Public Memoir Roundtables

How to Write a Memoir about a Subculture that Connects with the Mainstream Culture | Free Roundtable August 8, 2013 – 4 PM

Shirley ShowalterAugust 8, 2013

Free Roundtable Discussion

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

Shirley Showalter

This presentation offers concrete examples of how to tell stories so readers unfamiliar with the place, culture, or group will not only learn about “the other,” but will identify with people different from themselves. All writers need to do this—it’s called the “universal message, and goes beyond subgroups to the universality of human experience.

For example, women need to write so men can understand and enjoy their world views. Different generations and races need to reach across time and connect. At the heart of all great writing lies the often-repeated truism: the route to the universal is through the particular. But how do we learn to connect the two?

For Shirley Hershey Showalter, our guest today, the challenge in writing her memoir Blush, A coming of age story about a Mennonite girl, was this: how can a Mennonite describe what it was like to grow up in a very particular, even peculiar, culture—on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, PA, as a Mennonite child in the ’50’s and ’60’s so that urbanites, members of other religions, races, younger and older people could see themselves in her story? How could a member of a sub-group connect with those in the larger culture?

We will discuss these myths:

  • Only another member of the same group can understand an author. Hence, the smaller the group, the smaller the audience.
  • Or the opposite: It’s good to write your book for everyone.
  • General information about subgroups connects better than specific descriptions

Shirley will describe a series of paradoxes that derive from the central one: the more concrete the writer, the more possible it is to connect with many readers, though not with everyone.

Using her own forthcoming memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World, Shirley will describe seven ways she thought about her audience before and during the writing process and the ways she deliberately tried to connect.

Shirley Hershey Showalter, an award winning writer, began blogging about memoir in 2009 after she entered and won several literary competitions in the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette. More details about her writing and publications can be found at and on her FB Author Page Her book Blush will launch on September 19, 2013.



The Choices We Make & Writing About Others: The Price We Pay | Free Roundtable July 11, 2013 4 PM



Laura Davis

This roundtable discussion will explore the ethical, practical and emotional issues that we face when we write about real people in our lives, all of whom are bound to have strong feelings about the way they are depicted on the page. Evaluating our own ethical and artistic choices, and coming to terms with their responses (as well as our fear of potential responses), becomes more pressing as we move from personal writing toward publication. 


Our Roundtable, with writing teacher and 7-time author, Laura Davis (The Courage to Heal, I Thought We’d Never Speak Again, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be) will address the following questions:


•  As a memoir writer, how much do I need to consider other people’s desire for privacy?

•  What, if anything, do I owe the people I write about?

•  How should I weigh the potential cost of telling my story with my strong desire to tell it?

•  What matters more–my relationships or my story?

•  What’s the one question you need to be able to answer before your memoir is published?

  Sign up below to get the phone number and the free audio recording of this discussion.

Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We’d Never Speak Again. Laura’s groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor, and speaker. 

Currently, Laura teaches writing workshops and memoir classes in Santa Cruz, California, and leads retreats at Esalen and other Northern California locations. Her “Write, Travel, Transform” retreats bring writers to a variety of international locations. Each spring, she leads a writing and yoga retreat to Bali. In August, she is taking a group to Scotland to write at a Victorian mansion in the Scottish Highlands. Future destinations will include Greece, and Vietnam & Cambodia.

You can also work with Laura online for free through her Writer’s Journey Roadmap community. If you sign up at, you will get an evocative weekly writing prompt in your inbox each week, along with an invitation to post your response as a member of her free, lively, supportive online writing community.

You can learn more about Laura’s retreats, classes and books at

Links: for Scotland:


THE WRITING RETREAT OF YOUR DREAMS GOES TO SCOTLAND–Join bestselling author Laura Davis for a transformative retreat in the heart of Scotland. Sink into the deep peace and unparalleled beauty of the enchanting Scottish Highlands. During your 10 days in this magical land, you will be immersed in the profound quiet necessary for deep writing. August 10-20, 2013.

July 11 Roundtable with Laura Davis

Sign Up Here for Free Audio and Teleseminar

New Graphic





From First Time Memoir Writer to Award Winning Author | Free Roundtable June 6, 2013


We are pleased to have as our guest a non-native English speaker and writer who began writing a memoir with the burning desire to write his story. With the help of coaching, networking, and a lot of hard work, his book Lost Decency just became a finalist in the the prestigious Ben Franklin Awards competition for independently published books.


Atta Arghandiwal, Roundtable Speaker

From the terrifying moments of leaving my homeland after the Russian invasion in August of 1980, I had dreams of writing about an innocent nation that had fallen victim to invasions/oppression throughout its long history. After a busy immigrant life and many challenging years rescuing family and loved ones, I finally got a chance to commit to my life-long dream of writing. 

The next big challenge was my book project—deciding whether to write a general political story and how to reflect on the lives and innocence of millions of people who had nothing to do with the decisions of a few.

I turned to seeking support and feedback through family, friends, and a professional coach/mentor. I decided to self-publish and sought a designer and a publicist, creating a team. I want to share the lessons I learned as I built my author platform:

–          Process and timeline

–          Organization/discipline

–          Structure

–          Participating in conference calls

–          Publishing options

–          Distribution

–          Marketing

–          Networking

–          Collaboration with publicist

–          Social Media

Thanks to the incredible support and coaching while learning from experiences of others, Lost Decency has been named as a finalist in the 2013 Benjamin Franklin Awards competition.


Atta Arghandiwal was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, but has spent over half his life in the West. His father was a prominent military officer and leader, and as one of ten children within a large military family, Arghandiwal spent his young life traveling and attending school.

After witnessing unexpected political changes with the 1978 Soviet Union invasion, Arghandiwal left his home country in August of 1980 and became a refugee in Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1981, where he built a successful banking career as a senior vice president and regional manager.

With deep passion and pride in his heritage, Arghandiwal has written a true Afghan story to increase awareness about his country’s political upheaval, and the innocent people who have been caught in the chaos. He has remained an independent banking consultant while attending to his lifetime passion of writing.

Arghandiwal is married and lives with his wife and two children in Northern California.

Twitter: @lostdecency





Free Roundtable

June 6, 2013


w/Atta Arghandiwal

New Graphic





What if You Weren’t There? | Memoir Writing in Absentia–Free Roundtable with Judy Mandel

Judy MandelMay 9  / Free Memoir Roundtable Discussion 


For a large part of the story of Replacement Child, I was not present, or even alive yet. A crucial portion of the story, including the plane crash that took my sister’s life, happened two years before I was born.

This posed an immediate problem for me as I began to write, as I know it does for other memoir writers who struggle with how to convey parts of their story that they did not witness or participate in personally.

Join me for our Roundtable Discussion of how to handle this inherent issue for many memoir writers, including:

  • When is it okay to re-create a scene for your memoir, and still have it considered as memoir?
  • How can you develop dialogue for scenes you did not witness?
  • How can research play a role in truthfully re-creating pivotal information, even if you were not there?
  • What is the line between fiction and truth in memoir writing?What about “fictional memoir?”(Ala, Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses)Discussion of the classic memoir, Mary Karr’s, The Liars’ Club, as it pertains to strict truth telling in memoir.

We expect, and look forward to, more questions along these lines that we can discuss further.

About Judy L. Mandel

Judy L. Mandel made her living as a marketing professional for over 20 years before writing her first book, Replacement Child. She grew up in New Jersey, but when she went to college in Connecticut, she knew she had found her home.

Her writing life began as a newspaper reporter. She later worked in public relations and advertising and somehow found herself in corporate communications at various insurance companies. Her memoir grew out of early essays and the promise she made to her family to tell their story.

Judy now balances her business writing for clients with writing fiction, nonfiction and articles. She writes an ongoing blog on




Replacement Child

About Replacement Child

Judy Mandel is the replacement child for her sister who was killed in a tragic accident. It would be years before she would understand how the event, that happened before she was born, shaped her life.

A plane crashes into a family’s home. A two-year-old girl is critically burned and a mother is forced to make an impossible choice. The death of a child leaves a hole in the family that threatens to tear it apart.

In a great act of hope, the parents give birth to a “replacement child,” born to heal wounds and provide a “salve for the burns.” The child unwittingly plays her role throughout childhood, riding the deep and hidden currents of the family tragedy.

In this powerful story of love and lies, hope and forgiveness, Judy Mandel discovers the truth that changes her life forever and forces her to confront the complex layers of her relationships with her father, mother, and sister. When she has her own child, her epiphany comes full circle.


May 9, 2013 FREE Roundtable Event with Judy Mandel

New Graphic





Why Write A Sequel To Your Memoir? | Susan Weidener

 Susan Weidener

Free Roundtable Discussion April 11, 2013

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

You’re feeling good because you finally wrote and published your first memoir. Perhaps you feel complete and think you’re finished writing about your life. Many of us think that we are complete, but life goes on, and the book you wrote takes on a life of its own—thanks to your readers and audience. You find yourself thinking about another book.

Write two books on my life? Will anyone be interested? It’s easy to stop ourselves with these worries.

Susan Weidener has done just that, as have many famous authors like Mary Karr and Frank McCourt. Most of us have more than one story to tell. In this Roundtable discussion, Linda Joy and Susan are going to talk about writing a sequel to your first memoir. Linda Joy added an Afterword to her first edition, while Susan wrote a sequel to her first memoir. Mary Karr wrote three memoirs. You’re in good company here!

Writing a sequel to your first memoir is similar to writing the first book—it’s hard work, requiring a lot of soul-searching and putting yourself through the “meat grinder” in order to give your readers an honest piece of yourself.  But what’s different from writing your first memoir, and what are the challenges of writing a sequel? 

This second glance at your life story and your journey to a sequel offers many rewards: honing your craft as a writer, finding your voice (yet again), and writing more of the story that wasn’t in the first book. Another perk of bringing out a new edition is that you’ll build upon your previous connections, and add new authors, writers, and readers to your audience.

Interesting points in creating sequel to your first memoir:

  • Finding the seeds of the sequel in vignettes and stories that didn’t go in the first book.
  • Sharing the ongoing journey of lessons learned and finding the compelling narrative and through line that integrates the second book.
  • Writing a book that can stand apart and separate from the prequel.
  • Promoting and garnering interest in your first book, and giving your readers more insight into you, the author.


Susan G. Weidener’s bio:  A former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan is the author of two memoirs:  Again In a Heartbeat and its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square.  “I wrote my first book 13 years after my husband’s death from cancer.  I write about the journey of moving forward after pain and loss, and the search for love . . . this quest for passion, renewal and magic, which is the heart of any romantic. As a former journalist, I try telling a story in a way that makes my books page turners.” Susan leads writing workshops and started the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. For more information about the Women’s Writing Circle and how to order Susan’s memoirs, go to





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