Author David Berner discusses writing about our lives

Our Choices guest today, David Berner, shares with us the essence of memoir writing. He tells us what it is not - a series of diary entries that relate every detail of a life - and what it is - a story that begins with a moment rounded out with the details related to that moment. My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On, begins with the moment of my son's suicide. The rest of the book details the events leading up to that moment and its aftermath. David Berner's memoir, Any Road Will Take You There, starts with a five-thousand mile road trip  that enables him to find peace and fulfillment in being a dad after a series of heartbreaking and life-changing personal events. Please welcome David Berner. Making the Choice to Write About Your Life by David Berner A woman came up to me after a workshop I conducted several years ago about writing memoir. She held in her hand a thick manuscript and told me she was writing about her life, one full of adventures, one she wanted to share. I've start … [Read more...]

The psychology of memoir writing – Jerry Waxler (Part 2)

I'm so pleased to have Jerry Waxler back here with us. He has so much knowledge and interesting information about memoir, I'm sure we could go on and on. However, we'll touch on just a few topics here and hopefully you'll buy and read his book Memoir Revolution to learn more. Back to Jerry. In Memoir Revolution you talk about the psychology of memoir writing. I'm interested in that aspect as well and would like to ask you a few questions about it.   Madeline: Please discuss Dr. Pennebaker and his contribution to memoir.   Jerry: Dr. James Pennebaker is a researcher who studies the positive influence of writing. In a landmark study he demonstrated that students who wrote in their journals about some serious emotional dilemma ended up visiting the infirmary fewer times than students who merely wrote unemotional events, like what movie they saw. The results show in a controlled scientific way that writing heals not only the mind but also the body. Such research h … [Read more...]

Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers

Linda Joy Myers, the president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMR), has generously had me speak on three telecom roundtables at her site. We also met virtually on a few Google + hangouts. So what a joy to finally meet in person last June when we both appeared on a panel to discuss writers' platforms at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Linda Joy graciously writes for Choices about how she created her powerful, must read memoir, Don't Call Me Mother. When you do read it, you'll see my endorsement near the front of the book: "With poetically visceral prose Linda Joy Myers tells of her relentless work to emerge from an abandoned and abused child to a forgiving and loving daughter, mother, and grandmother. This must read memoir brings her raw dark secrets to life. I couldn't tear myself away."  My 5-star review is on Amazon. Please welcome Linda Joy. Art, Poetry, and my Memoir Don't Call Me Mother by Linda Joy Myers When people ask me how … [Read more...]

Welcome Jerry Waxler, memoir and life story expert (Part 1)

I am honored to have Jerry Waxler, author of the Memoir Revolution, as my guest today. He generously answers my many questions about the role of memoir in our lives today, and as a result I've divided our interview into two parts. Part 1 is here today. Part 2 will go live on September 15. Please come back then to continue enjoying our discussion. Jerry is passionate about life story writing and as a result has read hundreds of memoirs in researching his his book. Jerry Waxler knows about memoir.   Madeline: What does the Memoir Revolution mean? Why is it important? Jerry: The Memoir Revolution is my name for the groundswell of interest in reading and writing life stories. I believe that this is an important development for our culture, a renaissance that teaches us how to use the ancient power of Story to interpret our own lives. As the collective interest in memoirs continues to grow, more and more of us are discovering the value of it for ourselves. The … [Read more...]

Introducing Susan Weidener, memoirist, fiction writer, and teller of life stories

I'm so delighted to have Susan Weidener as a guest on Choices. Her words about writing - Write What Is Relevant to You - are so helpful and true. Please read about the book she is working on now, which she calls true-life fiction, and the ways she advices her group, the Women's Writing Circle, how to hone in their writing. I certainly can attest to Susan's excellent writing. I read her memoir, Morning at Wellington Square, in about two days. I couldn't put it down. Please click here to read my review. Please welcome Susan Weidener. Write What Is Relevant to You by Susan Weidener Although I had written two memoirs and contributed to an anthology of short stories in the last three years, another project had long simmered in the back of my mind.  I can't call it memoir and I can't call it fiction. So, maybe, true life fiction works. The story comes from my imagination, but the male character's story is based on excerpts from a memoir written by my late husband, John Cav … [Read more...]

Welcome to my guest blog fest

For the next three and a half weeks I'm going to turn Choices over to the voices of other wonderful and experienced writers. I've asked twelve people whom I've either met personally or online to tell you about their lives, their writing, and their marketing experiences. I feel so fortunate that they have agreed to be my guests and participate in this blog fest. I hope you will keep coming back to read more and more as the days go by. You'll find the information interesting and very helpful. Here's my guest blog fest lineup in order of appearance:   August 24: Susan Weidener An author, editor and former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan leads writing workshops and started the Women's Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia.       August 26: Deborah Kalan Deborah has been writing about real life since she was in the fifth grade and received a diary with lock and key … [Read more...]

Fun poetry prompts

View from Highway One, Big Sur, California Getting back to my poetry workshop in Big Sur a couple to weeks ago, I'll give you some fun prompts where we were asked to write poems using a list of prescribed words. We also discussed: Controlling image poem where an image, such as a tree or a broom, is something for the readers to hang onto while the poem takes us for a ride.   Long armed poem scoops in a lot of information, goes on and on, and is tied together in the end somehow. Leap poem where the poet leaps into seemingly unrelated material and then ties it all together by asking a question or making a statement over and over. It's also possible to write a leap poem by telling a story and then leaping into metaphor. Lyric poem it has a song-like element that uses repetition of words and sounds, also asks a question or makes a statement over and over. Rhyme could definitely work here as well. Persona poem a monologue in the voice of the character the … [Read more...]

Poetry revision is no different than revising our other writing

Every morning during the poetry workshop I attended last week at Esalen, one of our three instructors gave us a poetry craft talk. The workshop, which was called Writing and Knowing and was led by Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar, gave me a lot of new information about how to write - and revise - poetry. As promised, I'm going to try to relate some of the things this wise trio of poets taught us. Ellen discussed revision - and this information sounded very much like what I've heard about revising memoirs, novels, and works of non fiction. Revising poems takes a lot of work. As she said, we must work at it. In fact, she said, good poets like to revise. Here are some of her hints: Keep original versions so you can go back and compare Simply cut out the bad parts - easier said than done Distinguish between the essential and non-essential Pretend it isn't your poem when you sit down to revise - I love this idea   Delete unnecessary opening lines, … [Read more...]

Kindle Nation newsletter applauds my publisher, Dream of Things

Kindle Nation Bargain Book Alert: Four Best-Selling Memoirs for 99 Cents Each Plus Three Bonus Books! August 15, 2013 By Kindle Nation Publisher Mike O'Mary Dream of Things is an indie publisher with a reputation for finding and publishing high-quality memoirs. Each of the memoirs offered today for 99 cents has 50+ reader reviews and ratings of 4+ stars. We focus on memoirs and creative nonfiction, says publisher Mike O'Mary. Our goal is to provide readers with distinctive voices, meaningful books. So far, it looks like Dream of Things is succeeding. Check out this great line-up of memoirs all at ONLY 99 CENTS August 15-17. * * * Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera (159 Reviews, 4.6 Stars): How come people who have experienced such trauma write so well? So raw and funny that it almost makes me want to have horrible things happen to me so my writing will improve. Joel Stein, Time Magazine co … [Read more...]

Call to action – April Platform Challenge – Day 19

As part of the April Platform Challenge my task today is to ask you to do two things: Please click on the share buttons - they are big and prominent at the top of the right side bar on this page Please sign-up for my email feed see the little box just under the share buttons. It has room for you to type in your email address. Please click Submit when you've finished. And one more thing that is not part of my assignment: Please join me at the LA Times Festival of Books on the University of California campus either or both Saturday and Sunday June 21 and 22, from 12 noon until 2:00 pm. I'll be at the Greater Los Angeles Writer's Society booth number 970. Hopefully I'll be signing lots of copies of my book: Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Lucky Press, 2011). You can't miss me. I'm the one with the long gray hair. … [Read more...]

WOW blog tour stop No. 14

A perfect segue to my blog post on marketing yesterday¦ Today Women's Memoirs has posted my answers to their questions about: MEMOIR, BLOGGING AND PLATFORM BUILDING Marketing and Promotion on the Internet. They say, As many of you well know, at Women's Memoirs we are as interested in the marketing efforts that go into the promotion of a new memoir as we are in the actual writing. After all, in most cases, writing the book is only half the job. We need to get our work into the hands of readers. We need a platform to which we can draw potential readers and a variety of tactics for making our presence known. And they are so right. I'm finding the marketing of the book as much work or even more work than the writing. I am so grateful to Kendra Bonnet and Matilda Butler for inviting to post on their wonderful Women's Memoir site today about my book marketing experience so far and on June 22 when I answered questions about how writing a memoir helped … [Read more...]