Tag Archives: Telesummit

Exposure in Writing, My New Memoir, and Finding Freedom from the Past

April flowers

April flowersIn April, the colors are yellow, and green and blue skies, a season of life surging upward toward the sun. When we writers feel this upward movement of energy, we need to catch the wave. After all, there are plenty of times when despite positive energy and sun and the potential for creativity, we can feel blocked or silenced or scared to have our lives exposed—an almost inevitable reaction when writing a memoir.

This spring, I feel this kind of hesitance myself, despite the fact that I’ve published several other books including my first memoir Don’t Call Me Mother. I felt so exposed, lifting the veil from private to public on my family’s craziness—three generations of mothers who abandoned their daughters, mothers who rejected their children until the end of their life. There were wicked adoptive mothers, and molestations, and ongoing emotional abuse. What a mess!  Many of my students bring up the issue of not wanting to hurt other people by what they reveal in their memoir—and I can relate!

Song of the PlainsSo now, I’m finding myself a bit blocked as I prepare for what is truly a joy for me—the release of my new memoir Song of the Plains—A Story of Family, Secrets, and Silence. In this book, I unravel the complicated threads of our generational story in a new way—from the point of view of an adult who has spent over forty years trying to find the layers of truth—what happened, when, where, and who did what to whom. Forty years doing research to uncover where my mother lived as a little girl—I knew nearly nothing about her. And when was it that my grandmother, who ended up raising me, had left my mother as a little girl? I tracked their traumas, and the historical context of their lives as women and girls. Children in those days, and when I was raised as well, were taught, Children should be seen and not heard. Women, too, were supposed to bow to the rules and voices of men. My grandmother was born in the 19th century, and my mother five years before women had the vote. The patriarchal rules were going strong in the fifties when I grew up, when girls were urged to get their MRS degree in college, though it was also the first generation when going to college was an option. In my search, I discovered the key to how my grandmother offered me options that she never had.

I found some of the answers to the past in dusty courthouses, local libraries, and finally, on Ancestry.com. I share with the reader what I find out, and how the shackles of the past are released with each new discovery.

The Truth about Trauma

The other reason I explore these themes in my new memoir has to do with the new research about the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Through my training in family therapy in the eighties, I knew about generational patterns that were psychological in origin, but now DNA research shows that we carry traumas from previous generations with us. All my life I felt this to be true in my body, and as a result, did a lot of body therapy among other kinds of therapy to try to heal. The good news from research and books available now, including the research by John Evans, Dr. James Pennebaker, and Mark Wolynn is that the way the heal is find the family story, and find your own voice. We can use our stories and our writing to heal what was broken.

Whatever stage you are now, just know that word by word and chapter by chapter you are supporting the healing of the generations, and that you are planting seeds of freedom for the legacy you leave behind. You’ll be hearing much more about these topics this spring. On May 19, for our Memoir Telesummit, we have some amazing guests for you on exactly this topic, so stay tuned! We’ll have those details up on the site soon so you can sign up.

April Events

We’re also excited to special guests this month at our April Roundtable webinar April 6—Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on the topic of exposure in memoir and fiction and what to do about it. And Jed Diamond, an expert on the topic of men in family and relationships for our Member Webinar on April 21. Sometimes people ask us if we include men in our programs, and the answer is always yes! NAMW is about helping all voices find their stories and express their truths.

See you at the events this month. Brooke Warner and I are hosting a fantastic All-Day Memoir Conference Turn Up the Dial on Your Memoir on April 28, and our FREE event on Love Warrior on April 17. Be sure to sign up to keep learning and connecting with all things memoir.

Legal and Ethical Questions in Your Memoir

At most of our memoir events, whether it’s group coaching or our teleseminars, we get questions about legal and ethical concerns. When we’re writing “the truth” it’s our truth and our point of view, but as you know, there may be a chorus of other people who don’t agree with our version of what happened. They may even feel insulted or threatened by our story. For people who have been abused or were in situations of domestic violence, this can be particularly scary. Sometimes these questions make writers stop writing and get caught up in the “what if” questions, which can make the inner critic shout too loudly!

Here at NAMW we want to help you KEEP writing by presenting encouragement to keep writing that first draft no matter what. And we also strive to give you useful information that can help you keep the energy of your story up so you can finish your book.

Some of the questions we get are about whether to use real names vs. pseudonyms, writing about illegal behavior in the memoir, exposing and naming abusers. Each us has to decide how much of our history and situations in the past to expose to the public eye, but I always tell people that in your first draft, no one else is reading (unless you choose to show your work.) You are free to write what needs to come out.

Here are some of the questions we’ve received around writing a memoir and telling the truth:

  1. I want to get my book published by a mainstream publisher. Can I write the truth about the abuse and domestic violence using real names? Can I be sued by someone who is simply angry that I wrote the truth? Is truth my defense if others don’t agree?
  2. What do I need to know about self-publishing regarding legal issues?
  3. Can we be sued if someone feels our story is upsetting or that it might create a problem with their friends?

These and other important questions about writing a memoir will be addressed by our presenter at the NAMW Fall Telesummit The Heart and Soul of Memoir Writing. Helen Sedwick is our Session 2 presenter about the legal and ethical questions that plague most memoir writers. Please join us for our Telesummit, and join us live for How to Tell the Truth Without Ending Up in Court.



Session 2—Legal and Ethical Issues in Memoir

November 11, 2016

11-12 am PST | 12-1 pm MST | 1-2  pm CST | 2-3 pm EST

How to Tell the Truth Without Ending up in Court

helen-sedwickHelen Sedwick

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.

Tips to Break Through the Inner Critic Voices in Your Writing!

Tips to Break Through the Inner Critic Voices in Your Writing

Tips to Break Through the Inner Critic Voices in Your WritingIf you are writing a memoir, or even a novel, and wonder how you can break through the inner critic that silences you, this is a perfect moment to get new input and learn from the experts.

This is one of my favorite topics—as a memoir writer, I know how tough it is to confront the forbidden stories and write them down. Once voice says, “Go ahead, it’s the truth,” while another says “You can’t say that, it’s rude.” Or “What will people think if they know these things about me?” Or the real stinger, “They might get mad at me. They might accuse me of lying.”

You have your own list of what your inner critic says.

More typical Inner Critic messages:

  • I don’t know how to write.
  • Who cares about my story anyway?
  • I’m too self-involved.
  • What difference does it make if I write my story?
  • Maybe I’m making it all up.
  • I’ll be ejected from the family if I write that.
  • This is boring

I talk about the family and friends as the “Outer Critics.” These are some of their voices that memoir writers struggle with.

  • You’re writing a memoir? For heaven’s sake, must you air the family laundry?
  • Why are you doing this to us?
  • Don’t you dare write any of that while we’re alive!
  • You think you have a right to these stories?
  • You’ll be ejected from the family if your write about what really happened.
  • It didn’t happen that way!
  • All you can do is think about the past!

TIP: The best thing to do with your list is to write it down and get it out of your head. Then argue back with it. Answer each doubt that is raised, work on affirmations like, “This is my story. I have a right to tell it.”

TIP: In your first draft you can spill out the whole story. No one knows what you are writing until you share it. Sharing should be done carefully! You want to keep up your story energy all the way through your first draft.

TIP: Write out as many affirmations as you can think of and put them on your wall. They might be phrases like this:

  • The words that flow are good, just right for that day.
  • I will protect my writing from naysayers, including myself.
  • Each paragraph I write gives me strength and forward motion.
  • Every scene I write helps me to find a new perspective and joy in my life.
  • When I learn new skills, I am energized and excited about my writing.
  • I look forward to my writing time.
  • I honor and preserve my time to write

These practices about the critic voices may need to be repeated throughout your book. They work! I used to have a vile, abusive inner critic that kept me silent for months at a time, but I kept returning to these exercises, I kept working on my story bit by bit as I tried to free myself. That is why I’m so passionate about helping others learn to break through to write their stories.

In our Memoir Telesummit on May 6, you’ll hear from other writers who have walked through the fire of their doubts and strong critical voices—many of them real people—family members or friends. But they wrote their book anyway. I know that you will get a lot from Kelly Kittel and Sara Connell, whose stories are radical and brave. The both had to put aside the inner and outer critics to get their books out into the world. Brooke Warner uses the phrase “walk the radical edge” to talk about the challenges we face as memoir writers. As a publisher and memoir coach, she knows the kinds of stories that challenge writers, and will fire you up to face the challenge in your own writing.

I know that many of you struggle with having a voice out in the world as you think about or begin your journey to create a blog or get on Facebook or Twitter. Most writers I know don’t want to think about it, but I believe it’s another way the inner critic shuts us down. Sue Canfield is going to help you think about social media in a new way so your voice can reach a larger audience. I know that at first I was reluctant to put myself out there, but then I was told, “People need your message. You are giving them a gift.” That made all the difference—and my resistance melted. You can learn how to make friends with social media and not let it scare you!

The Memoir Writing Event You Don’t Want to Miss

This is Linda Joy from the National Association of Memoir Writers and I want you all to know about the upcoming free Telesummit—all day conference by phone– on Friday, March 30 Memoir Writing in the Digital Age.

The goal is to help people feel more comfortable with the tools and processes needed for the current publishing environment, from writing to book production to platform building. Even if you are not ready for any of these tools, knowing what they are and how they can be even fun to use can help you as an author. I’m so excited to host everyone and have a chance to spend an hour with each person and learn from their wisdom. Please share this link with your writing friends!

This is a terrific lineup of experts—and you can be there for free. Sign up and get the downloadable audios to listen to later. Your audio learning library can help you learn while gardening, driving, or musing creatively at your desk.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords—learn about the amazing eBook revolution and how to upload your manuscripts into book form. Mark shares the statistics that will amaze and inspire you to get your eBook done ASAP! Twitter at @markcoker

Dan Blank, Social Media guru and founder of WeGrowMedia.com. Dan takes us by the hand to make social media outreach easy to understand and something we really want to do to help grow our platform and share our message. Twitter at @DanBlank.

Tessa Smith McGovern will speak about her digital publishing company eChook, and her special memoir contests that invite us all. Twitter at @echookdigipub

Lynn Serafinn, the expert in what I call “Marketing with Soul.”  Lynn is the author of the 7 Graces of Marketing, and will talk to us about the holistic way to think about marketing and sharing your wisdom, your book, and you! @LynnSerafinn  and   @SpiritAuthors

Brooke Warner, Executive Editor at Seal Press and expert writing coach at Warner Coaching, and Linda Joy Myers, author of The Power of Memoir. Brooke has so many years’ experience in the book-creating world. She has helped hundreds of writers find their voice, structure and audience for their book. Brooke and I will discuss techniques that will help you get unstuck and in the flow of your writing. Twitter at @Brooke_Warner.

Linda Joy: Twitter @memoirguru   National Association of Memoir Writers @namw

Here is the sign up link. See you there!  http://www.namw.org/tele-summit-call-in-information


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