Tag Archives: Jerry Waxler

Five ways that Writing a Memoir Helps you Find Your Authentic Self and Voice

Jerry Waxler

June Member webinar

June 23, 2017

11 AM PDT  12 PM MDT   1 PM CDT  2 PM EDT

When you first think about writing the story of your life, you may remember major challenges or disruptions. Over time, you begin looking at yourself as the hero/heroine on a quest to find something. What is the thing you’re looking for? What is the purpose of your life journey?

In this presentation, Jerry Waxler, memoir author and teacher, will show how the Memoir Revolution, currently in swing for people of all ages, is about finding the True You, hidden within all the complexities of your unique experiences.

We’ll explore five ways that memoir writing is about finding your authentic self.

  1. Becoming you in the first place (the coming of age memoir)
  2. Reestablishing a sense of self-worth and empowerment after illness or loss of a loved one (grieving, recovery from trauma)
  3. Course correction: Adjusting or readjusting personhood in midlife
  4. Finding true cultural connection (finding one’s way through identity challenges, immigration, mixed culture, religion, or race)
  5. Returning, through your memories, to discover the truth and meaning of your own past

Jerry Waxler writes, coaches, and teaches about how to awaken human potential through life story writing. Jerry’s blog and book Memoir Revolution champions the social trend to turn life into Story. His self-help book, How to Become a Heroic Writer, provides self-help tools to find the courage and time to write your own story. Jerry’s memoir Thinking My Way to the End of the World is about his attempt to come of age during the sixties. He is on the advisory board of the National Association of Memoirs. He has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and teaches writing classes at Northampton Community College.

 

Your Memoir is Not a Cliche

Jerry Waxler

jerry

Images of the sixties swirl through our media-drenched culture. The Beatles first trip to the U.S… Hippies dancing wildly at Woodstock… Soldiers creeping warily through overgrown jungle… Students shot dead at Kent State… The collage of those familiar images would cover the Berlin Wall. But seeing the external details of a story says little if anything about the hearts of the people.

Many of us who live through those times were stuck behind that wall, held back from sharing our stories by the fear that everyone already knew all about what we went through. As we grow older we wish we could explore and share not just the iconography but the complex emotions and ideas that had taken hold of our minds. But the fear of the cliché has always held us back.

Now, with the advent of the Memoir Revolution, many of us are writing stories as a tool to help us make sense of confusing or powerful memories. By portraying the world through the mind of a character in a memoir, we reveal our own journey in a fresh, intimate way. What did you really want? What did you really believe or fear? These are the questions that drive the Memoir Revolution. They take us behind the scenes of the clichés to understand the people.

The sixties are not the only type of story hidden by the fear of the cliché. We humans share many universal experiences. When we look at each other on the surface, we only see the images. But when we tell the story, we bond on a much deeper level.

What experiences do you want to write about? Do you wish you could tell the story of grieving, caregiving, coming of age, launching, addiction, betrayal, illness, search for identity and spirituality, cultural mixing, finding your dignity, or any of the other things that make us human? Are you avoiding writing because you fear your story might not be unique, or “has already been written?”

To break the silence, scrape away that fear. Under the surface you will find an authentic story that shows your humanity and in the process of writing it, you will gain a deeper understanding of it yourself.

I have read many memoirs which tell the “same story” as other ones – but their similarities don’t detract from the awesome insights and compassion evoked by each well-crafted experience.

This principle of “same but different” memoirs is perfectly illustrated by Pamela Jane’s Incredible Talent for Existing. It is about the way she willfully marched into the sixties, intending to unravel everything. I loved her exploration of this strange period in our culture when we were convinced that we could save the world by destroying our beliefs.

In addition to being a good story in its own right, it validated one of the most profound truths of the Memoir Revolution. Even when we go through “identical” experiences, each of us has been through that experience in our own way.

Pamela Jane’s memoir illustrates this point because it is in many ways identical to my own memoir Thinking My Way to the End of the World. I happened to be one of the millions who accepted the notion that we could build society up by tearing it down. Now, it sounds crazy but back then it made sense. I wrote about my journey down and back in my memoir

Both memoirs discuss a fact about the sixties that has rarely been discussed. After “dropping out” we had to drop back in. After you’ve destroyed all your beliefs, finding them again turns out to be incredibly difficult.

If you want a good insight into this psychic self-immolation and then the journey back to wholeness read Pamela Jane’s memoir An Incredible Talent for Existing. And then read mine, Thinking My Way to the End of the World.

Like Pamela Jane, when I emerged from the mass psychosis of the sixties, I went on a long forced march to make sense of myself. Through self-help, therapy, meditation, and reflection I gradually created a sane adult life. But during this long, grueling process of rebuilding, the news media and pop culture had stopped watching. The cameras were all packed up and moved on and we had to reconstruct our minds on our own. Now, thanks to the Memoir Revolution we can look back and understand the inner story, the one that the cameras missed.

We are taught in fiction writing classes to be specific about the things we saw, smelled, heard, tasted, and touched. Memoirs take advantage of all those sensory details and they also add another dimension. Because memoirs are about the deep specificity of your own inner life, you can tell an incredibly specific and powerful story by turning the spotlight inward. To turn your individual life into a powerful, moving story, dive into your own interior and try to describe exactly what you feared and hoped, thought and believed. When you add those inner truths, you will scrape away the clichés and reveal a unique multi-dimensional story.

Jerry Waxler is a memoir coach, teacher, and blogger, and author of Memoir Revolution: A Social Shift that Uses your Story to Heal, Connect, and Inspire. http://amzn.to/22cXANM]

Hear Jerry and Linda Joy talk at the Roundtable about his twelve-year odyssey to write his memoir. http://namw.org/2016/03/april-roundtable-discussion

For more stories about the sixties read Times They Were a Changing, an anthology edited by Linda Joy Myers and two other editors, an Indie Excellent finalist award.

Memoir Tribes Clubs and Communities–All Part of the Memoir Revolution

jerry_9-12-14We are happy to introduce NAMW’s own Jerry Waxler on his WOW blog tour!

Memoir Revolution is Jerry Waxler’s beautifully written story as he integrates it with his deep and abiding knowledge and passion for story. In the 1960s, Jerry Waxler, along with millions of his peers, attempted to find truth by rebelling against everything. After a lifetime of learning about himself and the world, he now finds himself in the middle of another social revolution. In the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of us are searching for truth by finding our stories. In Memoir Revolution, Waxler shows how memoirs link us to the ancient, pervasive system of thought called The Story. By translating our lives into this form, we reveal the meaning and purpose that eludes us when we view ourselves through the lens of memory. And when we share these stories, we create mutual understanding, as well. By exploring the cultural roots of this literary trend, based on an extensive list of memoirs and other book, Waxler makes the Memoir Revolution seem like an inevitable answer to questions about our psychological, social and spiritual well-being.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

When I first imagined writing my memoir, I assumed I would be doing it alone, so to learn how to start, I took a workshop. Sitting in a circle with fellow writers, I listened to the instructions and then jotted down an anecdote about falling in love with my first girlfriend. I couldn’t remember ever telling anyone about the incident. As I shared my writing with these strangers later in the workshop, I saw my secret reflected in their kind eyes. By exposing my memories, I had created a room full of comforting friends.

When they read their pieces aloud, we reversed roles. In written form, their embarrassing, painful, private events became interesting. Then it was my turn to give support. Our shared goals and mutual trust showed me that memoir writing was going to be a social activity. I’ve been eager to associate with fellow writers ever since. I attended several monthly writing meetings each month, and a couple of annual conferences. As soon as I realized their importance in my life, I volunteered to help run them. By volunteering to help these organizations, I increased my connections even more. Although the majority of members were fiction writers, we few nonfiction writers stuck together in small critique groups.

As the Internet grew, I began to venture into long distance relationships. My first foray was the Absolute Write forum, teeming with writers in all genres, including a small subset of memoir writers. To find writers specializing in memoirs, I had to work harder. My breakthrough came when I began to blog about the subject. At first, I thought blogging might be lonely. Who would ever read my posts? I soon discovered that by searching for and visiting memoir blogs, I could bond with other writers who were attempting to follow the same path.

My blog network led me to Linda Joy Myers, who runs the National Association of Memoir Writers, a hub of memoir writing energy. Thanks to the critical mass of a national membership organization, Linda Joy attracts aspiring writers and experts into a virtual community. I became a member, enjoying the connections and the many resources the group made available.

Gradually my online acquaintances have blossomed into tribes — loosely bound collections of writers who see that banding together is more fun and more supportive than doing it alone. And while I miss some of the pleasures of face to face groups, I have grown increasingly comfortable “hanging out” with people I’ve never seen in person. Because writers communicate through written words anyway, long-distance relationships with fellow writers provide a training ground where we can develop the same skills we need for reaching readers.

I have reaped an unexpected bonus from all this distant mutual support. Even though this clan of boosters is spread all over the country and a sprinkling around the globe, their friendship has fostered a new, invigorating way to improve my writing. Now, when I write, I visualize these friendly strangers. This visualization has done more for my enthusiasm than many years of attempting to wrestle with the inner critic. Instead of shushing my inner critic, I have fun imagining my extended tribes of curious energetic fellow writers who want to read what I say.

Taking advantage of all these opportunities comes with a price. I have to pour energy out in order to receive energy in return, but over the years, my participation has created a vigorous, energizing social experience that has helped me grow as a writer and a person.

The tribes are dynamic, with people coming and going. Since my first blog post in 2007, I have accrued wisdom, just as I have watched other long-term members grow in their understanding of memoirs. In this era of the Memoir Revolution, with increasing numbers of us learning the power of finding our own narrative, these tenacious elders perform an important service for the virtual community. By sticking around, studying, and growing, the older ones have the responsibility and pleasure of leadership, passing our understanding along to others who have joined the journey more recently.

When I first heard the word “memoir” the task seemed to emphasize an introspective search for interior facts and truths. However, once I became engaged in the actual process of writing a memoir, I discovered that introspection was only half of the journey. The Memoir Revolution can best be understood and enjoyed by recognizing its two sides. In addition to offering a better understanding of one’s self, turning memories into a story offers a valuable tool for mutual understanding and support.

Memoir Revolution is Jerry Waxler’s beautifully written story as he integrates it with his deep and abiding knowledge and passion for story. In the 1960s, Jerry Waxler, along with millions of his peers, attempted to find truth by rebelling against everything. After a lifetime of learning about himself and the world, he now finds himself in the middle of another social revolution. In the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of us are searching for truth by finding our stories. In Memoir Revolution, Waxler shows how memoirs link us to the ancient, pervasive system of thought called The Story. By translating our lives into this form, we reveal the meaning and purpose that eludes us when we view ourselves through the lens of memory. And when we share these stories, we create mutual understanding, as well. By exploring the cultural roots of this literary trend, based on an extensive list of memoirs and other book, Waxler makes the Memoir Revolution seem like an inevitable answer to questions about our psychological, social and spiritual well-being.

Paperback: 190Pages
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Neuralcoach Press; 1 edition (April 9, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0977189538
Twitter hashtag: #MRevolutionWaxler

Memoir Revolution is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon.

Interview with Jerry Waxler –The Benefits of a Tele-Workshop

Jerry Waxler is offering another 4 – Week Intensive starting April 1. We thought you should hear more from Jerry, who is a devoted and stimulating teacher of memoir, about his workshop.  
 
 
Linda Joy: Jerry, we’re so pleased you are offering workshops here at the National Association of Memoir Writers. And the feedback from students in the class you offered in February was so impressive, we decided to offer it again in April. Why do you think your students appreciated the class so much?
 

Jerry: Two reasons. One is that I love encouraging people to find their stories and when they do it in a group, something magical happens.

Second, is that finding the underlying structure of each person’s unique experience turns out to be one of the most important challenges facing memoir writers. This class is a perfect environment to do just that. In the small interactive class, with feedback from me through each step, and support from the group, each author makes substantial progress toward clarity about their own project.
 
 

Linda Joy: I agree, Jerry. One of the most magical things about workshops and memoir writing is how supportive and empathic everyone is to each other’s stories, to each other’s lives.

So tell us how you approach finding the structure of a memoir.
 
 
Jerry: Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. At the start of each phone session,  I explain how these parts work. Then I invite everyone to talk about how they expect to turn their own life experience into that week’s assignment. By talking about it and reflecting on it, they gain a clearer understanding of how to take the next step. Then between classes they write a short piece and send it to ALL through email. We don’t critique each other. This class focuses on finding the structure. At the next class we review and move forward. We get a lot of work done–and the payoff after just four weeks is spectacular.
 
 
Linda Joy: I’m always so moved by what you write on your blog. Your blog is so generous in its analysis and deep emotional responses to memoirs. I love your passion about memoir writing, and your book The Memoir Revolution, which talks about the importance memoir writing has for the world, and for each person. You are always saying that everyone has a story, and everyone has a legacy to pass on. You walk your talk!
 
 
Jerry: Every memoir I read is the result of years of careful reflection, crafting and revision. As a reader, I consider it a privilege to be allowed into this expression of each person’s life experience. When someone comes to one of my classes, I think of them as heroes entering this same journey, and feel privileged to help them move toward their goal.
 
 
Linda Joy: As you know, the motto for National Association of Memoir Writers is “Be Brave–Write Your Story.” And that courage is about digging deep to find the truest threads of story, from exploring memory and beliefs, from wondering if what we thought we knew is what we know now. All of us who teach and guide memoirists want to support the writer and the story–and the process of helping the writer to shape and share their stories. Thanks for being part of that this spring!
 
 

Story Structure for Memoir Writers with Jerry Waxler

April 1 – 22, 2014, 4 weeks (Tuesdays) 4 PST, 5 MST, 6 CST, 7 EST

To write a memoir, you need to translate unstructured memories into the structure called “Story.” In this four session teleclass, Jerry Waxler will break the form of a Story into simple elements. Then we’ll walk together step by step through the process of translating your life experience into a form that readers won’t want to put down.
 

What you will learn

  • Importance of a protagonist and how you will become one in your memoir
  • The importance of the inner as well as the outer story
  • How to set up the beginning of a story so the reader wants to know the end
  • How to energize the middle so it drives the reader to the next page
  • How to create a satisfying ending
  • How to turn life lessons into a crucial element of a good story

 

To learn more about Jerry’s new workshop Story Structure for Memoir Writers | A 4-week Memoir Intensive click here to read more.

 

 

 
 

 

 
 

 

Story Structure for Memoir Writers | A 4-week Memoir Intensive by Jerry Waxler

 April 1 – 22, 2014, 4 weeks (Tuesdays) 4 PST, 5 MST, 6 CST, 7 EST

$125 for non-members

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$110 for members

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To write a memoir, you need to translate unstructured memories into the structure called “Story.” In this four session teleclass, Jerry Waxler will break the form of a Story into simple elements. Then we’ll walk together step by step through the process of translating your life experience into a form that readers won’t want to put down.

What you will learn

  • Importance of a protagonist and how you will become one in your memoir
  • The importance of the inner as well as the outer story
  • How to set up the beginning of a story so the reader wants to know the end
  • How to energize the middle so it drives the reader to the next page
  • How to create a satisfying ending
  • How to turn life lessons into a crucial element of a good story

 

How it works—From Jerry:
We’ll get together for four 90-minute telephone sessions. During each session, I’ll offer a lesson to help you organize your structure. Then each of you will have an opportunity to share your project. By exploring your story in this virtual classroom, we build a trusting, mutually supportive atmosphere. Between each session, you wijerry-head-28ll write brief assignments and email them to all in the class. Because we will be able to read your pieces on our own, you won’t need to read them aloud. We can use class time to work through issues and offer feedback. At every step, during and between classes, I will offer guidance to help you discover the story structure that best expresses your unique life experience.

Bio

Jerry Waxler M.S. is a workshop leader and writing coach, with a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. He is the author of the blog, Memory Writers Network, which contains hundreds of essays, book reviews, and writing prompts about reading and writing memoirs. Mr. Waxler is the author of Memoir Revolution, about the cultural passion for lifestories and Learn to Write Your Memoirs a step by step guide. Jerry is a board member of the Philadelphia Writers Conference, is on the faculty at Northampton Community College and on the advisory panel of the National Association of Memoir Writers.

 

Testimonials

This was the second time I took Jerry’s class and I’m sure, I’ll be a regular as long as he teaches this workshop. His guidance is very valuable and helps structuring the many “shimmering images” I’m carrying around about my childhood, my younger years and occurances in the recent past that need to be written down to make sense.
 
Thank you, Jerry! You’re a gem!
~Evie Sullivan
 
 
Dear Jerry:  Thank you for helping me to see the “puzzle pieces” of my story through your story structure class.  Your assignments and feedback helped me see myself for the first time as a character on a journey in my own memoir (and on a journey in writing my memoir.)  The way you structured the class had me visualize and actually write crucial parts of my story — a beginning, two parts of the middle and the all important ending (or potential ending).  It changes everything to have these bookends in place.  It makes it seem possible to actually accomplish telling the story in between.  I know these may change as my story and structure evolve, as you said, but I have a very basic arc to hang the rest of my story on and to evolve from.  This is an invaluable step forward and in such a short time — the four week class.
 
Thank you also for using the stories that we each wrote for class and pulling out teaching points from the stories.  We not only enjoyed sharing our stories and kindly critiqued each other’s work, thanks to the tone you set for the class, but we could actually learn from each other’s weekly assignments. 
 
Your class and your encouragement throughout have been an important step for me and I want you to know it and to properly thank you.  Please consider teaching other classes through NAMW.  You are a kind man which makes you a great teacher for such a sensitive subject as memoir.  Your have a vast body of knowledge, always able to point students to a memoir that uses a method or technique that might work for us.  I would definitely take another class you taught and, indeed, may take this class again in April after my memoir and I have evolved further!  Thank you so much for your help. 
 
Sincerely,
Frances A. Rove
 
 
 
Hi Jerry,
Thank you so much for your invaluable feedback and wonderful class.
 
I also would be interested in your class in April. I think Frances said it all in her email to you!
 
Jerry you are a great teacher, and you do so in a way that the student is not aware of it until  after the class is over.
 
Your teaching is subtle and supportive, which is what is needed in writing memoir due to its highly charged emotional memories that live in each of us.
 
I have a direction and structure now to move my memoir move forward!
 
Thank you so much for this wonderful class and the opportunity to get to know the other writers life stories and struggles to fulfill their dreams of writing their memoirs.
 
Warm Regards,
Lilly Gwilliam
 
 
 
This course is a great way to get your memoir on paper and straight in your head. It helps you locate the story you are telling with your memories — and you will find yourself humbled and awed by other people’s stories and how they can help you write your own. Jerry, your instruction was straightforward, but kind and generous. You kickstarted my confidence. 

~Dr. Danna Walker

 
 
 
Many of us have stories about our families, ourselves, that we want to write about but don’t know how.   I encourage anyone wanting to turn his/her life experience into a memoir to sign up for Jerry’s workshops. His classes provide a safe and encouraging environment in which we can explore and find structure for our stories. Jerry is one of the best teachers of memoir development I’ve encountered. His coaching is insightful and inspiring.
~Lorenzo Martinez
 
 
 
I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in writing their memoir take this class, regardless of where they are in the writing process.  Jerry is a gentle and compassionate guide to your memories and their placement process.  I have worked on my memoir for several years, never getting pass the first few pages.  During this class I realized why I couldn’t.  I was trying to tell the wrong story.  Thanks to Jerry’s insight, I learned what my real story is as did several others in our class.  
~Betty Kurecka
 
 
 
To anyone looking for direction in their pursuit of writing a memoir, I highly recommend this class. Jerry’s familiarity with memoir writing and his expertise in the field is exactly the right foundation needed to help, not just the seasoned writer, but the beginner as well.
 
Having just birthed the idea of writing a memoir within the last few months, this class was such a joy to me.  I came away feeling exuberant and encouraged.  We all have areas of our writing which need to be polished.  My area of weakness is with ‘showing, not telling’.  Through the help of others in the class, I have the determination to pursue the skills necessary to become better at describing scenes in my writing.
~ Don
 
 

Testimonials

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