So, What? The Reflective Voice in Memoir & Why It Matters | Public Roundtable

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mb desk croppedDecember 4, 2014

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

Guest: Marilyn Bousquin

Listen to call recording.

Writing a memoir of substance requires more than a one-dimensional recounting of events. As Vivian Gornick puts it, “What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” No matter how interesting a story, without a deeper, underlying meaning our readers are left asking, “So, what?” The memoirist’s job is to cull meaning from experience. This is where the reflective voice comes in. The reflective narrator not only speaks the truth but also interprets experience and arrives at insight; indeed, the author’s insight becomes an integral part of the story and imbues it with universal appeal.

In this roundtable discussion we will:

  • Identify the reflective voice and how it distinguishes memoir as a genre
  • Explore the differences between the reflective voice and the narrative voice in memoir and the necessity of both
  • Understand the relationship between the reflective voice and the emotional arc of a memoir and how the reflective voice drives a memoir story
  • Realize the power of reflection to lead to discovery both on the page and off the page and how reflection can help you gain the emotional distance necessary to shape your material
  • Learn reading and writing practices that will help you to cultivate the reflective voice in your own writing

Call Recording


Marilyn Bousquin, founder of Writing Women’s Lives™ (, specializes in teaching both the craft of writing memoir and the consciousness work that leads to recovering one’s voice and claiming one’s truth both on the page and off the page. A certified Amherst Writers and Artists group writing coach, Marilyn holds an MFA in creative nonfiction. Her work appears in River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, in Kate Hopper’s Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, and is forthcoming in Under the Gum Tree. You can read her book reviews in Literary Mama and River Teeth. Her essay “Against Memory” was named a finalist for AROHO’s Orlando Prize for Creative Nonfiction 2013. In addition to teaching classes and mentoring women writers at Writing Women’s Lives™, Marilyn teaches writing at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is currently at work on a memoir titled Searching for Salt.

Do You Need Accountability and Support to Write Your Memoir?

Many memoir writers find that they are better able to make progress with their book when they have accountability and a deadline, who can share their work  with someone who will read their work carefully and who understands the demands of writing a memoir.  Memoir writers find it’s helpful to work with someone who not only focuses on the structure and theme of the book but can offer insight into the psychology of writing a memoir. Writing a memoir means that we need to dig deep into our feelings, psyche and past as we lived it, where we can encounter challenges in either writing about those times, or feelings where we get stuck in exploring who we were then, and what we did. Sometimes writing a memoir is an act of testimony about our lives, and sometimes it can put us on the path of forgiveness and a deeper resolution. In a month where we celebrate gratitude, we can turn our attention toward the healing, positive, and growth potential of writing our memoir—telling the stories that we have always held close to our hearts. In the New York Times article about memoir writing last month you can find out more about how writing a memoir offers self-growth and awareness, which is immensely valuable.

Benefits of coaching

  • Learn how to develop your story-writing skills.
  • Find out what makes a good story great.
  • Discover the three stages of memoir writing: Kickstarting Your Memoir, The Muddy Middle, and Birthing Your Book Into the World (learn more about that here!)
  • Create deadlines so you are motivated to get your work done.
  • Get help with the editing and publishing process.
  • Gather resources about writing and publishing your book.


If you are interested in exploring the idea of coaching, we can set up a free strategy planning session to talk about the theme of your book, your goals, and where you want help. To contact me about coaching, please write

Special for the month of November—

National Lifewriting Month

6 sessions $529 (Save $66) – Add to Cart

3 sessions $279 (Save $10) – Add to Cart

1 session $120 (Save $5) – Add to Cart

To get your discount use
PROMO CODE: lifewriting

The Changing Landscape of Memoir


Remains of 14th century castle in England

Many of you know that the National Association of Memoir Writers and Write your Memoir in Six Months appeared in the New York Times last week in an article about the value of memoir writing. In the Retirement section on Saturdays in the Times, the columnist offers articles of interest to retirees. This week her focus was about the importance of memoir writing for elders and their families as a way to share family stories, and a way to get people to contemplate the meaning of their lives and their legacy. Brooke Warner and I were so pleased that our student in the Write Your Memoir in Six Months workshop, Bob Finertie, was featured in the article, and Bob himself was found in a daze of pleasure and shock that he was featured and photographed.

Mr. Finertie, of Walnut Creek, Calif., said it “has been a healing journey that has helped me reach so many things in my past. My wife says I have never been happier.”

To come up with a draft, which is now 100 pages, Mr. Finertie enrolled in online courses with the writing coach Brooke Warner. She, along with Linda Joy Myers, a Berkeley, Calif., psychologist, teaches “Write Your Memoirs in Six Months.”

Mr. Finertie said the classes helped him focus on the purpose of his memoir and connected him to other aspiring memoirists for inspiration and feedback. (From the article)

Naturally, we were jazzed to be “discovered” in the Google search, but it wasn’t too long ago that memoir writers suffered at the slings and arrows that appeared in a New York Times article by Neal Genzlinger who degraded the importance of memoir, and suggested that we should shut up since we’re focused on “Me,” on only ourselves and our lives, and not contributing to any meaningful literature.

During that same era, various agents and publishers predicted that memoir writing was “dead,” and that people simply needed to forget about it as a valid genre. Though some agents and publishers still hold this view, it’s a less powerful position now since the publishing world has changed so much. Writers have more power to share their stories with the world without encountering as many gatekeepers and barriers to publication. It’s important that publishing be taken seriously however, with writers doing their best to find out the appropriate professional presentation for their book. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to hire a tough editor and professional book designers so you can be proud of your book when it comes out, so it matches in professionalism the best of the books presented in the marketplace.

We are celebrating here at the National Association of Memoir Writers that memoir writers have been elevated as valid and acceptable in those pages three years after the Genzlinger article. Too often memoirists have been relegated to the bottom of the heap because we use “I” too often, or because we are digging around in the rich earth of our psyches uncovering the treasures of new insights and memories that offer a new lens through which to look at our lives. Most of you know that I have been a therapist for many years, and to me, the rewards for such digging are invaluable. Through writing our stories, we learn about ourselves in ways we never would have without writing and exploring the past this way. By applying the skills of craft to our memories and insights by creating believable characters, scenes, and a universal understanding or takeaway of the themes of our lives, we transform not only ourselves but potentially our readers—whether they are our family and friends, or new friends in the reading public.

We’re in the New York Times! | October Newsletter


October 15, 2014

11retiring-pic2-articleLargeWe’re in the New York Times!

Did you see the article mentioning the National Association of Memoir Writers in the New York Times this week? The article about memoir writing appears in the October 11 edition in the retirement section—but as many of you know, memoir writing is for everyone, not only retirees. The columnist, Elizabeth Olsen, contacted me a few weeks ago, curious to learn more about memoir writing and asked how many people are interested in it, and how writing a memoir helps them in their lives. She found us through Google, which is great news.


Though one of the themes of her article was about retirees writing their life stories, the article goes beyond that as it discusses the importance for people to capture their story—for their own satisfaction as well as a gift and resource for their family. My colleague Brooke Warner was also interviewed and offered some terrific tips!


Here they are—thank you, Brooke, for sharing these with us.Brooke-2014

Brooke, founder and president of Warner Coaching, offers five tips for writing a memoir.

FIND A WRITING PARTNER and notify him or her by email when you start the day’s writing and when you sign off for the day — no matter whether you get an answer.

JOT DOWN ALL YOUR EXCUSES for not writing or not writing as much as you want to.

PAY YOURSELF FOR SHOWING UP to your writing sessions, even small amounts that you can later set aside to treat yourself or use to pay your writing business, if you have one; write the payment off as a business expense.

KEEP A DAILY JOURNAL on your progress. Record the date and time that you begin, how long you will work and what you will focus on. When you are finished for the day, evaluate your progress by noting how you felt about what you accomplished and, more objectively, how many words you wrote. Then, write down your goals for tomorrow.

TURN OFF your Internet, email and phone.

It’s not every day that your name gets in the New York Times, so I’m grateful that people can learn more about NAMW and the power and possibilities for memoir writing.



October Events at the National Association of Memoir Writers

This month we have two presentations to help you in your writing life. As always, we have a free Roundtable every month, and this week we are going to explore the issue that memoir writers often struggle with: whether to present your life story in a non-fiction memoir, or to expand it as fiction. Sign up for this Roundtable discussion to receive the free audio download afterward as a resource for you to keep.


October 16, Free Roundtable with Carol Bodensteiner and Mary Gottchalk



At this free Roundtable Teleseminar, we’re going to address a subject that memoir writers struggle with: whether to write their story as a memoir—everything is true!—or as autobiographical fiction—I made it up!

Many memoir writers struggle with this decision, so we’re pleased to present Mary Gottschalk and Carol Bodensteiner, who have gone from a corporate life to writing and publishing memoirs and fiction. They will discuss their often-parallel paths from business writing to creative writing, including their perspective on the differences between memoir and fiction.


Topics will include:

• Memoir vs. Fiction — choosing your genre
• Memoir as a “training tool”
• Getting past the facts
• Factual accuracy vs. spiritual / emotional truth
• The value of a writing group/partner
• Building the writer’s toolkit

Sign up here.


October 24 NAMW Member Webinar

Betsy's PR Shot,_edited-1Date: October 24, 2014
Time: 11 am PDT 12 pm MDT 1 pm CDT 2 pm EDT
Expert: Betsy Graziani Fasbinder
Topic: Public Speaking for Writers and Other Introverts: Simple Mindshifts to Raise Your Confidence and Gather Devoted Fans

We’re so pleased to offer this special webinar to help you break out of your shyness and learn to present your new memoir to the world in a professional and confident manner.

The member webinar this month: Public Speaking for Writers and Other Introverts: Simple Mindshifts to Raise Your Confidence and Gather Devoted Fans with Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, an experienced author coach, writer, and prize winning author.

All members will receive the instructions for finding the webinar link and how to join the program. It’s a presentation only format—you will not be on the camera—and neither will we!


In this webinar, you will:

• Gather five mental shifts to instantly boost your confidence about public speaking
• Acquire simple tips that can help you connect with listeners
• Gain skills that can help you to be at your natural best in formal presentations, book launches, media interviews, and casual encounters.

To join this webinar learn more about becoming a member here.



News from our Write Your Memoir Now Retreat

IMG_1765I just got back from a few days in New York City after leading our Write Your Memoir Now retreat with my colleagues Judy Mandel and Jerry Waxler. The landscape by the ocean was amazing, with clear skies and calm seas, except for Saturday when a big rainstorm made us glad we were inside writing!

On Friday night, we greeted the twenty-three people who had signed up for the retreat, learned the themes of their memoir and what they wanted to learn that weekend. We’d spent the afternoon informally getting acquainted over snacks and drinks, so by evening, many had made new writing friends. In a memoir workshop, people get to know each other deeply and intimately because of the nature of what is revealed in their stories. We dig into our lives, our memories, and the stories of our families, revealing many things we would not otherwise share. As always, there were tears, laughter, and sighs of recognition as people wrote and read their stories.


retreat-vAs the weekend continued on Saturday and Sunday, the depth and the challenges of each person’s story was revealed. Judy, Jerry, and I alternated the craft of memoir writing with the always present issues of truth, family, and the inner critic, and addressed the challenges that memoir writing presents.

By Sunday afternoon, everyone was tired, and we knew that many layers of stories, hearts, and hopes had been revealed. As people said goodbye, it was clear that several of the group members had become best friends. In my years of teaching of memoir, I’ve seen retreats like this to be a hugely transformative process, one that gives back insights and wisdom. As the weekend ended, many of the writers talked about such a transformation.  NAMW is looking at how, where, and when to offer another retreat next year. Stay in touch!




Breaking Silence Teleconference


bysOne thing that was clear in our teaching at the retreat is that all memoir writers struggle with exposing and expressing their truth. They have been silenced for years, and are trying to heal the past as they write their stories. Learning this from yet another memoir group made me glad that we are offering our special Breaking Silence Teleconference in November. If you sign up now, you get the early bird rate and two special bonus gifts.

Hope to see you at the conference!

It’s time to find your voice and break your silence — and write the memoir you want to write! During this day long teleconference, we will be addressing the “secret” issue of shame for writers. We call the voice that creates writer’s block the ”Inner Critic,” but at the core of the Inner Critic is shame and doubt. Please join these amazing women who are willing to share their stories of shame, doubt, and how they have broken through and helped others find their voice. I’m so pleased to have with me at this conference Sue William Silverman, Amy Ferris, Amy Friedman and Brooke Warner.

The talented and courageous presenters of this conference have worked with layers of shame and writing truth in their writing, teaching, and publishing, and have helped many writers find their voices and get their unique and important stories of love, suffering, courage, and trauma out into the world.
Topics and speakers:
  • Confessional and (Finally) Proud of It by Sue William Silverman
  • Awakening to your greatness by Amy Ferris
  • Breaking Open: The Heart of Writing Memoir—Courage and Permission to Write Your Truth by Linda Joy Myers
  • Writing Your Memoir: After the Sorrow and Anger by Amy Friedman
  • Writing Shame and Trauma for Publication—How to Write in the Space between What Happened and What People Can Handle by Brooke Warner

Read more about the conference here.

Back to School/Labor day Sale–Celebrating New Beginnings

Here at NAMW, we think of Labor Day and Back to School as a chance for new beginnings. To us, the start of September is a time to pick up projects that might have languished over the summer. It’s a time to refocus and reset our goals. So we say, let’s KICKSTART our focus with a sale on NAMW annual membership!

To celebrate new beginnings, NAMW is offering $20 off the cost of an annual membership from today through Wednesday September 3rd!

NAMW new Memberships are now just $149 $129 Add to Cart
NAMW Renewals are $139 $119 Add to Cart

Become a member today!

Current and lapsed members are encouraged to take advantage of this sale!

If you’re still unsure about joining, here are just a few great reasons why it pays to be a NAMW member:
• FREE access to Live Monthly Teleseminars and FREE downloadable recordings of over 70 archived Teleseminars
• Free downloadable recordings of our past Telesummits, with valuable topics such as “From Story to Sold! Becoming a Successful Memoir Author”
• Special Member Discounts for Workshops, Online Classes, and Webinars
• Receive three FREE e-books on the memoir-writing craft by renowned authors
• PDF download of the NAMW e-Book: Memoir Writing as a Healing Journey by Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D.
• Access to information on contests, grants, and publishers as well as exposure to cutting-edge news and information about the memoir-writing field
• Opportunities to share your successes and new publications with other memoir writers and ask questions on our NAMW Members-Only Facebook group

…And much, much more!

It’s simple! NAMW new Memberships are now just $149 $129 Add to Cart
NAMW Renewals are $139 $119 Add to Cart

We hope in the spirit of the new “school year,” you’ll decide to take your relationship with NAMW to the next level and join as a member.


Our September Member Teleseminar is already upgraded to a Webinar with Michele DeFilippo and Sonia Marsh–a dynamic way to learn. We Do Judge a Book by its Cover–Secrets You Don’t Know About Book Cover Design. When you become a member, you automatically receive the member Teleseminars for a full year for free.




retreat pic--water crop

New Beginnings Retreat Discount

Last chance discount for our Memoir Writing Retreat Write Your Memoir Now!

We have a wonderful group already registered, and there are a few openings left for this three day opportunity to be immersed in your memoir and learn from our three experts how you can write and publish your book.

Save $100. Just a few spots left.

To learn about the retreat and see the full schedule for the weekend click here.

Please email us at if you have any questions.

Here’s to new beginnings!


We DO Judge a Book by Its Cover—Secrets You Don’t Know About Book Cover Design – See more at:
We DO Judge a Book by Its Cover—Secrets You Don’t Know About Book Cover Design – See more at:

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Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.
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professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal