Memoir Telesummit

Fall 2016 Telesummit: The Heart and Soul of Memoir

Date: November 11, 2016

Time: 10am-2pm PST / 1pm-5pm EST

As memoir writers, we know the challenge we face—how to explore the truths of our story while balancing artistry and accuracy. How to write a good story that carries the heft of lived experience as we explore our memories. We write about ourselves, family, and those we love, but encounter questions about privacy and the ethics of writing about others. We want to create a vibrant story that brings to life the world we have lived and the moments of meaning we want to share with others, but it’s a long project and we struggle with the process—the memories that come up and the challenges of technique and craft. An authentic, well-written memoir can be a way to create deep healing and change, but we have to bare our souls to perfect strangers in that process. This takes such courage, and I’m honored, as the founder of NAMW, to be part of such a vibrant and courageous community of writers.

The NAMW Fall Telesummit, The Heart and Soul of Memoir, brings together craft, inspiration, and art. We will hear from Robin Brooks, a book designer, about how to think of your story and your book as a whole artistic creation. Helen Sedwick, a literary attorney, will put your mind to ease as we discuss how to tell your truths freely and not procrastinate because of legal and ethical worries. Information is your friend. The information in Lisa Cron‘s new book, Story Genius, will help you find the core of your story, and you’ll learn more about the skills to create a memoir that reaches into the hearts of others. Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers will share our new anthology with you, Magic of Memoir: Inspiration for the Writing Journey. We compiled essays from memoirists who explore the process of writing memoir and how they dealt with the challenges and found the magic in drawing from life to create art. We also interviewed well-known memoirists, including Mary Karr, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mark Matousek, Jessica Valenti, Azar Nafisi, and others. We’ll talk about the powerful themes and messages that propel us to write, reveal tough truths, and change the world with our books.


 Sign up here for our Fall 2016 Telesummit!  

 Receive call access plus the free audio download.



 Member Pricing – $29



 Non-Member Pricing – $39


Session 1—Book Design

10-11 am PST | 11-12 am MST |  12-1 pm CST | 1-2 pm EST

How a Book Designer Supports your Soul and the Soul of Your Memoir

Robin Brooks

robin-brooksRobin Brooks will speak about choosing a book designer who is right for you, for your life, and for your soul. This needs to be a choice that supports you because when you write your memoir, you’re opening your soul to your readers.

The designer needs to be able to intuitively understand your essence and the enormous effort you have put into writing the story of who you are from your core. He or she also needs to have the practical capability and knowledge to follow all the steps necessary to successfully design and produce your memoir in book form.

There are pieces to this decision that come from the gut. Others can be determined from physical example and concrete information. Both areas of decision-making must come together in forming this choice so that you end up working with someone who honors and supports you, as they also help you bring into the world the soul of your memoir.

We will discuss the following points—and more:

  1. Choose a designer that fits your soul and the soul of your memoir
  2. Choosing a designer, practical considerations
  3. Cover, content and practical points—key words and images
  4. What is the best route FOR YOU in terms of self-publishing?
  5. Marketing choices for your book
  6. Robin’s experience as a self-published author 

Robin Brooks of “The Beauty of Books” has been a graphic designer for 40 years and has designed ads, brochures, newsletters, magazines, among many other projects. She also designs books for Viking Penguin and the Waldorf Schools of North America.  Born in Tokyo, and an artist all her life, Robin received her design sense from her time in a country whose ethic expects beauty everywhere. Known for her use of white space and her clean design style, she brings her sense of weight, balance, color, and vision to all she creates. She specializes in memoirs and personal histories, and designs books of poetry, art, spirituality. Robin works with high-end offset, short-run digital, and print-on-demand printers Ingram Spark and Create Space. She guides authors who wish to self-publish their books professionally. In 2013 she self-published her poetic memoir The Blooming of the Lotus: a spiritual journey from trauma into light, and in 2015, WriteLife Publishing, Inc. re-released her book.

Session 2—Legal and Ethical Issues in Memoir

11-12 am PST | 12-1 pm MST | 1-2  pm CST | 2-3 pm EST

How to Tell the Truth Without Ending up in Court

helen-sedwickHelen Sedwick

Memoirists are the bravest of writers. In exploring the journeys of their lives, they inevitably delve into the private (and imperfect) lives of others. Not only do they worry about awkward family gatherings, they also risk claims of defamation and invasion of privacy.

Can a memoirist write about surviving abuse without getting sued by her abuser? Can a soldier write about PTSD without revealing the incompetence of commanders and therapists? Yes, but common sense and a cool head are key. Considering the tens of thousands of memoirs published each year, there are relatively few lawsuits. Claims are difficult and expensive to prove. Most targets don’t want to call attention to a matter best forgotten.

However, it’s important for memoir writers to be smart about the legal risks. They need to learn how to distinguish between the ones that are important to the narrative arc and the ones that are not.

In our session, we will cover

  • The components of a defamation or privacy claim
  • Some real life (and often colorful) examples
  • Useful guidelines for avoiding problems

Helen Sedwick is an author and California attorney with thirty years of experience representing businesses and entrepreneurs. Publisher’s Weekly lists her Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook as one of the top five resource books for independent authors. Her blog coaches writers on everything from saving on taxes to avoiding scams. For more information about Helen, check out her website at

Session 3—Story Craft

12 pm PST | 1 pm MST | 2 pm CST | 3 pm EST

The Heart of a Great Story

Lisa Cron

lisa-cronEvery memoir has a protagonist—you! Stories that keep us turning the pages feature a protagonist with a problem, obstacles that get in the way of the protagonist’s desires and needs, and powerful scenes that put us in the body and mind of the characters. Memoir writers get stuck on how to create these elements because they have to stick to “what happened.” But there is more flexibility than you think in creating a good memoir.

Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story and a new book Story Genius, is back with us. She will talk about techniques that make a memoir interesting and meaningful to others—not by changing the “truth” but by helping us draw upon craft, imagination, and “what if” questions to create a living breathing story that goes far beyond “this happened to me.” The elements of story craft offer memoirists ways to create a universal message, and reach the hearts of your audience.

We will discuss:

  1. You the protagonist—conflict and desire in your own story line
  2. What are you afraid of as a protagonist?
  3. How to deal with point of view and its complications in memoir
  4. Writing scenes: what the scientists tell us
  5. Weaving cause and effect.
  6. Finding your turning points

Lisa Cron is a story coach and the author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers From the Very First Sentence  and Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages that Go Nowhere) both published by Ten Speed Press.

Her video tutorial Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story can be found at

Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and CourtTV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency.

Since 2006, she’s been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA program in visual narrative in New York City.

Lisa works with writers, nonprofits, educators and organizations, helping them master the unparalleled power of story, so they can move people to action – whether that action is turning the pages of a compelling novel, trying a new product, or taking to the streets to change the world for the better.


Session 4—Inspiration on Your Memoir Journey

1-2 pm PST   2-3 pm MST   3-4 pm CST   4-5 pm EST

The Magic of Memoir—What Is It?

Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner


This year Brooke Warner and I reviewed 185 submissions for our anthology, The Magic of Memoir, which will be published this November by She Writes Press. The experience of reading so many inspiring and heartfelt works from writers from all paths, and various levels of writing and publishing experience, confirmed for us what we already knew to be true: memoir holds magic.

A big part of the magic of memoir is taking risks to expose the truth. We saw this across so many essays—brave writers revealing their lived experience: as immigrants coming to America; as lesbians fully embracing their sexual identities during a time when it was not only difficult, but dangerous to do; as adult children of alcoholics looking back on the chaos of their upbringing and coming to terms with the damage done, finding a new sense of self and strength; as children and parents and spouses who have weathered unbearable losses, and have come through with a special perspective on life; as survivors of sexual abuse, who, when they give voice to what happened, find the healing journey that memoir writing offers; as minorities in this country claiming their own stories in a culture that too often makes them invisible and silenced.

We found that writing a memoir offered everyone something new, something they would never have found any other way. In this presentation, we are distilling some of the lessons and challenges that the writers encountered, and highlighting some of the recurring themes we saw in the submissions we read and the interviews we conducted with best-selling memoirists, including Mary Karr, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mark Matousek, Jessica Valenti, Azar Nafisi, and others. We’ll talk about the powerful themes and messages that propel us to write, reveal tough truths, and change the world with our books.

These themes include:

  • Conquering the inner critic
  • Writing the truth
  • Secrets, silence, and shame
  • The joys of discovery through writing memoir
  • Memoir as healing
  • The journey of memoir, from idea to finished book

Brooke Warner and Linda Joy MyersBrooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book, What’s Your Book?, How to Sell Your Memoir, and the co-author of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing. She is the former Executive Editor of Seal Press and currently sits on the boards of the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Bay Area Book Festival, and the National Association of Memoir Writers.  She blogs actively on Huffington Post Books and She lives and works in Berkeley, California.

Linda Joy Myers is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers. Her memoir Don’t Call Me Mother—A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness was a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Award, a finalist in the IndieExcellence Awards, and won the BAIPA Gold Medal award. She’s the author of three books on memoir writing: The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, Journey of Memoir, and Becoming Whole. She’s a co-author with Brooke Warner of two books: Breaking Ground on Your Memoir and Magic of Memoir. Her new memoir Song of the Plains will be released in June, 2017. Myers writes for the Huffington Post, and co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months with Brooke Warner. A therapist for thirty-six years, Myers speaks about memoir, healing and the power of writing the truth.


 Sign up here for our Fall 2016 Telesummit!  

 Receive call access plus the free audio download.



 Member Pricing – $29



 Non-Member Pricing – $39






Fall 2015 Telesummit | Truth and Transformation in Memoir

Telesummit stars photo-2015

Fall 2015 Telesummit

Truth and Transformation in Memoir

Friday November 6, 2015
10 am-3 pm


Welcome to the Fall Telesummit for the National Association of Memoir Writers!  We have a TON of great information for you writers and explorers of truth in memoir. Even if you can’t attend every session, when you sign up you get the bonuses and the free audio of the whole day! Hope to see you on the call!

–Linda Joy Myers, president of NAMW

Linda Joy








Early Bird Pricing (good until November 2) – $29
Regular Pricing (after November 2) – $49

Memoir writers need to be jugglers. Not only are we trying to find out what our story is about, we’re trying to learn how to write our memoir so others can understand our experiences, so there is a takeaway for the reader. But first we must honor ourselves, dig deep into our hearts, minds, and memories for the stories that are our truths. This work is deeply healing, and offers hope to others when our book is published.

On this journey we search for inspiration and the tools we need to create our memoir. We need to learn about craft, the techniques of storytelling. And we have to manage our own inner voices: do I REALLY have a story to tell that others will find interesting? How can I tell that story when others may not want me to?

The heart of memoir writing is permission, passion, and time. Until you write “The End” and send your last draft off to the publisher, you need to be engaged in learning and finding the permission to encounter your story in your head and dreams over and over again and write it down. It’s a long journey, but it will feed your soul, it will change you—for the better. The inner wisdom you want to share in your story is what drives you on your search for truth.

During this day-long Telesummit, a conference by phone with our terrific presenters, we’ll talk about encountering your story through various perspectives. First, Susan Reynolds will share her research on how to get your brain to inspire you and help you write your story. Louise DeSalvo will help us look at how to discover what’s missing in our story, how to listen to what the story is wanting from us.
Learning craft is essential—it’s part of our own personal transformation as we write. Jordan Rosenfeld and Martha Alderson are going to talk about their tools for how to write deep through learning plot and scenes. Melissa Cistaro will share with us her writing and publishing journey. And a literary agent, Andy Ross, will talk about memoir from an agent’s perspective, and offer us some tips on how to touch an agent’s heart.


Early Bird Pricing (good until October 31) – $29
Regular Pricing (after October 31) – $49


Reynolds, Susan_Author Photo
Fire Up Your Writing Brain
Hot Tips for Maximizing Your Writing Genius

Susan Reynolds

10 am PST  11 am MST  12 pm CST 1 pm EST

Science writer and author of Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer, Susan Reynolds will tell you what you need to know to maximize your brainpower while prepping to write and writing. Offering insights into neuroscience and specific, practical tips a memoirist needs, Susan will walk you through the latest research, elucidating the interplay of storytelling and neuroscience, and how these breakthroughs can help you craft more fully developed memoirs that sell. The focus will be on new, easy-to-understand information with practical applications, designed to help your brain spark creativity and craft your best work. Specific topics include:

• 5 Things you need to know about your brain and writing
• 5 ways to crystalize your intelligence around writing
• If you’re a top or bottom brain writer—and why it matters
• How to boost creativity by mining metaphors and language
• Clever ways to tap into your memory reserves and maximize emotional impact

Join us for this fascinating, groundbreaking seminar and come away with practical ways to boost your brainpower and maximize your writing genius.
Susan Reynolds has authored or edited 45+ nonfiction and fiction books. Recently, she co-authored Train Your Brain to Get Happy, Train Your Brain to Get Rich, and Meditation for Moms. She was the creator and editor of the My Hero anthology series (Teacher, Mom, Dad, Dog), and Woodstock Revisited, 50 far out, groovy, peace-inducing, flashback-inducing stories from those who were there. Ms. Reynolds also edits GRAND Magazine (an online magazine), blogs on, and judges annual writing contests for Writer’s Digest. She is currently writing a novel based on a year she spent living in Paris.

Susan’s Amazon Author Page.


How to Get at What’s Not There
Louise DeSalvo

11 am PST  12 pm MST  1 pm CST  2 pm EST

Writing a memoir is a long journey—you know that, but what are the marking points on that journey? One of them is beginning your stories, setting some words down as your memories whisper in your ear. As your stories evolve, you’re searching for the threads of truth that you want to write about, and you are searching for your voice—an ineffable quality that is hard to define. In writing memoir, it takes a long time to figure out what the story is really about and how to tell it. The key to finding out what your story is trying to become is right on the page if we know how to look for it. Figuring out what’s not yet there and determining how to put that on the page is guaranteed to transform your work.

As a result of our conversation, we will:

• Talk about how Louise has crafted her memoirs, and how she has lost and found the threads of her story
• Learn how to identify the “hole” in our narratives
• Discover how reflecting upon what’s not yet there will deepen your work
• Discuss techniques to incorporate our new found insights into your work
• How challenges in writing your memoir can strengthen your ability to keep going and finish your book

Louise DeSalvo is the Jenny Hunter Endowed Scholar for Literature and Creative Writing at Hunter College where she teaches memoir to undergraduates. She has published five memoirs, among them, the award-winning Vertigo and two
books about the writing process, Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives and, most recently, The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity. She has been studying and writing
about the writing process of famous writers for forty years. Her new book Chasing Ghosts: A Memoir of a Father, Gone to War was released Oct. 1.

JordLeaning crop

Digging Deep into Plot and Scene to Write a Great Memoir
Jordan Rosenfeld and Martha Alderson

12 pm PST  1 pm MST  2 pm CST  3 pm EST

To write a successful and powerful memoir, you need to build your craft skills. Some writers don’t know that learning craft helps to create a more powerful voice and helps you the writer to reveal your story in a deeper way. This presentation by two talented and powerful authors and teachers, Jordan Rosenfeld and Martha Alderson, you will dig deeper into your story and expand your skills. Remember, finding your truth happens through the process of writing. The better you can write your scenes and develop your plot, the more truth you can tell that will transform your life and resonate with your readers.

Based on the work of Martha and Jordan’s new book, Writing Deep Scenes, you’ll learn
• Powerful scene construction
• What the different scene types are—for example epiphany, contemplative, suspense
• How to find a plot for your memoir that resonates with readers and keeps them reading
• And how to think about creating scenes and plot for a true story

Martha Alderson is the bestselling author of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master where she first introduced the Universal Story to transform writers’ creative lives and teach them about plot. The Plot Whisperer Work book: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories and The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing quickly followed. Her most recent book is Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion & Theme with Jordan Rosenfeld. Writing Blockbuster Plots: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Plot, Structure & Scene is due out 3/16. Secrets of Personal Transformation: A Spiritual Guide comes next.
Martha is currently filming 2 new video programs: The 27-Step Tutorial: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? and A Spiritual Guide for Writers: Secrets of Personal Transformation. She and Jordan co-lead writing and renewal retreats: Visit her website:

Jordan is author of four writing guides, most recently Writing Deep Scenes and A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, and three novels, most recently Women in Red. Her essays & articles have appeared in the New York Times, Ozy, The Rumpus,, the Washington Post and many more.

Melissa Cistaro-photo

Melissa Cistaro

On Memoir: Putting the Pieces Together

1 pm PST  2 pm MST  3 pm CST  4 pm EST

We all know it takes a long time to write a memoir, and for some, it takes more than a decade to come to terms with what happened in “real life” and how to find the arc of the story. Melissa Cistaro, author of Pieces of My Mother, will talk about what sustained her through the twelve years of working on her memoir — and the publishing experience that made it all worth it.

The discussion will include:

• Sticking with the story you need to tell.
• Finding the arc of forgiveness.
• The power of compassion in memoir.
• The single sentence that kept me writing through the years.
• Why I started my memoir as fiction.
• Struggling with structure.
• How motherhood made me a writer.
• Don’t fall in love with your title . . . Stories from the publishing world.
• The tale of finding that one sparkling “yes” from a publisher.
• What I’ve learned from working in a bookstore.

Melissa Cistaro is the author of the recent memoir PIECES OF MY MOTHER. Her essays, interviews, and work have appeared in The New Ohio Review, Brevity, The Huffington Post, Bookish, Good Housekeeping and the anthologies Love & Profanity and Cherished. She works as a bookseller and event coordinator at Book Passage, the esteemed independent bookstore in Northern California. Melissa graduated with honors from UCLA and followed her literary pursuits through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and the Tin House Writer’s Workshop in Portland. Between the years of raising her children, writing, bookselling, teaching horseback riding, and curating a business in equestrian antiques, Melissa completed her first memoir.


Andy Ross PHOTO
An Agent’s Perspective on Writing Memoir
Andy Ross

2 pm PST  3 pm MST  4 pm CST  5 pm EST

As all of you know, an agent comes into the picture of writing your memoir at the later stage of your journey. The agent’s job is to find books that publishers will buy, but there is so much more that an agent does. Most agents get involved with the writing and creative process, and Andy Ross is one of them. Andy will talk to us about what he is looking for, how he knows he has a gripping story, and other secrets of an agent’s discerning choice.

You will learn:
• What agents look for in a manuscript submission
• How to put on your professional hat when talking to agents
• Secrets of a good pitch
• What makes a great story
• The techniques that most memoir writers need to develop

Andy Ross is a literary agent in Oakland. Prior to becoming an agent he was the owner of the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley for 30 years. Andy represents books in a wide range of non-fiction genres including: memoir, narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, popular culture, memoir, and current events . He also represents literary, commercial, historical, crime, upmarket women’s fiction, and YA fiction. Authors Andy represents include: Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Anjanette Delgado, Elisa Kleven, Tawni Waters, Randall Platt, Mary Jo McConahay, Gerald Nachman, Michael Parenti, Paul Krassner, Milton Viorst, and Michele Anna Jordan.
You can read more about Andy at his website at and on his popular blog “Ask the Agent” at

Join now to get special bonuses:

Finding an Agent, Query Letters, and Book Proposals by Andy Ross, literary agent A 40 page book written in Andy’s entertaining style, full of information.

Special Scene Checklist by Jordan Rosenfeld–from her conference handouts

How Wild Became a Bestseller–Audio and PDF from a class taught by Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers


Early Bird Pricing (good until October 31) – $29
Regular Pricing (after October 31) – $49


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