Public Memoir Roundtables

Roundtable Discussion: Immersion Writing—A Field Guide and Discussion | Robin Hemley


December 5, 2013


I’m so pleased to have Robin Hemley back with us again for our Roundtable Discussion! I admire Robin’s work, and have read several of his books. In fact they are dog-eared and underlined, and I refer to them often. Turning Your Life Into Fiction is friendly readable compilation of stories, tips, and guidance for the memoir writer and for the writer who wants to adapt personal stories into fiction. His memoir Nola is poetic, inspiring, and tragic, an example of how a memoirist can create a unique, emotionally honest, and relatable memoir. You must read it.

A Field Guide for Immersion Writing is his most recent book, and during our discussion, we are going to journey with him into the world of memoir, journalism, and travel as we examine the different angles we can use to tease out our stories. Immersion writing is a way to be in the world as a participant-observer, and delight in the experience and flow of a place, people, and culture while keeping an eye toward what will make a good story. We are the writer and the observer all at once.

We will discuss several kinds of immersion writing:

  • Immersion journalism
  • Immersion memoir
  • Travel writing

These can be looked at through the lens of

  • Quest
  • Experiment
  • Investigation
  • Reenactment
  • Infiltration

Please join us for an interesting and exciting tour of a kind of nonfiction writing that may be new to you. Thinking about writing stories through the lens of immersion memoir can open you to new ways to view the world and write about it.

Robin Hemley directs the Writing Program at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and is the author of eleven books of nonfiction and fiction and the winner of many awards including a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship, The Nelson Algren Award for Fiction from The Chicago Tribune, The Story Magazine Humor Prize, as well as three Pushcart Prizes in both fiction and nonfiction.  His popular craft book, Turning Life into Fiction, has sold over 80,000 copies and is now in its fourth printing with Graywolf Press. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have been published in the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and elsewhere and he frequently teaches creative writing workshops around the world. 

His memoir, NOLA: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness was reissued by The University of Iowa Press in 2013.  He is the founder and organizer of NonfictioNow a biennial conference that will convene next at Northern Arizona University in October of 2015. 


December Roundtable with Robin Hemley

  Sign Up Here to Receive Call Info & Free Audio

New Graphic





Virtual Book Party! Times They Were A’Changing—Women Remember the ’60s & 70’s

Just Released from She Writes Press! Women’s Memoir Essays about the ’60s and ’70s

October 10, 2013


Today at NAMW we are celebrating the release of the anthology Times They Were A’Changing—Women Remember the ’60s and ’70s.





The editors of this powerful anthology about the ’60s and ’70s invite you to join our celebration! Lift a glass of virtual—or real—champagne and join in our discussion with guest authors and the editors of the anthology Kate Farrell, Linda Joy Myers, and Amber Lea Starfire.


The women in these powerful stories rode the sexual revolution with new found freedom, struggled for identity in divorce courts and boardrooms, and marched in the streets. They trampled the taboos, and felt the pain and joy of the amazing breakthrough era of the ’60s and ’70s. Where were you then? What do you remember?





Guests and Speakers


From Sheila Bender, author of the inspiring Foreword to the book.

“During the ’60s and ’70s, in every part of our country, women were waking up to their power, intelligence, right to succeed in life and opportunities to contribute their gifts without inhibition.  The road ahead was not a smooth one. It was fraught with conflict between offspring and their parents, between students and teachers, and between those questioning the status quo and traditionally civic-minded people. Many women felt conflict between who they were raised and trained to believe they would be and who they wanted to become.”

Our guests today include:


  • etgen-baker headshot aSara Etgen Baker “September Wind”—First place prize prose winner

Sara’s love for words began when, as a young girl, her mother read the dictionary to her every night. A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited her writing desire.


  • Rhonda Baker50 years oldRhonda Rae Baker “Stranger to Myself”

 Rhonda is a voracious reader of memoir, literature, self-improvement, and fiction. She began writing creative nonfiction to share the legacy of her life through lessons learned


  • JBarrington-3thumbnailJudith Barrington “To Change the World: London 1972”

Judith Barrington was born in Brighton, England in 1944, and moved to the United States in 1976. Although she has made her home in Oregon since then, she gives readings and workshops each year in Europe.


  • Jill Taft KauffmanJill Taft Kaufmann “A Berkeley Spring”

Jill Taft-Kaufman went to Mills College then to Berkeley to complete her Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. She’s a professor at Central Michigan University where she still feels passionate about her teaching.


  • Carol DerfnerCarol Derfner “In the Family Way”

Carol Derfner’s writing career began with poetry in the ’70s. Currently she is producing short fiction and personal essays, as well a long-form memoir related to her life in Alaska in the 1960s and 1970s.

Watch the video interview of Linda Joy’s inspiration to create the anthology about the 60’s and 70s. Interview with Matilda Butler of Women’s Memoirs.


The editors: Kate Farrell, Amber Lea Starfire, and Linda Joy Myers










Kate Farrell is founder of Wisdom Has a Voice memoir project and edited Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother (2011). Farrell is president of Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter.

Amber Lea Starfire is the author of Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations (2012) and Not the Mother I Remember, due for release in the fall of 2013.

Linda Joy Myers is president of National Association of Memoir Writers, and the author of Don’t Call Me Mother, The Power of Memoir, and Journey of Memoir. Becoming Whole—Writing Your Healing Story was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. She co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months.


Virtual Book Party!


Times They Were A’Changing—Women Remember the ’60s & 70′s

Sign Up Here




What people are saying about the book:

This marvelous anthology shows the vital role outrider women played in changing our world—often overlooked, they were the heart of the ‘60s revolution.

–Brenda Knight, author of Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution

We lived in the Haight Ashbury and Bourbon Street and the high plains of Oklahoma. We wore hip-huggers, tie-dyes, military uniforms, and fringed ponchos embroidered with peace signs. We danced and marched and organized and loved and broke all the rules. We were changing, and we changed the world. I love this book because it is written by women who were on the scene—and such a scene it was! If you were there, it will remind you of those remarkable years. If you weren’t, you’ll be amazed and delighted and proud of the brave women who have written these stories and poems. Thank you, lovely women, for telling us about it!

—Susan Wittig Albert, author of A Wilder Rose, and founder of Story Circle Network

Times They Were A-Changing is the book long missing from the packed second wave feminism shelf. Finally, the women you never heard from are speaking in their own powerful voices about how each in her own way and in places you might never imagine pushed America toward greater equality and justice. If you are a woman over a certain age, you will find yourself in this book’s stories. If you are a woman of any other age, you will find your own story informed and enriched by these beautifully written, honest, and evocative essays. 

–Gloria Feldt, Co-Founder and President of Take the Lead, Author, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, former President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Times They Were A’Changing anthology challenges us to see past the clichés of the ’60s and ’70s to see the unique experiences of young people who were rebelling against their parents’ teachings to reinvent not just themselves—but the whole world. The pieces in this anthology open a window into a fascinating, important time, seen through the eyes of those who lived it.  This collection lets us look back and see the era with wisdom, humor, power, and grace.

–Jerry Waxler, Author of The Memoir Revolution and the blog Memory Writers Network.


How to take the Overwhelm out of Social Media and Develop your Platform | Q&A with Dan Blank

Dan Blank

FREE  Roundtable Discussion

September 12, 2013



Fellow memoirists and writers–Sometimes we can feel that the social media octopus has grabbed us with its many tentacles  to wrap around ourselves while we sink to the bottom of the ocean. At least that can be how it feels sometimes!

Dan Blank, blog and social media expert, is going to talk with us about how to get LESS overwhelmed while learning how to choose your social media, and develop your platform.

I know, you’re tired of hearing about platform, but let’s translate this to: Just start THINKING about who, SOMEDAY, you’d like to reach with your message, your wisdom, your book. You don’t have to figure it all out now–honest!

We’ll cover some of these questions:

1. What are the basic social media you need to consider developing?

2. How can you keep writing while slowly creating the networks and connections you will need later?

3. What are the cautions about using social media tools that you most need to know?

4. How do you decide who to admit into your online life–and what do you need to know to decide?

5. How do you connect your goals with your social media planning?


Dan Blank is the Founder of where he helps writers find their readers, and craft their platforms. He has worked with hundreds of writers, and has consulted with Random House, Workman Publishing, Perseus Books Group, The Kenyon Review, Writers House, F&W Media, Writers Digest, Mediabistro and others. He speaks regularly at writing and publishing conferences and can be found at, or on Twitter at



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






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