What Happens after “The End” of your Memoir?
It’s one thing to write a first memoir—the journey is daunting, what is the plot, how will it end since my life is continuing? These questions are some of the challenges as we work on our first memoir—which we call “the memoir,” unable to think of yet another book, so we don’t say “The First Memoir.” Still, the idea that there is more to tell—and what about all those chapters we took out during the edit—niggles in the back of our minds.
Susan Weidener, author of two memoirs—Again in a Heartbeat, and Morning at Wellington Square—is our guest for the NAMW Free Roundtable discussion Thursday April, 11. We have something in common—writing a follow-up to our first memoir. In my case, I wrote an Afterword that I felt belonged with the original book Don’t Call Me Mother, and created a new edition with other changes, including a new subtitle- A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness. In the Afterword, I expose new secrets, and disclose my reasons for leaving them out from the first book. I include two more stories about how the healing continued after the memoir, which includes visiting the grown children of a family where I’d been abused as a five year old, and what I discovered by revisiting the past. After we write a book, our life is changed, and it’s a wonderful journey to find out how! I may write another memoir—the jury is out, as I have a novel about WWII I want to publish next.
Susan Weidener wrote a sequel to her first memoir, showing how her life goes on after the death of her beloved husband. In this sequel, she weaves in stories about her husband and her life with him, because it would be impossible to write about her new life without including him. She writes as a widow who finds herself spending time thinking about her lost past, while bravely launching herself into the dating world. With that she discovers new layers of grief and has to make adjustments about the life she’s lost.
I found it enjoyable and meaningful to learn about how she began her life-changing work of writing and teaching memoir after being a journalist for many years. She tells the tales of being a single parent of two boys after her husband dies, and her creative techniques for landing a job at The Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s a story about a woman’s life, a regular person, and this is what makes her story important. As regular people ourselves, we identify with her, and want to learn from her story.
The lesson I took away from her book was this: if we are open to where life takes us, we make discoveries and we create a new life that opens out in its magic to offer us ways to live that we might never have discovered. In Morning at Wellington Square, we invest in the adventure of day-to-day living, discovery, and renewal.
Even if you can’t imagine writing another memoir, it remains a possibility you might consider. I know many memoir writers who are thinking of their next memoir—and after all, you’re in good company. Think Mary Karr, Frank McCourt, and our own Susan Weidener.
Please join us for a lively and inspiring conversation about writing your next memoir!