I spoke with Victoria Costello, author of A Lethal Inheritance at the National Association of Memoir Writers member teleseminar. about the legacy of mental illness. Those of us who come from families with hidden or diagnosed mental illness feel “Other,” the ghosts of our legacies chasing us in our dreams, making us shrink down in our waking life. In my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother, I talk about beautiful women who have a pattern of leaving their children behind, beautiful women who scream and rage irrationally, but who are just thought of as eccentric or different. As a child, of course this is “justRead More →

        Forgiveness means letting go of the past.                                                                                                                 –Gerald Jampolsky For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in healing. As I grew up, I learned that I was the third daughter in my multi-generational family to be abandoned by a mother, and I was desperate to break a pattern that I’d seen cause much misery and pain. I’d watched my own mother and grandmother fight since was little; when I was an adult, my mother refused to let anyone know she had a daughter.  The pain of these realizations haunted me, but I found relief through creativity; playingRead More →

To write a memoir is to embark on a long journey of the imagination and of memory. My path of gathering memories, images, and stories was first through autobiographical art–painting, collage, etching, and mixed media. But I knew that words were necessary as well, and began to capture moments through poetry. From time to time, I’ll post some of the poems that eventually led me to my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother, that were part of the process for finding the story. Photographs and art work can show what words can’t. My great-grandmother Blanche was a powerful figure for me–in her eighties, she taught meRead More →

  By the time you read these words, the “I” that wrote them will have forgotten what it was, though the it lingers on, haunting the paper, unheard until you happen across it and your energy field activates it. –Margaret Atwood We write into the unknown, we launch ourselves onto tiny rafts of words so lacy and insubstantial that we wonder how it’s possible–how these black dots on paper hold the most important moments of our lives. Can words truly free us from some of the prisons we have been locked into? I have seen this happen countless times in my memoir writing workshops—the writerRead More →

          No one ever saw how my grandmother looked when she was upset—hair frizzed, lips caked with coffee stained lipstick, rage pouring from her eyes as she ranted and raved. Sometimes I would stand in front of her for two hours, afraid to move. I wondered if the neighbors heard her ranting, I found out years later that they had heard the shouting and the crying, but in the fifties what went on behind closed doors was considered no one’s business.   Besides, when people act irrationally, we feel ashamed. Maybe we feel responsible—could we have prevented the outburst? I worriedRead More →

Tips for Finding the Creative Spark Within As a memoir coach, I’m blessed to meet so many people with a passion for creativity and writing. But to live that passion, we often have to conquer a fierce adversary: the inner critic! It demands perfect grammar and eloquent language. If we were “real” writers and if we were really creative, we think it should be easy to write, that things would just flow. In my workshops, I ask what people think a “real” writer is: • A real writer is already published. • A real writer effortlessly sits down every day to write for hours. •Read More →

Video of Diane Sawyer and Jaycee Dugard Millions watched as Jaycee Lee Dugard told her story to Diane Sawyer on national television. Diane, and perhaps most of the audience, seemed amazed and impressed at her composure, honesty and wisdom. It seems clear that the eleven year old who had to endure isolation, imprisonment, and rape found some strong coping mechanisms that enabled her to survive—for eighteen years. To have children and raise them in captivity. She mentions a spider, kittens, and a journal that connected her to the small but important things she could find that gave her hope. When she gave birth at ageRead More →

Writing and Healing, and Dr. James Pennebaker’s Studies Part One—Introduction In this series, I’m celebrating the research that started being publicized in the late 1990s about how writing helps to heal the body and the mind, and celebrating my books on this subject. One of them is a decade old! And my recent book, The Power of Memoir just passed its first birthday. Join me in learning more about this powerful means of using words to create new worlds. Writing your true story is healing! Though we know this intuitively, research over the last decade has proven it to be true. In this series ofRead More →