5 Reasons a Memoir Conference is Good for Your Writing Life by Linda Joy Myers

5 Reasons a Memoir Conference is Good for Your Writing Life by Linda Joy Myers

5 Reasons A Memoir Conference is Good for Your Writing Life‘Tis the season for writing conferences! As you know, we writers tend to be solitary people—we have to be willing to slave at our desks alone for months and years while we write our book. Some writers are so dedicated to their writing they’re cautious about taking the time away and spending money, but sometimes we get a much needed dose of inspiration and input from taking the time to invest in ourselves as writers. However, there are doubts and questions about such a venture.

  • I already know how to write, so what will I get from a conference that I don’t already know?
  • A conference costs money—what value will it offer me?
  • Maybe going to a conference is just a distraction from my writing.
  • How will it help to get my book finished and published?

These are valid points, but as a veteran of dozens of different conferences, both as a participant and a presenter, I’d like to offer you some great reasons to consider a writing conference.

  1. You network with everyone, have fun, and build your platform

Yes, there is that term “platform” again! What it means is you’ll get to know people who will become your audience when your book is published. Networking is one of the best reasons to attend a conference. Just think—a whole room of people who are normally solitary get together to talk nonstop about writing, the current state of publishing, agents, social media preferences, where and how to use commas, and other geeky interests writers have.

  1. At a conference, you connect in person and build your community for outreach, endorsements, interviews, speaking engagements, and publicity in the future.

Virtual events are great and they help us broaden our outreach, but there’s nothing like shaking someone’s hand and looking into their eyes, cozying over to a corner to talk more about—your book, their book, their mentor, agent, or web designer radio shows and podcasts, and sharing yours. The best way to learn the path to successful published book is through networking with others and building trustworthy resources you can draw on when the time comes.

  1. Even if you’ve heard about writing craft, platform, or query letters before, there’s always the chance you will learn something new!

Every time I go to a conference, I hear experts talk about craft—writing scenes, character development, dialogue, language and description techniques, manuscript presentation—and each time I go, I hear something new and learn a new skill—and I have been going to conferences for 30 years. Though I’m already engaged with social media, I learn new stuff about Facebook, Twitter, and other ways to reach out, which are changing every day.  I find out more about the inner workings of these systems and how to use them more effectively. Publishing is changing rapidly as well, and there are always challenges, new practices, and technologies to learn more about.

  1. It feels good to connect with others who face the same kinds of emotional challenges you do—the niggling inner critic, worrying about family critiques, and writing the truth.

Every memoir writer struggles with the process of getting their truth on the page and standing by it. It’s daunting to dig deep inside our memory banks and come up with memories that were buried, some for good reason. But it’s been shown that writing helps to heal the past, and that getting your story out of your body allows you to move into a better present and future. When you write your story, you become a compassionate witness to the younger you who lived through the events in your story, and lived to tell about it!

  1. You will leave with new skills, connections, and excited energy about writing and publishing your memoir.

A conference chock full of information about craft, process, networking, social media, and publishing and the process of learning and connecting fills the room with a great energy of excitement and plans for the future. You leave with not only more skills, but with the feeling of being buoyed up and supported. You’ll have dozens of new friends, writing buddies, and social media connections to help you get your memoir finished and out into the world. It’s a great investment in yourself as an author. Wear that title now!

If you hurry, you can get the Early Bird Discount for the Magic of Memoir Conference in Oakland. CA Oct. 15-16. 

Conversation on Truth, Exposure, and the Reason We Write Memoir

Conversation on Truth, Exposure, and the Reason We Write Memoir

Recently I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the Bay Area Book Festival. The panel was titled “Why Write Memoir: A Conversation about Truth, Exposure, and the Genre People Love to Hate.”

The title shows a perfectTruth and Reasons for Writing a Memoir combination of the issues that memoir writers struggle with. In every workshop and class I teach, the conversation that brings the most questions and angst has to do with writing the truth, feeling “too exposed,” and writing material that seems to attract pointed criticisms: memoir writers are narcissistic navel gazers, all we do is moan and groan, we see ourselves as victims, and on and on.

While a few writers may be guilty of this, most memoirists are working to tell an authentic story Because It Needs To Be Told and to give testimony about life as it is lived. One of my former students who decided to continue working on her memoir after taking a break told me, “I want to write this so I can be in charge of my story, instead of it being in charge of me.”

While I could cite statistics and studies about how writing our stories is healing—and there are many of these studies—or mention the current epigenetic research that shows how we carry inherited trauma from previous generations, the truth is that memoirists use writing as a way to ask questions that have not been asked before, to seek answers that only reveal themselves through writing. This process offers new information, firing up our nerve endings and giving us a new experience. We are changed by it. Writing comes from deep within and draws upon hidden and unconscious layers of who we are. Often we write what we didn’t know that we knew! Not all of that writing will end up in a book, these essential truths that we mine get us closer to figuring out what belongs and what needs to be told. The process is about finding out who we are as well as who we are not.

During the panel discussion the panelists—Jessica Fector, Jasmine Singer, Faith Adiele, Meredith Maran—and I talked about how each of us struggled with the “what happened?” version, fighting our own inner critics along the way. In this wrestling with the truth, and balancing that with the art and craft of shaping our own stories into books, something transformational happens. In the act of creation, we develop a new relationship with the truths in our story. Our story changes us. There were a lot of great points made but a couple of them stand out: Jasmine said that her mother was a major character in her book, and she told her that she could not read it until it was completely done, and that she had to read the WHOLE book before she commented to Jasmine about it. This gave her room to write her truth and also she took shaped her experience with her mother by offering boundaries. Faith talked about structure—there are so many ways now that memoir is being written: using subtext, journal entries, poetry, and various voices—the “you” voice in memoir is being used a lot. Feel free to experiment with your voice and your structure. Be creative and be true to your vision. My advice to memoir writers is this: write your truth, and put your worries about exposure and family voices and your own inner critic aside. Write out everything—it can be edited later. Keep a journal of your process—it helps take the heat off of writing “for the book.” Find a writing community, a supportive writing buddy and/or coach who will hold your story with respect, and cheer you on, make you accountable. Your story deserves to be told. And it won’t leave you alone until you do.

If you want to learn more about writing memoir, join us for the Magic of Memoir Conference in October. The Early Bird Rate ends July 1st. As an active memoirist, I will be moderating a panel on Why We Write Memoir.

Register here: http://magicofmemoir.com/