If you’re lonely, write your memoir.
Writing about yourself in a journal or in a memoir writing class will soften feelings of isolation by putting the focus on you, according to AARP Magazine.
Befriending yourself and appreciating your feelings and accomplishments is an affirmation of your life. That’s important. Once we see how much we matter, we see the rest of life more clearly. We start to pay attention to the sensory details around us – color, touch, taste, smell, sounds – which results in a joyful feeling.
When I’m most in touch with the good in me, I feel happy looking at the sky, plants and trees, and the rest of nature. This joy opens me up to appreciating others.
Plus, if you share your writing with family, friends and others, they will benefit from the lessons you’ve learned and the tales you tell. I’m grateful that my father wrote a memoir before he died. There are wonderful family stories that he never told me…or that I had forgotten.
This winter I’m offering two opportunities to write about yourself. The first is a new 6-week memoir writing workshop at Sausalito Books by the Bay in Sausalito, CA. The second is Reinvent Yourself After 50 at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA
“Writing your Story: A Memoir Class” – 6 Tuesdays from 9 – 10:30 beginning January 28, $180. To register call (415) 887-9967 or visit this website for more information:
You’ll have a chance to do some journal writing in “Reinvent Yourself After 50”, Sunday Feb. 2, 1-5 pm at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. $110. Call 415-927-0960 or sign up:
I hope to see you in one of these classes. If you live outside of Northern California, we can arrange to come to your town. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a happy, healthy, loving, abundant New Year!
I’m reading memoirs this holiday. Starting with one by my father.
I read it years ago, but it means so much more as I age. As I prepare for my “Writing your Story” class in January at Sausalito Books by the Bay, I’m also gobbling up memoirs by famous authors. And, to my surprise, I have several friends who have written compelling memoirs…I’m honored that they let me read them.
When I enthuse about my upcoming class, people ask me to share the top tips I’d give memoir writers. I usually offer some tried and true techniques that I’ve learned from these authors: Natalie Goldberg, Anne LaMott, Mary Karr, and Vivian Gornick. And I share what I’ve learned from writing my own book, “Road to Fulfillment.”
Here are some suggestions:
- Write about what gives you a sense of wonder or about what you dread: it’s more interesting. This could be hiking (e.g., Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”), spiritual fulfillment (Anne LaMott’s books), making peace with your body (Demi Moore’s “Inside Out”), facing cancer (Natalie Golderg’s “Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home”), overcoming the tyranny of family (Tara Westover’s “Educated”), or the joy of family (Michele Obama’s “Becoming”).
- Revise/Revise/Revise – but do this after you get your first thoughts on paper, not while you’re writing your first draft
- Turn your past into an experience for the reader. Bring it to life with sensual details – smell, taste, touch, vision and sound.
- Don’t label people. Show what happened. What was said? How was it said?
- Start with anecdotes. They lead to the big story.
- You can start at the end, to show what’s at stake.
- Ask: What would I write if I wasn’t afraid. Then write it.
- If possible, show your manuscript to people you’re writing about. Your memory is subjective. Include what others have to say about the past. Tell the reader where your memory is fuzzy or where others see it differently.
- Be brutally honest if you want the reader to resonate with your story. Remember, bad things happen to good people, or there’s no story. Show the good and the difficult stuff.
- Have a movement toward wisdom. This is a key ingredient of all successful memoirs.
I hope you’ll join me January 28 for Writing your Story: A Memoir Class. To enroll, call: 415-887-9967 or stop by 100 Bay Street, Sausalito, CA.
Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday and a happy, healthy New Year.
After returning a week ago from the visiting the visual splendor of Japan in the Fall, I’m now immersing myself in autobiographies and books about memoir in preparation for presenting a new class called Write your Story: A Memoir Class.
Thinking about memory while sharing stories with long-time friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, I remembered Mary Karr’s observation in her book “The Art of Memory”:
Many a loved one has engaged in hyperbole or stretched the bounds of evidence or dug in her heels to prove a point that’s wrong.
Memory is Highly Subjective
It’s interesting that siblings and friends have such different memories of long-ago events. I often think my sister and I grew up in different families with very different parents. It makes me realize how subjective we are when thinking about the past. In my sister’s memory, our parents were very sweet and well meaning, but they unfairly gave a lot to me (the sister) and my brother and so little to her. In my world, our parents were preoccupied with their work and overly generous to my brother and less so to the daughters.
My sister and I each have our stories to tell. Her tale is of being “left out” by my parents, which made her feel needy and underappreciated, while my tale is of being “left out” by my siblings, which made me highly independent. If fully expanded, both stories could be compelling reading since I have no doubt that others would see themselves in our memoirs.
A Good Memoir
Speaking of independence, I just finished Demi Moore’s book, “Inside Out: A Memoir.” Here she is one of the top-earning actresses of our time, but her story had me in tears. Her themes are about becoming independent to escape her reckless alcoholic mother; how her self-reliance impacted her marriages: and what it took to overcome eating and other addictions to finally make peace with her body. She speaks with brutal honesty that connects her to the reader. Instead of feeling like a voyeur into her star-studded lush life, I felt I could identify with her. That’s a good memoir.
A New Memoir Class
Finally, I invite you and your friends to my memoir class at Sausalito Books by the Bay. We’ll meet on Tuesdays from 9 – 10:30 beginning January 28. To register call (415) 887-9967 or sign up at https://www.sausalitobooksbythebay.com/2020-events The cost is $180. You can give this class as a gift to a friend or loved one.
Here in Marin County I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of the changing foliage and waterways. But, it’s also a confusing time. Suddenly there’s so much to do – Fleet Week, the Symphony, bonfires at the beach, classes to teach – and, yet, as the days grow colder and shorter, I want to quietly hibernate and create something new.
Time to Reflect and Read
This feels like a perfect season to reflect on the past months and the past years. I’ve been inspired by some of the fabulous memoirs of recent months. “Educated” by Tara Westover is a must read, even if you feel she’s exaggerated aspects of her life. Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” is also uplifting and insightful. If you like audio books, I recommend Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories form a South African.” You’ll love hearing him speak African languages and dialects. This is the story of his journey from apartheid South Africa to hosting “The Daily Show.” For a fun read, don’t miss “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” by Balli Kaur Jaswal.
So, what’s next? I plan to teach a memoir class at a local bookstore. It’s called, “Writing your Story.” I know everyone has a story to tell, and I can’t wait to hear the stories. In the class, we’ll discuss our favorite memoirs and apply the authors’ best practices to our own writing. Writing our stories will help us understand ourselves better and, hopefully, enlighten others.