Tag Archives: NAMW Member Teleseminar

The Craft of Memoir – Write Like a Novelist

NAMW August Member Teleseminar–Marcia Butler

August 18, 2017

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

One of the greatest compliments I received when my memoir was published was hearing from reviewers and readers alike that my book “read like a novel.”  Most memoirs have a gripping tale to tell, which is vital not only from a publisher’s standpoint, but also for the expectation of the devoted reader of this form. Yet, skillful and nuanced storytelling must be a goal not only of the novelist but of memoirists as well.

After all, there is only one difference between fiction and memoir. In the case of a novel the plot is made up. But the memoirist knows the story and all the characters. We know how the protagonist will succeed and fail; who lives and who dies. The memoirist is in full command of thoughts, feelings, memories, the beginning and the ending. Novelists make their decisions throughout the writing process, tossing out characters and plot threads that don’t serve the narrative.

But memoirists know the stakes from the very beginning and it is our job to tell our story with compassion, craft and intelligence. We must keep the reader turning the pages, eager to see what happens next by pacing the action, by writing believable dialogue and by creating chapters that satisfy as a whole. Just like a great novel.

In my teleseminar, I’ll show you how to tell your life story with the skill and nuance of a novelist.

  • Build your world view
  • The process of selecting scenes for inclusion – must we tell everything?
  • How to make a distant yet important memory come to life
  • Short lens and long lens as a way to create depth and space in a scene
  • Writing from anger and grief – keep this in check and remain be a believable character/writer
  • Craft dials apply to memoir too – use the senses
  • Some characters do not warrant page space – choose carefully
  • Know what your story (plot) is – life is big but a book can contain only so much
  • How to get your character “across the room” – tools to elide gaps in time or compress time


Marcia Butler Short Bio:

Marcia Butler is the debut author of the nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee. She was a professional oboist for twenty-five years until her retirement in 2008. During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer and pianist Keith Jarrett. Marcia was a 2015 recipient of a Writer-in-Residence through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation. Her work has been published in Literary Hub, PANK Magazine, Psychology Today Magazine, The Aspen Institute, BioStories and others. She has written a novel which is currently out for sale to publishers. Marcia lives in New York City.


You’ve Written Your Memoir—Now What? | Steps on the Path to Publishing

Sam Barry

Member Teleseminar

February 21 2014 with Sam Barry

11 AM PST   12 PM MST   1 PM  CST  2 PM EST


With the publishing world changing every day, your head must be spinning with the choices you have to make. You ask, “Should I find an agent or should I self-publish? How do I know when my manuscript is ready? What are the best publishing choices for my book and theme?”


Sam Barry, director of the Book Passage Path to Publishing Program, is our guest for this member teleseminar. We will talk about what you need to know in 2014 to get your book from manuscript to finished book—up-to-date information about the publishing industry and how you can make informed choices.


Join us for an all-you-need-to-know conversation.


  1. Why you need an editor.
  2. Hiring a mentor or coach—what you need to know.
  3. What’s next: traditional publishing, alternative publishing, or self-publishing?
  4. Finding an agent and selling your manuscript
  5. What you need to know about book design and production
  6. Marketing, publicity, and distribution


Sam Barry heads the Path to Publishing Program at Book Passage. He is editor of and a contributor to “Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All ” by the Rock Bottom Remainders. He is the author of How to Play the Harmonica and Other Life Lessons and co-author of Write That Book Already! The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now. You can find Sam on Facebook and on Twitter @sambarry.






The One Question Every New Writer Wants Answered | Theo Nestor

headshot nestor


On the last day of the quarter, I often ask students in my memoir class to write down on an anonymous slip of paper a question about writing.  When I did this recently, I received a number of questions about the legal implications of writing about others, how one finds an agent, how to decide on the structure of a book…all good questions.  But then there was one question that stood out from the bunch.  On a torn piece of lined notepaper, the writer asked, “Am I good?”

I’ve been asked this question point blank by several students over the years, but the beauty of this ask was this time there was no name and no face attached to the question, underscoring the universality and, in fact, the absurdity of the question.  The writer, I believe, understood that I cannot answer that question and yet still needed to ask.

My answer to this question was this: I completely understand the need to ask this question.  Why should you throw away hundreds of hours of your life on writing if you are not “any good”?  Isn’t it fair to ask at the early stage of your development that someone tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, this really isn’t going to head anywhere?” But while I understand the need to ask this question, I cannot answer it and I don’t think any other writer can answer this question for a new writer and here’s why:

No matter what I’ve read of your work so far, I have no idea what you’ll do next.  Maybe you’ll dedicate yourself to reading the best of your genre and take in the critiques of others with an open mind and a determination to make your work better.   Maybe you’ll stay true to your vision and your desire to write in the face of all the rejection letters that are an inevitable part of a writer’s career.    Maybe you’ll keep writing even after you’ve written a book even you don’t like that much.  I don’t know.

The other problem with the poignant and ubiquitous “Am I good?” question is the obvious response, “Good to whom?”  When a new comedy is previewed before a focus group, it’s predicted that the film will be an epic hit if 30 percent of the focus group thinks it’s funny.  30 percent!  When I look up on Amazon the customer reviews of books I personally might take a bullet for, I find many one-star reviews and comments like, “This book isn’t worth the paper it was printed on.”

Yes, I do think there is such a thing as talent.  Some people who have a natural ability with words and storytelling, but not all those with that talent decide to keep at writing.  There are also many writers who might have shown little discernible talent in their early years, but for whatever reason, they kept writing, and their skills improved.

But I remember longing for the “Am I Good” question to be answered, and when it was answered affirmatively, it inspired me enough to write, and it was the act of writing that helped me to improve as a writer.  In my college freshman writing course, we were asked to write a self-portrait as our entrance essay to the course.  When I received my essay back from the instructor, she’d written something about talent with words at the bottom, praise that inspired me to work very hard in her class.  Recently, I found that essay in a box of stored papers.

I started reading the essay greedily, looking for early evidence of talent.  But, instead what I read was the most ordinary of college freshman essays. Ordinary to the point of appalling.  Where was this “talent” the teacher had seen?  I don’t know.  And yet, it was  her praise that had set me to work.

So now my answer to your question is “Yes, you are good.” Now get busy.

[NAMW March 2010 Member Teleseminar] Who Needs Editing? No, Really… with Brooke Warner

Who Needs Editing? No, Really…

Speaker: Brooke Warner
Date: March 12, 2010
Times: 11 AM PST /12 PM MST / 1 PM CST /2 PM EST

Cost: FREE FOR NAMW MEMBERS (you will receive the call information via email as the event draws near)

Do you wish to become an NAMW Member? Click here to become a member now!

This teleseminar for our NAMW members will present several issues that arise when writing a memoir. A significant issue is to understand when the book simply needs to go through more layers of the writing process, and when it needs to be edited. We will address how self-editing and micro-analyzing every sentence you write is a hindrance to completing your work, and why, after you’ve completed your manuscript, you’re not really done.
This conversation is chock-full of strategies for writers at various stages of their projects. It’s both permission-giving and a reality check. Every writer needs to learn when to ignore the voice whispering that it’s not good enough and when to be open to outside feedback.

Read more ...


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