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.
Session 1—Book Design
How a Book Designer Supports your Soul and the Soul of Your Memoir
Robin 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:
- Choose a designer that fits your soul and the soul of your memoir
- Choosing a designer, practical considerations
- Cover, content and practical points—key words and images
- What is the best route FOR YOU in terms of self-publishing?
- Marketing choices for your book
- 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
How to Tell the Truth Without Ending up in Court
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 http://helensedwick.com.
Session 3—Story Craft
The Heart of a Great Story
Every 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:
- You the protagonist—conflict and desire in your own story line
- What are you afraid of as a protagonist?
- How to deal with point of view and its complications in memoir
- Writing scenes: what the scientists tell us
- Weaving cause and effect.
- 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 Lynda.com.
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
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 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 SheWrites.com. 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.