December 17, 2017

Are Time Bandits Keeping You from Writing Your Memoir?

Time bandits come in all forms. They’re anything that keeps us from doing what we commit to doing where our writing is concerned. They might be social commitments. They’re most certainly work commitments. They can show up as the guilt we feel for not spending time with our family. They can also be the many other personal commitments we have: exercising; mowing the lawn; doing the dishes. There are a few lucky individuals who have figured out lifestyles that foster having a creative life, but … [Read more...]

Your Memoir as a Movie

Do you love movies? To me, there’s nothing so satisfying as sitting down to immerse myself in a new story. The first few moments need to capture my attention so I can’t look away. I make sure my tea is nearby, and that my kitties are ready to settle down on my lap. Once the kitties are there, I won’t be getting up for at least an hour or more as the story weaves its magic around me. It grabs me with a scene, in a moment where I’m drawn into a world not my own. I’m inside the scene, inside the … [Read more...]

Libel and Invasion of Privacy in Memoir

So many memoirists Linda Joy and I work with are concerned about legal issues surrounding libel and invasion of privacy that it's high time we get clear about what you can and cannot do in memoir here on our blog. I obtained the information below about libel and invasion of privacy at a session I attended at Pub U  in April (notice—next year Pub U is happening in Salt Lake City, April 8-9), where attorney Jonathan Kirsch was helping a bunch of publishers and authors wrap their mind around the … [Read more...]

Transformation in Wild—The True Inner Journey

Last week, my writing group celebrated our annual holiday gathering by seeing the movie Wild. Prepped with the excitement and the long wait for the release of the movie, we settled in to see how the filmmakers and Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed would translate the book onto the big screen. Earlier in the year, we had met the “real” Cheryl at a daylong writing conference where, in a graceful and authentic way, she shared her stories of living and writing the moments that were so profound in … [Read more...]

Get Wild with Flashback and Memory

Because Linda Joy and I taught Cheryl Strayed’s Wild as our first best-selling memoir course in our best-seller series, I’ve been eager to see the movie from the moment I heard about it. In our six-month course, Linda Joy and I talk a lot about writers’ strengths. There are always certain elements of craft that writers will nail. You might feel comfortable with scene-writing, or narrative voice, or takeaways without even realizing it. These are areas in your writing that might come naturally … [Read more...]

Why to Write Through the Holidays

There’s an exercise I do with clients that I got from Tsultrim Allione, author of Feeding Your Demons. The exercise is more or less a guided meditation that encourages people to give characteristics to their saboteur (demon). The point is to give form to your saboteur—to determine its shape, smell, size, color, and even to name it. Over years of doing this with writers, there’s been an interesting commonality: Oftentimes the saboteur haunting writers is sticky. I’ve seen saboteurs manifest in … [Read more...]

Memoir Writing Is Not an Act of War

Writing a memoir is not an act of war, but it can seem that way to our family. When our “truths” are other people’s “lies” that they need to believe, when the larger than life stories are skewed or downright wrong—some people look askance at any story that does not agree with their own version. Family members are like slices of a pie, seeing the center through a different lens. It’s a war when families fight over what “really” happened, and this can go on and on, for generations. Memoirists … [Read more...]

Manifesting Your Idea into a Memoir

I had the privilege of seeing Elizabeth Gilbert’s keynote address at the Wake-Up Festival this August 2014. Although Liz is most famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, she told the audience that her true and original love was fiction. Dani Shapiro wrote this month in the New Yorker that she is an accidental memoirist, and although Liz didn’t frame it exactly this way, it’s clear that she is too. It’s not uncommon for writers to be visited, or haunted, by a story that will not let them go. … [Read more...]

Your Scene-writing Toolkit

It happens in each of our long courses that I hit a point where I realize how much writers really shoulder when it comes to writing a memoir. There are so many things to hold in addition to the memories, messages from our saboteurs, and bouts of self-doubt. Most writers who are working on a memoir are learning a new craft while also dealing with the wellspring of emotion that comes from tapping into experiences that can oftentimes feel like stirring a hornet’s nest. Sometimes it’s hard to keep … [Read more...]

How to Craft the Beginning of Your Story

    As readers, we all have the experience of trying to find our bearings as we begin a story. To get “inside” the story that’s beginning, we readers are curious about who the main characters are, and we’re eager to learn about them—to learn why we are being told this story about these people. Early in a story, we’re getting grounded in where we are—literally—on the planet, in the world, and in the geography of place.  We need to know the time frame for the story, too. That’s the who, … [Read more...]