believed it was.

But year after year, draft after draft, my reasons  for writing my memoir changed in direct proportion to the amount of healing my girls and I experienced. There were universal themes and messages I wanted to share. There were lessons in dealing with inter-generational trauma that I was compelled to write. And before I knew it, my so-called misery-memoir became the piece of me I am proud to gift to my daughters and to my readers.

 

In this discussion, you will learn:

*The value of outlining your memoir’s takeaways, those messages your readers will benefit from reading.

*How the passage of time can help clarify your true story that’s encased inside all of the events.

* Tools and techniques that help channel the emotions of events long ago.

* Why including humor and insight is important to your reader’s well-being.

* How writing a book with benefits led to natural partnerships in the launch phase.

 

Bio

Lizbeth Meredith is a writer based in Alaska with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor.

Lizbeth published When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused on Amazon and Nook, and is a contributor to A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson.

You can contact her at lameredith.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lizbethmeredithfan or on Twitter at Lizbeth Meredith@LizbethMeredith.

 

Audio and webinar recording below:

January Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Dorit Sasson 

What I Learned about the Courage to Write and Publish my Memoir Accidental Soldier

January 12, 2017 

 4 PM PST  5 PM MST  6 PM CST  7 PM EST 

What kind of crazy person would trade college life for serving in the Israel Defense Forces at the tender age of 18? As a dual American-Israeli citizen, I was trying to make my life work as a college student until I realized that if I didn’t distance myself from my neurotic worrywart of a mother, I would become just like her. 

Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces is the story of how I dropped out of college and volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces in an effort to change my life. The story shows that by stepping out of my comfort zone and into a war zone, I discovered courage and faith I didn’t know I was capable of.

As a first-time memoirist, I put myself out into the writing world in many ways, and learned what it takes to come full-circle with the writing and publishing process. I’d love to share the “highs” and “lows” of my journey with you. It is my hope that learning about my wins and successes will give you a road map to see your book as a marketable journey of creativity.

  • It was a challenge to translate some of the “foreign” experiences of serving in the Israel Defense Forces for the United States audience. Through doing this, I discovered that my book was marketable here.
  • I discovered it took courage to build my author platform creatively.
  • I learned the importance of marketing my memoir to a niche audience and what that meant for choosing the right publisher
  • There were unexpected challenges and successes with the publicity and marketing as I did a book tour for my memoir in the United States and in Israel.
  • I’ll discuss how writing my memoir inspired me to support other writers and authors

 

Bio:

Dorit Sasson is a copywriter, content marketing strategist, speaker, and author. She is the founder of “Giving Voice to Your Courage” podcast and website. She mentors authors and writers on how to build a more visible and engaging platform – creatively and with courage! Her groundbreaking memoir Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces is a finalist for the next Generation Indie Book Awards, Best Books USA Awards and Santa Fe Literary Awards. It’s a widely read handbook on how to become more courageous in life.

 

Listen to the recording below:

December Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Jill Kandel

The Power of Words: 20 Years of Writing 

December 8, 2016

 4 PM PDT  5 PM MDT  6 PM CDT  7 PM EDT 

jill-kandelI have been a writer for twenty years and am so excited to talk about some of the many things I have learned. I will be talking about four main areas: My journey into writing, the work of writing, the fear of writing and the power of writing.

Listeners can expect to learn some practical tips on time management and the work of writing. I will talk about overcoming various fears including being too old, getting it wrong, and offending my family. I also would like to speak about the power of writing and the fulfillment joy it has brought to my life.

I began writing at the age of 40. I do not have an MFA. And yet, I have written a memoir that received two awards and have had essays published in top journals across the U.S. I hope listeners will come away from the discussion with both practical tips for improving their writing and a generous heap of encouragement. Writing is hard. But it is also enormously worthwhile.

 

What you will learn in our discussion: 

  • Encouragement for those who are beginning to write later in life
  • Practical tips on time management
  • Ideas on how to improve your writing
  • Advice on the business side of writing and resume building
  • Thoughts on managing the fear of writing
  • Inspiration from the power of writing

 

BIO:

Jill Kandel is a memoirist and essayist. She is the author of: So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village, winner of both the Autumn House Nonfiction Prize and the Sarton Women’s Literary Award in Memoir.

Kandel recently won second place in the Magic of Memoir essay contest. Her writing has been included in several anthologies including The Magic of Memoir (She Writes Press), The Best Spiritual Writing 2013 (Penguin Books) and Becoming: What Makes a Woman 2013 (University of Nebraska Press).

Kandel’s essays have been published in many literary journals including The Missouri Review, The Pinch, The Gettysburg Review, River Teeth Journal, Under the Sun, Image Journal, and Brevity.

For more information visit Jill on her website where she blogs about her writing journey and about living between cultures. She is currently blogging about the Netherlands, WWII and euthanasia, as she prepares to finish her second memoir. www.jillkandel.com

 

Listen to the recording below:

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