Book Birthday! Song of the Plains

Book Birthday! Song of the Plains

I’m excited to announce the pub day for my new memoir, Song of the Plains—A Memoir of Family, Secrets, and Silence. As I look at the cover of the huge sky and golden earth, I marvel at how ideas and stories are born into the world. It’s amazing to see the scenes and stories that have been locked in my memory show up in a book! And it’s surreal to see in print our family history that goes back more than 100 years. I think all memoirists feel both awe-stricken and a little panicked when their book comes out!

My new memoir was inspired by an obsession to learn more about my family, especially my grandmother and my mother. I wrote about our three-generational pattern of mother-daughter abandonment in my first memoir Don’t Call Me Mother through the point of view of a child, but now I wanted to explore the story through a longer lens and from an adult perspective. Decades after they died, I was still getting insights and deepening my compassion for them. Most of my life, I didn’t know the details of what had happened to my mother as a little girl.

My grandmother raised me after my mother left when I was four, and when I was very young, my great-grandmother Blanche told me that my grandmother had left her daughter, my mother, behind when she left to work in Chicago. I first met Blanche when she was eighty and I was eight. Together on a featherbed the first night I met her, Blanche whispered the stories of the times she’d lived, life in the 19th century—her marriage in 1894, the death of her husband two months later, unaware he was going to be a father. Blanche told me about midwives, baking bread in a wood cookstove summer and winter, feeding a family of nine, and the hardscrabble life of farm women. She told me about my mother, called Jo’tine when she was young, and how sad it made her that my mother and grandmother didn’t get along. That night, I stared at Blanche in wonder—she was a walking history book!

After that, I was forever hooked on stories—I’d eavesdrop on the adults’ conversations, ask endless questions about who and why and when, eagerly searching for the layers of truth and lies. I believed that these stories were clues to why people acted the way they did. I thought that if we understood someone’s history, we could put aside our differences. We could tolerate and even love each other better. Of course, that does not always happen, no matter how much we know.

This book is bigger story than just my family. For forty years, I continued the genealogical research I’d started as a child, searching in dusty courthouses and finally on for clues about my grandmother, who had rebelled against the expectations of her family and society by eloping when she was seventeen, and later leaving her daughter behind to work in Chicago, away from the farm work she hated. I learned about the permissions neither of them had to explore their world freely, to become a whole person. I saw that our family’s past revealed the history of America, a story bigger than we were. The history of the Great Plains is woven into our own history, a land where the blood and bone of family hearken from and where we are released. The song of the plains I listened to as a child comforted me in times of strife, woven through with the sounds of birdcall, and the wind. The swish of the wheat in June, golden fields as far as the eye could see.

I was surprised as I wrote the book that all these themes wanted to become part of the story. My friend and colleague Brooke Warner says, “Listen to what the memoir is telling you it wants to be.” So I did!To read more about Song of the Plains, please find my author page

Please join me at my launch events: Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino, CA, June 24, 6:30 PM

Please read this post about Gallery Bookshop.

Book Passage, in Corte Madera, CA, June 30, 7 PM.

I would love to see you there and talk with you about your writing journey!

Linda Joy


A New Year in Writing—Finding your Courage

A New Year in Writing—Finding your Courage

Happy New Year—it’s 2017! I like to begin the year, not exactly with a list of resolutions, but with ways to feel inspired. For many, it was a tempestuous fall season with the election and a lot of emotions that were stirred up by national and international events. Many of my writing friends told me that they comforted themselves with their creative passions, that they threw themselves into their writing as a way to create something positive that made them feel good. Writing is a way to cope with the past and the present, a way to meditate on what has meaning to us, and it can help us find a perspective about where we stand, what we think and feel. Writing invites us to express ourselves with freedom and safety, especially if we are writing first for ourselves. When we decide to make our work public, we then move into another realm of exposure and intent—which can also be rewarding, even when it’s challenging emotionally to do so. I hope you feel satisfaction in your writing, whether it’s in your journal, a blog, or chapters of your book. Or perhaps you are submitting to online literary magazines, or to contests. There are so many ways to get your work in the world, and it’s always a brave decision to hit “send.”

If you are working on a memoir, you know that it’s an act of courage to get your story on the page. There is so much that we have to confront to find our way to a book. Sometimes we just need to start with a single moment, a single story and see how far we can get, to test how it feels to find the words to bring that moment to life. To write a book, we will be finding scene after scene that shows moments that are deeply meaningful to us, moments that shaped and changed our lives.

To write, and publish, a memoir, we need to wrestle with a bunch of demons too—worry about family and friends’ reaction to our story, whether or not we can find the words to adequately express what is in our hearts. I know from writing two memoirs—the new one Song of the Plains will be released in June of this year—how tough it is to dig through the past and to find the images that resonate—as a memoir is not a collection of facts but a work that explores meaning and helps us make sense of our experiences. When we do that well, the reader’s experience will parallel our own—they will take their own journey with us and reflect on challenges they’ve had and problems they’ve tried to understand and solve. When you can write a book that puts you in synch with your reader, you’re offering a profound gift to them. But of course, you have to be willing and able to take that journey yourself.

We’re kicking off the year in our first Roundtable discussion at NAMW with Dorit Sasson whose work is all about courage—the willingness to dig into her painful past and unearth her story. Join us to learn about the journey that inspired her memoir and what she’s learned from deciding to become a writer and author. The great thing about having authors that are not famous or well known-yet—is that their story can inspire you to fulfill your own dreams of authorship. You learn that it’s possible to start at the very beginning with hope and courage and create a writing life.