A warm welcome to Cate Russell-Cole. She’s all about being positive

I love that I’ve gotten to know Cate Russell-Cole so much better in the last few weeks. She’s always been so supportive of my work by retweeting, liking, and commenting on stuff I post around my social media networks. She has even placed my book on the list of the memoir writers and services that she follows on Twitter. It is here:  https://twitter.com/cateartios/memoir-writers/members.

Cate provides support for writers and has founded with Kathy Pooler, Sharon Lippincott, and Sherrey Meyer (all writers I deeply respect and admire) the Memoir Project, a nonprofit initiative that shares memoir writing skills, news and resources, promotes quality memoir writing web sites, and builds a supportive community for writers at all levels. I encourage you to visit the Write Your Life Story Memoir Project. Even if you don’t write in the memoir genre, I’m sure you’ll find something to help enhance your writing there.

Now I’d like to introduce Cate. She has generously written a guest post for Choices.

Focus on the Positive

By Cate Russell-Cole

I started to write my life story down at a delicate time. I was an adult emerging from a childhood of emotional abuse, chronic illness and the scars of being adopted. I was battling clinical depression and not winning. In my negative mindset, what I was writing was dirtier than coal and it didn’t help me.

As I read a great deal, it saved my autobiographical work from becoming the most dispiriting chore of all time. I was reading novels by 10552528authors such as M.M. Kaye, who wrote The Far Pavillions. I was transfixed by her use of description. You could feel, smell and taste India! Her books were pure magic to me. Then I found one of her autobiographical works covering her time in China. I wanted to write like that!

They rode out together from the shadows of the trees, leaving the Bala Hissar and the glowing torch of the burning Residency behind them, and spurred away across the flat lands towards the mountains… And it may even be that they found their Kingdom. M.M. Kaye, The Far Pavilions

Until that point, I had only jotted down my memories and thoughts about what had happened to me; I wasn’t writing descriptively. So I began to experiment, by trying to remember the details of special places and events. I recalled the items in my grandma’s house that came from all over the world, enthralling me as a small child. I tried to capture the magic of going somewhere new, or doing something exciting with my cousins. Sounds, smells, textures and warmth came back to me.

It turned out to be a balancing force for more than my writing: I was able to remember the good parts of my early life with joy. Some memories were always grief-ridden, but many helped me form a more coherent sense of my identity. This was very necessary to my mental health.

When I teach memoir, I try and encourage writers to focus on the positive, as it helped me so much. You need to write about the contrasts between rough and soft, cruel and sweet; but you can easily become wedged in negative memories, as their pull is so strong. I know how much pinpointing a special afternoon, delightful place or comforting toy helped me.

If you are wondering, no my work was never published. I chose not to. It sits on the bookcase in two bulky files, held together with cards and other special memorabilia. The contents are too personal to publish and will hurt other people. I have gained what I needed out of writing my story and to me, that is all that matters.

The CommuniCATE Resources for Writers blog posts every week on life story writing, to help you write about what you know. Please visit: https://cateartios.wordpress.com  Or click here http://cateartios.wordpress.com/category/the-memoir-project/ to access to archive of memoir posts.


Cate’s Biography:

Coffee Cup on Pile of FilesCate Russell-Cole, is an experienced creativity teacher and author. She has been published in many local and Internet e-zines, magazines and newspapers; and has researched, written and taught her own courses since 1990. Her most successful course to date is Write Your Life Story. She is also Founder of the Write Your Life Story Memoir Project online. You can find out about Cate’s books and other activities on her web site at  http://www.virtual-desk.com.au/artios.html

Write Your Life Story Memoir Project Links:

Blog: https://cateartios.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Write-Your-Life-Story/173393852705651

Google Plus: http://plus.google.com/communities/112990534902148227158

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cateartios



  1. What a lovely, uplifting post , Cate! I love the idea that memoir writing is worthwhile whether it’s published or not. Writing the words and stories down, if only for yourself, can be healing as you describe so clearly here. It’s nice to learn even more about you and the story behind your positive, spunky attitude. Excellent! Thank you Madeline for featuring Cate. Her voice has touched so many of us in a positive way. Blessings to you both.


    • Kathy, thank you! I always get raised eyebrows when I tell people my work is private and non for publication, but sometimes, that is what you need to do.

      My very best to you.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Thank you Kathy. I am so pleased to have Cate here. You are so right. Writing is healing whether the words are published or not.

  2. I agree with Kathy above. And I too have been touched by Cate’s generosity in sharing the work of other people. She’s always impressed me as being positive.

    I was unaware of how much you have had to overcome, Cate, and your vulnerability in sharing it makes your story even more impressive. I so admire anyone who goes to through the hard work of writing a memoir and who chooses to protect others by not publishing — yet. Because many of the people I wrote about have died, I was spared some hard decisions of my own, but I respect yours.

    Madeline, you are gathering wonderful stories on this site. Thanks for inviting Cate.

  3. Madeline, thank you very much for having me as a guest poster on Choices. I’m sorry I missed the launch with the time difference. 🙂 Best wishes with your book and continue to keep spreading the word about memoir and mental health issues. You’re doing an awesome job which is greatly appreciated.

  4. Cate, Thanks for this very helpful and thought provoking post … especially about choosing not to publish your own life story. I’m finding writing mine is the most healing thing I have ever done for myself. If it is never published it will have been worth the every moment it’s taken to do the work. It brings me peace, comfort , and a deeper understanding of myself and my family.

    • Hi Joan, I love hearing that! I found the act of writing my story down forced me to think, analyse a bit and it led to a lot of peace and forgiveness. I hope your writing journey does the same for you.

  5. Madeline Sharples says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Joan. Even though writing my memoir was very healing, I still journal daily. Putting my pain on the page every day is the only way I know to go on.

  6. Cate, I haven’t been very vocal about it, but my concept for this year is “Process is the Point. Product is a by-product.” Product being a published piece of writing. Thank you for stating this and building a strong case. Choosing not to publish, whether to protect self and/or others, or any other reason is honorable and respectable. Even if a person never makes it to the finish line where the decision must be made, she has the benefit and clarity of the writing experience.

    That said, words do touch people, and sharing new ways of thinking opens windows for others, so bravo for those who do choose to publish. Your words in this post are also testimony to that.

    Finally, many know I’m a description junkie, so my heart went pitter-patter when I read how the DESCRIPTION in M.M. Kaye’s books made a powerful difference in your writing and life. Woo hoo!

    Thanks to both Kate for the meaty message and Madeline for seeking it out.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Thanks so much, Sharon, for your many words of wisdom. Your concept for this year is a good one for all writers to follow. I write every day just for the process and the healing. it works for me. All best.

    • Hi Sharon, ahhhh, I got you with the descriptions again! 😉 Every time I see a photo which begs for a beautiful piece of prose to do it justice, I think of you. Thank you for your comment and visit. I wonder if when we see the word ‘author,’ minds automatically go to increased income and fame. That is not always the best result… neither is litigation and aggressive stalkers, which is where the publication of my story would lead. Each to their own.

      Best wishes.

  7. Cate, I’ve been catching up some blog post reading this morning, and I must say above all I’ve read yours rises far and above the others! Why? Because you have not only shared your truth, but you allowed us to know the end result with your writing down your memories. As I ponder publication of memoir in the not too distant future, I continue to waffle between the answers, yes and no. Do I or don’t I publish? You have shown me that the writing itself is a treasure unique to me and whether or not I share it, it will have still served a unique purpose in my life experience. Thanks so much for sharing that decision with us.

    Madeline, thanks for hosting Cate, one of our most resourceful and giving among the members of our online communities.

    • Sherrey, thank you. The publish or not publish decision is huge. I hope you find the right path. If you ever need someone to kick ideas around with, count me in!

      Thank you for your encouragement too, it is very heartening.

  8. Madeline Sharples says:

    Thank you, Sherrey. Hosting Cate here is a total joy. I had to share her with my community and let everyone know what a generous and giving person Cate is.
    And I know, Sherrey, whatever you decide about publishing, it will be right. Writing in itself is really all we need.

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