Writing the stories of your life doesn’t happen in a day. It takes more than inspiration, writing when the urge strikes. It takes time and dedication. It wants the details that lift the story off the page, that take a reader there along with you, that share you with them and show where you’ve been and how it was. Memoir asks for reflection, and it also likes the pacing there is in life — times of suspense, the build ups and let downs. You get to choose what to put in and what to leave out.
When people start my memoir classes, whether they’re online or in Sonoma County, they usually have an idea of what they want to write about. But before long they get a much clearer idea of it, or they change their mind completely.
Sharon Porter Moxley’s recently self-published memoir, Among the Silent Giants: A Young Girl’s True Adventures and Survival in a Wild Country is a case in point. When Sharon joined my class in 2005 she planned to write about her partner’s family history in Hungary during World War II. They were Jews in hiding. They survived. They lost their home, relatives, dear friends. An interesting story! Much more interesting than her own! But when Sharon wrote a story about living in the rugged backwoods of Northern California in the late 1940s, when she was nine years old, everyone was riveted. She wrote another story, this one about trying to train chipmunks to sit on her shoulder. Before she knew it, she couldn’t stop writing. Seven years later — seven years — her book is published, has won an award and is selling well, she has a local bookstore reading in October, she’s learning social media fast, and she’s flying high, enjoying seeing that people are eager to read about her life. (And it’s a really good read!)
Taking the time to devote yourself to writing the stories of your life is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It can’t be rushed through. Discovery happens over time. New ideas come, new directions are taken. And when you finish the patches of this great quilt and you stitch them together into one great weaving, you have something solid to hold in your hand and share with others.
CreateSpace.com, Amazon’s publishing company, makes this easy now, at prices much lower than it costs to make copies of your 200-page book and have it bound at a copy shop. (This is if you don’t need to hire their editorial or design packages.) In a sense, they become your printer, but they’re also so much more. You can share your book with anyone anywhere simply by giving them the title or telling them to search your name on Amazon. You set the cover price, the sale is made, CreateSpace prints the book and Amazon ships it out. And there are other self-publishing companies available, many of them excellent and all discoverable online.
I look forward to the day when a full shelf of my bookcase is filled with copies of self-published memoirs by women who got inspired and stayed with it, who found their voice through writing and discovered what they wanted to say. Maybe your memoir will be one of them.