Your Memoir is a Gift to the World


Most writers seem to hate marketing, selling, or publicity. The idea of getting the word out about their work seems kind of—well, rude. Are you one of those writers? You’re in good company if you are, but you need to learn some new stuff about how to think about marketing—that is IF you want to be an author who people actually read. Do you want other people to read your book?

The other day someone told me that I shouldn’t advertise so much, that it was off-putting. I understand all too well that sentiment. Just like many of you, I learned, “Don’t toot your own horn, certainly don’t talk about yourself too much or too often. And don’t tell me I should buy anything!!”

Didn’t most of us grow up with rules against telling others that we have something they might need, that we have created something we’d like them to know about. I know that I did. When I was young, my grandmother used to say, “You think you’re something don’t you? Well, you’re nothing. Don’t get so high and mighty.”

It’s possible that I was being an irritating teenager when she said that, but there were many other comments that told me that my voice, my desires, my thoughts of expansion, or self-esteem were “too much,” shameful, and selfish. And that has happened to a lot of people, and it leaves its mark.

Writers suffer from a great deal of this ailment. They whisper, they find it hard to speak out, to write their truths, to claim their space, particularly women. When you become a writer, you have to learn how to break long years of conditioning to be silent, or if not silent, to be cautious about taking up space, or being too pushy, or obvious or demanding. Of course we need to be aware of our effect on others, but some of these early teachings serve us badly. We learn not to say what we know, we learn to hide our lights. It takes a long time—too long—to claim our wisdom, to know what we know and be willing, even eager, to share it. It gets in the way of our writing, and once we write, it gets in the way of putting our work into the world where it can do some good.

I’ve declared 2012 The Year of the Memoir, which means I’m dedicated to support and encourage creating—and selling—your memoir. This happens in stages.

  1. Arrange your life so you write your memoir. Keep writing, don’t let the inner and outer critics discourage you.
  2. Find your voice, write your truths. Sit down and write regularly.
  3. While you are writing, you need to imagine your audience, those whose lives you want to affect by your work. You are not journaling privately, you are writing a book!
  4. Writing a book, a longer work, a memoir means you want others to read what you have to say and you need to have positive affirmations and visualizations about how powerfully your words will affect others!
  5. Imagining your audience means that you will write scenes, you will bring the reader into the world you create on the page. You will start to see your story with the eyes of an observer, which guides your narration and perspective in your memoir.
  6. Finish the first draft, then start working on another draft or two. Have someone mentor you through several stages of your book. You will be thinking about your reader, your audience even more now, and wondering how you can reach that audience.
  7. Marketing is taking that idea further—that there is an audience who needs your book, people who are eager to read it.
  8. Marketing means getting the messages out there that will INVITE your readers to you. You need to make it easy for them to find you.

We writers need to learn new ways to think about marketing—that it is a way of giving to others, not taking from them. We are offering our readers a way to see the world through fresh eyes, to learn something new, to be entertained, to see life in a new way by reading our work. We will inspire others to write, to create, to bring their own vision to fruition.

Think of your writing, your book, and your marketing as a gift.

Join us at the National Association of Memoir Writers to listen to Lynn Serafinn talk about the Gift of Marketing. Her spiritual, holistic and inspiring way to see marketing can turn your mind around and make you see it through new eyes!

 In what ways have you been reluctant to share your work–for money?

What were the childhood messages you got about selling, marketing, and publicity?

Read These Memoirs!

There are so many memoirs to read, and books that help us learn how to write. This is the list of the classic books that I read as I began my memoir journey, and of course so many more books have come out. But here is a great list to choose from. I’ll post some of my favorites along the way–some of my favorites have * next to them.

Enjoy reading!!


Adams, Kathleen        The Write Way to Wellness; Journal to the Self

* Allende, Isabel            Paula

* Allison, Dorothy         Bastard Out of Carolina

* Angelou, Maya           I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings & other works

Ball, Edward               Slaves in the Family

Arenas, Reinaldo        Before Night Falls

* Baker, Russell             Growing Up

* Balakian, Peter            Black Dog of Fate

*Barrington, Judith     Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art; Lifesaving   

Bateson, Catherine      Composing a Life; Through a Daughter’s Eye

* Bragg, Rick                 All Over But the Shoutin’; Ava’s Man

Brande, Dorothea       Becoming a Writer     

Brautigan, Ianthe        You Can’t Catch Death

Brittain, Vera              Testament of Youth

Cameron, Julia            The Artist’s Way

Chandler, Marilyn       A Healing Art: Regeneration Through Autobiography

Chernin, Kim              My Mother’s House & other works

Conroy, Frank             Stop Time

Conway, Jill Kerr        When Memory Speaks ; The Road from Coorain and other books

Day, Dorothy              The Long Loneliness

DeBeauvoir, Simone   Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter  first of three parts

De Caro, Frank           A Boy Named Phyllis

De Salvo, Louise         Writing as a Way of Healing

Eggers, David             A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Elbow Peter                Writing with Power; Writing Without Teachers

*Fox, John                  Poetic Medicine

Fremont, Helen           After Long Silence

Gebler, Carlo               My Father and I

Gates, Henry Louis     Colored People

* Gilmore, Mikal            Shot in the Heart

Goldberg, Natalie       Writing Down the Bones etc.

Gordon, Mary             Shadow Man

Gornick, Vivian          Fierce Attachments

* Harrison, Kathryn     The Kiss

Heilbrun, Carolyn       Writing a Woman’s Life

* Hoffman, Eva             Lost in Translation

Hooks, bell                  Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work

Jamison, Kay               An Unquiet Mind

Jung, Carl                    Memories, Dreams, Reflections

* Karr, Mary                  The Liar’s Club; Cherry; Lit

L’Engle, Madeleine    The Summer of the Great-Grandmother

*Lamott, Anne             Traveling Mercies; Bird by Bird

*Lauck, Jennifer         Blackbird; Still Waters

Lawrence, T. E.           Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Ledoux, Denis               Turning Memories into Memoirs

MacDonald, Michael     All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

Mason, Bobbie Ann    Clear Springs

Mairs, Nancy        Remembering the Bone House

Maynard, Isabelle       China Dreams: Growing Up Jewish in Tientsin

Maynard, Joyce           At Home in the World

McBride, James          The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

McCarthy, Mary         Memories of a Catholic Girlhood

McCourt, Frank           Angela’s Ashes; Tis

Mead, Margaret          Blackberry Winter

*Merton, Thomas        Seven Story Mountain; Diaries and Journals

*Metzger, Deena         Writing for Your Life

Myers, Linda Joy        The Power of Memoir; Don’t Call Me Mother

Neruda, Pablo             Memoirs

Norris, Kathleen          Dakota: A Spiritual Geography; Cloister

* O’Faolin, Nuala          Are You Somebody? My Dream of You

Oppenheimer, Deborah (Ed)   Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport

Pennebaker, James      Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions

Perel, Solomon            Europa, Europa

*Rainer, Tristine          Your Life as Story; The New Diary

Reichl, Ruth                Tender at the Bone

Rhodes, Richard         A Hole in the World

Ryan, Terry                 The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio

Santos, John Phillip     Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation

Sarton, May                Journal of a Solitude; Plant Dreaming Deep etc

Scott-Maxwell, Florida  The Measure of my Days

See, Carolyn                Dreaming

Stegner, Wallace         Wolf Willow

*Ueland, Brenda         If You Want to Write

Weisel, Elie                 The Night Trilogy

Welty, Eudora             One Writer’s Beginnings

Williams, Terry Tempest         Leap; Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Wolff, Geoffrey          The Duke of Deception

* Wolff, Tobias              This Boy’s Life

*Woolf, Virginia         Moments of Being; Letters


Write Your Memoir & Still Go Home for the Holidays

write your memoirWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, it seems like a good time to start talking about this sometimes very touchy subject of writing your memoir and being able to face your family.  Today I’m sharing part 1 of a 3 part series on the topic, so be sure to visit often or sign up for my feed so you won’t miss the whole series.

Everyone takes a collective breath at conferences and in my workshops when the words “memoir” and “family” appear in the same sentence. Hearts beat faster and pulses race as visions of upset family members point imaginary fingers. Sometimes this is all it takes to silence a beginning memoir writer; others go into overdrive trying to figure out how much to leave in or take out so the family won’t be displeased, or worse, uninvite them to family gatherings.

This kind of stress needs to be managed for memoir writers to unfold a very personal story, and explore their deepest truths. All of this must occur for a memoir to be a vibrant and important story. That is what memoir writing is all about—finding our own voice and telling our truths.

During my upcoming NAMW workshop, I’ll address the issues I’ve encountered both in my personal writing journey and the ones where I’ve mentored others.

Be sure to join me for the workshop to find out how to solve for some of the most problematic issues that memoir writers face:

* writing your truths
* defeating your critics
* how to focus on & develop your plot

When these issues are unresolved, the memoir writer screeches to a halt, hounded by guilt and those imagined pointing fingers. The inner critic wins, and the writer is silenced.

When you have the proper tools and perspective all for these challenges, they can be overcome. You are then free to write with a full, clear voice and complete your memoir. Remember, your memoir is about you and how you remember your life–and you don’t need to get approval to write. Be brave and write your story now.