Edits, Agents, and Queries.

Planner

I now have a completed manuscript. My memoir project is moving from the ‘writing’ stage to the ‘editing’ stage and tiptoeing into the ‘querying’ stage, too.

Nearly two years ago, I set a goal of completing the memoir that I promised myself I would write 30 years ago. Over those two years, I have had to take large breaks during the writing process. The work has been difficult. I needed time to think, heal, and learn. Despite being a capable writer, I needed to hone the tone and voice I was using. I’ve also done a great deal of learning about website creation and management, the publishing industry, and even looked into self-publishing. I have learned how to research agents, how to craft a query package, and tried to ignore the daunting statistics about first-time authors.

I know that I am meant to publish this work. I will. It’s only a matter of when.

Last month I attended an online event called the Boston Writer’s Conference. During that day I met with an agent via zoom. She liked my idea and asked me to send her the full manuscript. It was a big day and might eventually turn into something, though I haven’t heard back yet. Since sending it I have pressed on, sending the manuscript to an editor as I had planned. I now have it back, with some great feedback. I plan to revise it again as soon as I manage household logistics that have been hovering. After revising again I will look into sending my query package to new agents. (For those of you who wonder: an agent helps sell rights to publishers/media and is an invaluable partner in the traditional publishing process.)

I have chosen, at least for now, to publish traditionally because I want the reach that can only be granted when you have teams marketing with you. I know that publishing this work will lead to many opportunities to spread awareness and create positive change. I don’t know the path yet, but I have faith: I am focused on success. I’m waiting for signs from Creator about where to turn next as I work to complete yet another round of revisions.

You are what keeps me going. Though I have no set deadlines or timetables, I want you to know that I am moving forward. I want to say “thank you” to everyone following along and giving me a reason to keep working.

Throughout the process of writing and revising I have relied on many amazing people to read sections and offer advice. I want to mention both Katrina Ray-Saulis and Borbala Branch, who are amazing editors that offer useful insights and reasonable rates. Please reach out to either if you need an editor? (I can’t promise they will be available.)

Until I know more, that is all for now. Stay healthy, keep moving toward your dreams.

“The answer is ‘no’ if you don’t try” – Translated Dutch proverb.

Self-Care for the Memoir Writer

sky

Why are you writing a memoir?

For most, it is either that they are a celebrity or near-celebrity and want to share an intimate look of life behind-the scenes, or they have a particular brand of traumatic experience and want to share that. Of the latter, there are also at least two categories. The ones I recognize are ‘writing for therapy’ and ‘writing from hope.” I’m trying very hard to write from hope; a sense of hope that comes from having made a life for myself despite my early circumstances.

It’s my childish hope that one day my story might shed a little light into the dark places of another’s hardest moments. Be they in the past or present, there is a chance that those times can be made a little easier for others by reading about my determination to thrive.

It keeps me writing.

But, the writing process is fraught with triggers. I am intentionally looking into my own darkest moments, dusting them off and making them look brand-new for my reader’s viewing.

How does a writer work to take care of themselves as they willingly put themselves through that process on a daily basis? We all know about prayer, meditation, and yoga. I’m a mom-of-four, if I try to do yoga I typically end up with kids climbing on me. Prayer and meditation are hard with the constant screaming and interruptions.

I’ve looked for years and collected some of the best bits of other advice on how to recover from triggers. I’ve paid attention to what has worked to get me back to writing. Some have worked well; others have not. There is little rhyme or reason to the success or failure of any method, because each trigger and person is unique. My advice is to try them out and see what works best for you.

  1. Take a break: This works, but doesn’t help you get back to it if it turns into days or weeks.
  2. Take a walk: Did not work for me. The more you walk, the farther you are from home.
  3. Take a drink: I mean alcohol. This works, in moderation. I don’t like to “write drunk, edit sober.”
  4. Breathe: This works to bring me down one notch, but it is not effective if I need to come down ten notches.
  5. Change your temperature: This gem of advice from my therapist has been a game-changer. Get a cold cloth on your face, or warm sweater and socks on your body. It really helps shut down the physiological trigger process and helps me get back to center.
  6. Eat/drink: Really, how many of us forget to eat and drink enough while writing. Hunger and thirst can be triggers all by themselves. Self-care means feeding yourself!
  7. Call someone: Do you already have friends or family that support you through the process? Find someone you can call and talk to about your process. It will make your writing better.
  8. Journal: Not for the memoir, but just to get out all the thoughts and feelings you have that need to get out of the way before you can get back to writing good, concise stories.
  9. Watch mindless TV: Shut down your brains and dissociate! You have permission. Sometimes it can be very good to let go and let your brain work on it for a while. I have found it is much easier to go back and edit/finish writing that triggering piece after I have stewed on it awhile.
  10. Read something unrelated: For the same reason as mindless TV, but possibly more productive as reading helps to develop your voice. I also find that reading helps my own stories bubble up. Twice this week I have put down a book to write a story that needs to be added.
  11. Take a bath/shower: I think this works, in part, because it changes your temperature. I think it also helps to clear the air, ground out negative energy, and reset the mind. It can also help you to feel better about your appearance, which can give you an added boost.

If you have more coping strategies or want to share how these worked for you, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Educated. Tara Westover (Random House, 2018).

To read a memoir is to immerse oneself in the life, and trauma, of another person. If doing so also triggers flashbacks of my own trauma, it can take me weeks to recover. I generally take care to avoid or prepare for such experiences.

As happened with The Glass Castle, this story surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. I joined a group of women in my town who all agreed to read it. We were given a timeframe and planned to hold a discussion once we were all done. It sounded like a fun way to maybe meet some new friends. I hadn’t read the blurb. I agreed to read it, knowing nothing about the subject matter. Despite the surprise at how triggering the content could be, I am so glad I did.

Tara Westover was raised by parents who ascribed to some of the more radical beliefs I knew to be part of the LDS faith. I met some people like them growing up in the Utah/Idaho area. I even share some of their desire to be self-sufficient and to be prepared for ‘the worst.” It was strange to read her story and identify with both the author and her family at times, given the divide between them today.

Like mine, her story is one of leaving all she knew and held dear as a child to reprogram herself: to decide for herself what was right, good, and valuable. We also both lost many of the family relationships we valued in our process of becoming who we are now. I honestly hope to meet Ms. Westover one day, share a glass of wine and talk over who she is today. Her story is inspiring and stays with me. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35133922-educated?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=3mGCyQW7H1&rank=1

Pieces of me (Lizbeth Meredith, She Writes Press, 2016)

Domestic violence is the most common killer of women around the world. (Global study on Homicide, Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls, U.N. publication, Vienna, 2018). We know this. It’s not a surprise. Leaving a domestic violence situation is most deadly in the first two weeks, but a few very determined men continue to find ways to abuse their wives, ex-wives, partners, and children even after they successfully leave.

For Lizbeth Merideth, nothing could have prepared her for what happened. She got away. She had custody of her daughters, though the courts insisted on allowing their father unsupervised visitation despite his severe violence against her. She had a gut feeling it was the wrong choice but she was following the court order when she allowed him to take the girls for what should have been a weekend visit.

Years later, across oceans and borders, she fights to find and rescue her daughters. This is the subject of “Pieces of me,” her story of how she eventually recovers her girls and brings them home.

I particularly love the honest account of her struggle to reconnect with her daughters after years of parental alienation and across a language barrier. It is well worth the read. I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Getting very close! (87,572 words)

Are you waiting for my new book to be available?

I promise you, I’m working hard. I’m very close to completing the draft writing process but there are so many more steps. Editing of the first chapters is underway and they are turning out so much better. Thanks for sticking with me!!!

I found this video and I’m struggling to decide what to do about publishing now. (I already have an agent/publisher I have spoken with and have a shortlist of others to query if I decide on that route, so take those warnings with that in mind).

 https://www.thecreativepenn.com/self-publishing-vs-traditi…/

I’m so ready to have a copy in my hands. I promise I’ll get one in yours as soon as it’s ready! I may offer pre-sales soon, with some bonus material on a Kickstarter or other campaign. What would you think about that?

A Stolen Life (Jaycee Dugard)

Stolen Life Cover

If you have not read Jaycee Dugard’s Memior “A Stolen Life,” you should.

You may remember that her life was changed forever when she was kidnapped one morning on her way to the bus stop. The world watched in shock 18 years later when she walked into an FBI office with her two daughters and the kidnappers that had posed as her ‘parents’ while keeping her prisoner in a backyard full of tents and trash. She writes an unflinching account of her ordeal and how she managed to hold onto hope in the direst of circumstances. Hers is a tale of resilience and hope.

This memoir was published by Simon and Schuster (2011).

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11330361-a-stolen-life

CW: sexual abuse and violence.

The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls)

A memoir that was really striking was The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. I found it very difficult to read because many of Jeanette’s experiences were raw, real, and far too familiar for me.


I chose this story from a list in college and completed a review assignment on it for my Human Behavior course. It was and has remained a beacon of hope for me. Not only because she survived and created a wonderful life for herself, but because she was able to share her story with so many people. I truly hope to be able to share mine like that, someday.

Jeanette lives a transient existence as a child, suffering due to the careless and ineffectual parenting of her flighty artist mother and mercurial father. His lofty plan to build a glass castle for them all to live in entrances her as a child, but develops into a symbol of disappointment.
Her strength and resolve lead her to a successful life doing what she loves. This has given me hope for many years. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Rocket Boys (Homer Hickam)

One of the first memoirs I read after watching the movie it was based upon was this one.

Homer was a young boy growing up in a coal town in the ’60s. He met JFK while he was campaigning and went in to experiment in amateur rocketry. The movie “October Sky” was based on the story, but this book is much better than the movie. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️.

Getting Serious About the Memoir Project.

For those that don’t know, I am writing a memoir. I made the decision to write it when I was 8 years old and have even begun the writing process twice. Both attempts ended with the destruction of the computers the drafts were saved on. This time, I am saving it in a cloud, and on several devices. It will be completed.

The story will follow my first 18 years. It will not be easy for some people to read and will be a long and thoughtful process for me as well. Though those closest to me will not be surprised by the story arc, there will be details and pieces that surprise everyone.

Though I am open about my experience of abuse and neglect at the hands of my birth-mother and her sister with anyone who will listen, there are still many details I have yet to share with anyone. There are pieces of my story, details of my response to the events of my past, and aspects of the healing process that I have kept away. I have been waiting for this project. I plan to pour those things into my memoir with the intent of inspiring those who are seeking to heal themselves.

For accountability’s sake, I want to share that my goal is to continue to work steadily towards completion. I hope to have a first draft completed by my birthday in December. From there I fully intend to seek a traditional publishing contract until I am successful. I expect I will continue to revise, revision and review endlessly.

I have completed a prologue and 3 chapters so far. It’s getting real. I hope you’ll follow along with me on my journey as I work through the process of finally completing this project. I have carried it in my heart for 30 years. It is now time to bring it forth.

Because I have this website, I will share useful resources and other helpful material I have found and collected. I am an avid reader of memoirs and will review my favorites as well.

Thank you for reading, and Welcome!