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August Roundtable Webinar- FREE to All – August 3, 2017

There Was a Fire Here: A memoir that rose from the ashes

Risa Nye

August 3, 2017


My book began as a string of short pieces, each one memorializing something of importance I’d lost in the 1991 fire that destroyed over three thousand homes in my city. The fire made an appearance in nearly everything I wrote afterward, either in passing or as a focal point. I didn’t imagine that the pieces I was writing would somehow fit themselves into a book. It took many years, a dedicated effort through an MFA program, a year of not writing, and some excellent coaching to see that these memories—and more—could be stitched successfully into a memoir.

The story I wanted to tell wasn’t just my story: it involved a widely publicized event that cost 25 people their lives. I had to make sure I got the details right to honor them and others. Luckily, I had the chance to do interviews. I’d also kept newspaper articles and a journal from that momentous time. My biggest challenge was digging deep into my memory to recall the horror of those early days, and confronting the moments when I was at my lowest.

What you will learn:

  • My book came out on the 25th anniversary of the fire. It’s never too late to start a project when it involves a story that will not let you go
  • Even if it begins as a disorganized “crazy quilt,” and you doubt it will ever become a book people will want to read, others can help you visualize the story you want to tell and help silence that inner critic who asks, “So what?,” “Who cares?,” and “Why now?”
  • You have choices about how to frame and structure your memoir: how I modeled mine after several of my favorite memoirists
  • Do the research, ask the questions, get it as right as you can—then keep writing
  • The cover matters! How to make sure the cover reflects the story within

Risa Nye is a California native. Her books, articles, and essays can be found at www.risanye.com. She co-edited the anthology Writin’ on Empty: Parents Reveal the Upside, Downside, and Everything in Between When Children Leave the Nest. Her Ms. Barstool column and other articles appear in Berkeleyside.com. She also writes for EatDrinkFilms.com. She returned to graduate school in 2009 and earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Her memoir, There Was a Fire Here (SheWritesPress) was published in 2016.



  1. Deane Turner

    What phone number do I call to participate in you webinar tomorrow. I’m on Cape Cod so I’m in EDT zone.
    By the way, we were sailing on an 85′ yacht on SF Bay the day of your big fire in 1991 and were aghast at watching it unfold.
    Hopefully we’ll chat tomorrow.
    Deane Turner

    • Erica

      Hi Deane,

      As long as you’re signed up, you will receive all call information via email.

      Kind Regards,

  2. Jennifer Dunham

    Take a deep breath…You’re going to be great!

  3. Rebekah Logan

    I signed up last night and never received the info 🙁 Then totally forgot until right now…bummed. Hope it went well!

  4. Rebekah Logan

    Oops just realized I didn’t get confirmation because I signed up with another email address – not connected to my NAMW membership. My fault!

    • Erica

      So sorry you missed it! Everyone who signed up will receive the recording via email later today.

      Kind Regards,

  5. Holly James

    Dear Linda Joy and Risa,

    I wanted to tell you both how much I enjoyed the webinar (my first NAMW) yesterday. It was both motivating and educational being in the presence of experienced authors and others with similar interests and goals.

    Risa, you mentioned that it took you nearly 25 years from the fire to the completion of your book. That was encouraging since I’ve been contemplating this endeavor, taking notes, and writing a few paragraphs here and there for almost 10 years. After retiring last year from my ‘get up and go to work for a paycheck job,’ I decided it was time to get serious about writing, since everyone kept encouraging me to just do it! (Also becoming a grandma for the first time last year made me realize this needed to get done as a legacy to my grandchildren.)

    Thank you for explaining the process you went through taking your ideas to publication. Over the past few months I’ve had a good start, but there is so much I need to learn. I just discovered the NAMW and am looking forward to being a part of this community and all it has to offer.

    My thanks to Linda Joy, and congratulations on a job well done, Risa.

    Best regards,

  6. Robin Fell

    Good Morning
    I would love to hear the recording of the webinar on Aug.3rd. I live in Mexico and was unable to attend on the 3rd.
    Thank-you so much for sending me the link.
    Robin Fell


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