Linda Joy Myers, Ph. D. is the author of The Power of Memoir–How to Write Your Healing Story and Don’t Call Me Mother. Linda has been a therapist in Berkeley for over thirty years, and combines her background in art, clinical work, and writing in her work. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, and offers unique memoir workshops and trainings in the Bay Area and nationally. She is former president of the California Writers Club, Marin branch, and a member of Women’s National Book Association. Myers is an award-winning fiction, poetry, and non-fiction writer. Her first book Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story was featured on the Marin Bestseller’s list.
Excerpts from her memoir Don’t Call Me Mother have won several prizes, including first prize at the Jack London Writing Contest. Her memoir Don’t Call Me Mother won the Bay Area Independent Publishing Association Gold Medal Award.
Linda’s autobiographical work began with paintings and collages of old family photos, trying to discover and uncover the history of her family, the separation from her mother and father early in her life and the sense of loss. After that, Linda wrote autobiographical poems, capturing moments of meaning in childhood with her great-grandmother Blanche on a farm in Iowa, moments of her mother coming and going on the train, and the way that music, piano and cello and symphony, created connection and healing. Through working with those media, she realized that she needed to write what was beyond the images of photos and paintings and in between the lines of the poetry.
A prose work would demand that she confront the full story of her mother’s abandonment and her mother’s own history of being abandoned. Linda’s memoir took nearly a decade to write, because during that decade she was researching the family history and living through some of the legacies of the past.
Because of her own journey through memoir writing, Linda understands the challenges that writers face.
Linda’s Philosophy About Memoir Writing
On my book tours and in workshops, I enjoy meeting people who are passionate about capturing the stories of their lives. Writing a memoir is an act of faith and learning. Writers who tell a personal story feel exposed and vulnerable, but in the rich mud of family history, there are many opportunities for creativity, healing, and connecting with the world of art, literature, and the life stories that link us all.
Most people who write memoir are searching for memories that validate their experience, but they worry about writing the truth . A memoir is not a factual recitation of history, it’s a recollection, a musing and merging of images, dreams, reflections moments on your life’s journey.
A memoir is an exploration of a part of your life–a complete life story is an “autobiography.” Writing a memoir is an act of faith–faith in yourself and faith in the process of writing.
But the most important ingredient in writing a memoir is motivation–a passionate reason to get the story on the page, a “fire in the belly” feeling that what you have to tell is important and significant. You may want to create a family legacy, to share your personal views about the times you have lived through, or to capture a story that allows you to get a new perspective in your life, and to heal the past.
Dr. James Pennebaker, a well known researcher on the topic of writing as healing, says that stories are a “way of knowledge,” a new kind of knowledge that develops as you tell your story. The story itself guides you on your path, you find yourself in a surprising process. Most writers struggle to retain “control” of the story, but it’s difficult to stick with the original plan because the creative juices start flowing and invite the writer to follow new paths.
It’s important to stay open to the process of writing. If you get stuck emotionally, explore these deeper stories in your journal or with your therapist. Each fall, I receive the entries to the Soul Making Contest, where I read over 60 stories, passionately penned, carefully crafted, and fall into the worlds of these stories every time. They inspire me to keep writing and teaching, they show me the uniqueness of each person.
I find such joy in learning about each new writer and story. Each story and person possesses a view of life that’s different from anyone else’s. Pick up your pen. Listen to your story. It has its own wisdom.