Public Memoir Roundtables

Don’t Let Anyone Stop You From Writing Your Memoir

Leslie 2015January 14, 2016

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


Our Roundtable and NAMW podcast guest is Leslie Johansen Nack, author of Fourteen: A Daughter’s Memoir of Adventure, Sailing and Survival.

Leslie Nack always wanted to write, but life and work and being busy, not to mention the inner critic and needing to find “the right time,” always got in the way. Almost six years ago, Leslie shrugged all that aside and took on the project that had been tapping her on the shoulder, and in the heart, for so long. We will talk about her journey to write her story—which many of you will find parallels the journeys that most of us are on: finding ways to write about the secrets, the abuse, and the family of origin, giving ourselves permission to go “all the way” from a first draft, to writing classes, to publication.

Leslie and I will discuss:
• The need to write – a lifelong quest for the courage to write her story. If you’re hesitant to write your own story, there’s probably a reason. Listen to it and give it time to evolve.

• How she wrote the story of her traumatic childhood: sexual, physical and emotional abuse, all wrapped up in the glamour of sailing to French Polynesia

• Leslie says this about the process of writing her memoir: “There are no short cuts, no easier, softer way, and there’s no way around it. The easiest way to deal with the pain of childhood is gFourteen-front[1]oing through it again.”

• The reaction her family of origin had to her story, and how she managed to deal with that.

• Her publishing process with She Writes Press.

Leslie Johansen Nack graduated UCLA with a BA in English literature. She is a member of the National Association of Memoir Writers and San Diego Writers Ink. She lives in San Diego and has two children with her husband of twenty-five years.

Visit her website for pictures:


Listen to the recording below:

How to Write a Prize Winning Memoir

Azedeh TabazadehRoundtable Discussion – Free to All

Date: December 3, 2015

Time: 4 Pm PST  5 PM MST  6 PM CST 7 PM EST

Expert: Azadeh Tabazadeh

“What you have done in this book is exactly what I would like for my patients to do—and that is to confront the truth,” my therapist told me after reading my memoir.

She was right! I escaped Iran when I was 17 years old and came to America with nothing other than a 6-month student visa and a steadfast determination to work hard in becoming a scientist—a profession of my childhood dreams. At age 45 I had a lot going for me. I was a professor of Geophysics at Stanford University and had worked for many years for NASA. My scientific discoveries were featured in Time, Washington post, San Francisco Chronicle and many other national and international newspapers, yet something profound was missing from my life. I felt a strong desire to make sense of my past, write about it, hand it to someone and say, “Here is what I went through. I hope you learn something from it.”

What helped me the most in writing my book was joining a memoir-writing class where I could share my stories in a safe environment. To my surprise, despite our different cultural backgrounds, we all had much in common when our lives were crafted into stories. I walked away from this experience feeling that my past had lost its power over me. Now, the truth, as I believed it, was written in black-and-white and I no longer felt ashamed of my past. Instead, understanding my past gave me the perspective I needed to become whole and feel at peace with myself.

Here are a few things that might help you in writing your memoir:

  • Join a writing group to write the first draft.
  • Rewriting, at least, for me was a lot of fun.
  • Be aware that your recollection of past events may be different from others.
  • Trust your own intuition.
  • Target a broad audience, so others may benefit from your experiences.

 Azadeh Tabazadeh is the author of The Sky Detective, a debut memoir about her childhood and adolescent years in Iran. Her story offers an eyewitness account of what life was like inside an Iranian household and on the streets of Tehran, before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and during the war with Iraq. Excerpts from her memoir have won several prestigious writing contests, including the East of Eden Award in 1998 and the San Francisco Writers Conference Grand Prize in 2012. Azadeh fled Iran in 1982, two years after the Iraq invasion of Iran, to pursue her dream of becoming a scientist. In 1994 she graduated with a doctoral degree in chemistry from UCLA. Since then, she has worked at NASA, taught at Stanford University, and has published over sixty scientific articles. Among her many accolades are a Presidential White House Science Award and a feature article in Time that details her personal life and scientific discoveries.

For author updates visit Azadeh at or follow her on Facebook.

Listen to the recording here:

Memoir Challenge #1–Wrestling the Truth in Your Memoir

Roundtable Discussion
October 8, 2015
Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter in conversation with Linda Joy Myers

As memoir writers, we approach the page with a powerful story to tell, one that won’t let us go. We start out great, writing, journaling, dreaming and thinking about our story, but then the energy starts to slow down. We look for reasons not to write, we stumble over our words. A voice inside our head says, “Don’t say that. You can’t tell people THAT!” The silencing and freak out begins.
The wrestling match starts as we write the truths that have been hidden for so long, and as we pull back either in shame or feeling that we will be judged by our family and friends.

Amy FerrisOur guests at this week’s Roundtable discussion know all about this. Amy Ferris, author of Marrying George Clooney, writes every day about being brave and writing and saying your truth on her Facebook page to help inspire writers and—well, just everyone. But it wasn’t easy for her to write her book about menopause, her mother, and many personal thoughts and feelings. Hollye Dexter’s book Fire Season is about losing everything in a fire that destroyed her house and nearly killed her and her family. They had to jump out windows to escape. But the fire that doesn’t kill you will still burn your psyche for years to come. Her story is about how the fire destroyed more than material possessions, how it challenged the foundations of her being, affecting relationships, her marriage, and her sense of self.

In writing my new memoir, I’ve found that it’s one thing to write honestly about childhood, and anHollye new headshotother to write about being an adult, and making the choices I did. Writing a memoir exposes you down to your roots, and yet, the genre demands that we do our best to dig all the way down to write an authentic story that is our truth.

Please join us for a deep and inspiring discussion about truth with Amy and Hollye. It will give you food for thought about your own story and how to wrestle with your truths.


We will talk about:

  • Techniques that have helped these authors dig into their truths.
  • The problem with shame and how to work through it.
  • How worries about family criticism gets in the way–and how to write anyway.
  • Digging deep to find our own real truths.
  • How writing our deepest truths changes our lives.

Listen to the recording here

=Hollye Dexter is author of the memoir Fire Season (She Writes Press, 2015) and co-editor of Dancing at the Shame Prom (Seal Press). An NIEA finalist for best memoir, FIRE SEASON was chosen by First For Women Magazine as one of their six top summer reads, and was excerpted by Reader’s Digest for their Thanksgiving issue. Hollye’s essays and articles about women’s issues, activism and parenting have been published in anthologies as well as in Maria Shriver’s Architects of Change, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, Writer’s Digest and more. In 2003, she founded the award-winning nonprofit Art and Soul, running arts workshops for teenagers in the foster care system. She currently teaches writing workshops and works as an activist for gun violence prevention in L.A., where she lives with her husband and a houseful of kids and pets. Amy Ferris is an author, screenwriter, essayist, playwright and editor. She edited the upcoming new anthology Shades of Blue, to be released October, 2015. her memoir, marrying george clooney, confessions from a midlife crisis (seal press) was adapted in an off-broadway play in 2012. she has written films (mr. wonderful, anthony minghella, director and funny valentines, julie dash, director), tv, and has contributed to numerous anthologies, including the one she co-edited, dancing at the shame prom (seal press). she was guest editor-in-chief for two magazine, glossies, where she created the annual all women’s issue. amy lives in pennsylvania with her husband and two cats. she is very content on most days.

Sign up to listen in to the call or receive the recording.

Memoir as Looking Glass–Free Roundtable Discussion about Memoir Writing Challenges

Memoir-of-RecoveryDate: September 10, 2015

Time: 4 PM PDT / 5  PM MDT / 6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT

I’m pleased to have a conversation during our free Roundtable discussion in September with author Marilea Rabasa, author of Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Some of the themes of this book will be familiar to most of you: childhood and family events that shape a whole life, generational patterns that are hard to break, and the theme of how addiction spreads its sad gifts to everyone in the family. It’s a mother-daughter book, a book about family, what we treasure and what we are ashamed of. It’s a brave story that Marilea tells, and we will learn more from her about her journey. Marilea will talk about her writing process, finding the layers of her story and digging deeper into the truth as she wrote. And we will talk about the topic of pseudonyms and why Marilea chose to publish under another name.

You will learn:
• How to dig deep into your own story—and then go even further than you thought you could
• How Marliea learned more about herself and helped to heal her past by writing her memoir
• The reasons that she decided to use a pseudonym when she published her book
• How to tell the truth and still keep connections with your family

Listen  to the recording here.


Marilea grew up in New England in a small Massachusetts town. How she got from there to the desert Southwest is an interesting tale.

For a number of years she was an ESL teacher in northern Virginia. Before that, she lived overseas in the Foreign Service. Just as she provided “springboards” for her students in writing class, her travels are something that she draws from to write stories.

She lives with her partner in New Mexico where they grow fruit in their orchard. They still get away to enjoy hiking all over the United States.

5 Tools to Fuel Your Writing & Creative Process

Free Roundtable Discussion—Beth Barany

August 6, 2015


There are three main turning points to the writing process: the start, the middle, and the end. Writers often find themselves stuck in one of these three places. When you get stuck, everything grinds to a screeching halt, and we are tempted to abandon our project—book, essay, chapter. We experience this as writer’s block, and are bound by massive frustration, procrastination, or tearing out our hair while crying.

In this conversation with Linda Joy Myers, founder and president of National Association of Memoir Writers, and Beth Barany, award-winning novelist and creativity coach for writers, you’ll learn about 5 tools to help you get back to writing your story.

In this lively conversation between teachers and lovers of story, you’ll discover:

  • How planning can enhance your creativity instead of stifle it
  • How a simple tool can help you stay focused so you can actually get writing done
  • How a simple mindset tool can shift your energy from No to Go
  • How goal setting can restart you when you’re stuck in the middle of your project
  • How you can connect with the most powerful tool in the five senses to spark or re-spark your passion for your project


Listen to the recording.

ABOUT BETH BARANY Beth-Barany_MG_6971_900x900Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist and a Creativity Coach for Writers. She runs the blog for writers by writers, the Writer’s Fun Zone, and the Barany School of Fiction. She’s coached hundreds of authors over the last nine years and specializes in helping novelists write, publish, and market their novels. Her mission is to empower authors to create sustainable and successful careers. You can find out more about Beth and her services at her site: There you can sign up for her free 5-Day Writer’s Motivation Mini-Course: Her latest book for writers is Twitter for Authors: Social Media Marketing for Shy Writers. In her off hours, Beth enjoys capoeira, reading, and watching movies and traveling with her husband, suspense novelist Ezra Barany. Beth Barany lives in Oakland, California with her husband, two cats, and over 2,000 books.


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