Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Writing Prompt 1: "I"

Today, start a sentence that begins with "I"...

Then, start another one. And another. And again, write "I..."

Keep going for at least ten minutes.

Don't stop. Don't edit. Don't think. Just write. See where it leads you.

Save your work.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On Memoir Writing with Linda Joy Myers (Author Interview)

Linda Joy Myers, Author of "The Power of Memoir"
It has been some time since we shared an author interview. Today, we're doing one for WOW's Blog Tour, featuring memoir writing specialist, Linda Joy Myers.

In typical social media fashion, can you tell us something about you in 140 characters or less?

Healer-therapist career for 30 yrs, began my memoir w/painting and poetry. Love reading and books & helping writers; started NAMW to help memoirists.

So, how are things going with the promotion of your latest book, "The Power of Memoir"? Any interesting stories you'd like to share?

Great! I’ve enjoyed meeting so many new people on my blog tour this month, and sharing ideas with them about memoir writing. We have had a wonderful response to some of the topics—writing the truth, balancing the dark and light stories, and the current research about writing as a healing tool. From the many comments I received, I think that reading my articles and interviews gave people more permission to capture their personal stories, and helped them understand that the process of writing a memoir has a life of its own. It can’t be hurried, nor does it help to approach it entirely in a technical way. The heart of a memoir is your own heart, relationships, and the tragedies and comedies of life. People on the blogs connected with me and each other, and it was fun!

For those who may have not read your book yet, can you tell us a brief description/summary of the book?

The Power of Memoir is a groundbreaking book that presents a step-by-step program using memoir writing on the journey of emotional and physical healing. By drawing on the eight steps outlined in the book, people can learn how to choose the significant milestones of their lives and weave together a meaningful personal story. They will discover how writing important truths and shaping their life narratives can help change their brains and their lives. Psychological issues are addressed such as family dynamics, roles, and rules, the psychology of writing a memoir, and balancing dark and light stories. Skills such as building scenes and creating the narrative arc are useful not only to write well, but to facilitate the healing process. A discussion about agents and the publishing process gives readers practical tips for taking their memoir into the larger world. Chapters on meditations and affirmations help the writer conquer the inner critic, and one chapter is specifically directed toward therapists, helping them learn how to use writing to help clients heal trauma and resolve family issues.

Who is this book for? Why should people read it?

The book is for anyone who wants to learn how to begin a memoir. The turning point and timeline techniques, scene development, and a chapter on creating the dramatic arc of narrative give memoir writers a good grounding in how to think about their memoir, how they might begin, and how to structure it.

Most people begin a memoir with the desire to capture memories and to explore issues from the past, not necessarily with the idea of healing. But writing anything that requires us to think, feel, and look again at who we were, who we are, and where we came from can shift our perspective about ourselves. And for most people, their lives are sprinkled with both happy and not so happy moments and memories. The book helps them to sort through the emotional material of their lives, and discover how to make peace with it.

Can you tell us about your other books and work?
My first book was Becoming Whole—How to Write Your Healing Story which was inspired by the research of Dr. James Pennebaker about the power of writing personal stories to heal both physical and emotional imbalances. I’ve also written my own memoir Don’t Call Me Mother, a poetry chapbook Songs of the Plains, and I’m editing a novel Secret Music.

It's interesting how you approach memoir writing as a therapeutic process. How did you come about this approach - and what are your experiences when teaching this process?

I discovered the research that Dr. James Pennebaker and other psychologists were doing on the healing power of writing stories. Time stopped as I read these articles, as I’d hoped someday to find a way to integrate my therapy background with my passion for memoir writing. I began searching for all the research on the topic I could find, and called Dr. Pennebaker to find out more, and even met him in person. Then I began training therapists to use writing with their clients. In these workshops I was blown away by the stories that came out of people who were not “writers.” I decided to write my first book –Becoming Whole—Writing Your Healing Story to share the joyful news of the research and the amazing stories that came out of my workshops. Teaching people “the good news” was the most fun I’d had in a long time.

8. I read somewhere that you were a therapist before you started writing and publishing books. 

Can you tell us more about your therapy background?

I’ve been a therapist for 30 years, trained in depth therapy, family and marital therapy, and hypnosis. In the early years of my work, I worked in family crisis agencies to help resolve conflicts between youth and their families. This was very exciting work, as I learned so much from each family that I encountered. I found that I could reach out to them in ways that helped the family to heal. I have worked with abused women, domestic violence, and trauma victims for many years. I think that the incidence of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse is far greater than statistics report, and this information is useful for my work teaching memoir. Leading memoir writing groups is a little like doing therapy, except that the writing is the technique and the client heals him or herself through the process of knowing themselves better. My therapy background has been helpful in my work as a memoir coach, as I can hold a space for the darker aspects of the human condition. Some memoir writers really need that kind of support. Not all family stories are easy to face or to write.

Do you have any favourite memoirs that you'd like to recommend to our readers?

Mary Karr’s memoirs—Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit—wonderful series of skillful, poetic, and gritty stories that can teach us how to develop our own work while we also empathize with Mary’s life story. Tobias Woolf’s This Boy’s Life; Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody, and her other books; Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain; Rick Bass’s memoirs; Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina—a novel based on her story, and Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. I loved Richard Rhodes A Hole in the World, which is a helpful text to read for those who are writing darker family stories. There are so many I love, but these are a few of my favorites.

If there's one piece of advice you'd like to pass on to our readers who might be interested in starting their own memoirs but are unsure on how to go about it, what advice would you give?

Just start writing for 15 minutes at a time if you are not sure how to start. Think of 5 of the most significant, life changing moments in your life and write about them. Once you have done that, you will have more ideas of where you want to go and what you have to say. When we start writing, the memories start to flow from their hiding places, and the writing gets easier. Most people simply think too much. The key to discovery is in the writing itself.

Can you tell us something else about you outside of your therapy/writing background? Any personal interests and hobbies? 

I’ve always devoured books, so I read a lot, and I love classic black and white movies. When I like a movie, I watch it dozens of times, so it’s a good way to relax. I raise roses and enjoy taking care of them and my two kitties. Going to art museums and galleries and listening to folk music are great ways to spend a Sunday. I love conversing with friends and meeting with my writing group, and I have to say that I love working with memoir writers! It’s my career, but it’s also what I love to do.

 Thank you so much for sharing with us, Linda!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Still Here, Still Writing...

New OfficeWell, it's now almost the end of March 2010. And again, I know I've gone MIA in this blog for a few months.

Unfortunately, this blog's been hit by some technical issues that prevented me from updating it the way I'd like to update it. And, I haven't had the time nor the energy to sort out the tech problems. So, I just left it there.

Today, however, I finally decided to do something about it.

Part of the solution was to change hosting and CMS solutions. Instead of sticking to my beloved WordPress, I decided to go back to Blogger.

This means, however, that I'm having to import all my past entries in to Blogger manually, as there's no easy and automatic way to import my old WordPress posts. It's not going to be easy nor pretty, but I can deal with it. Bit by bit. It might take a while before most of the posts get imported, but it's still workable...

The most horrible bit about this move, though, is that it also means that I ended up losing years' worth of comments on the blog. This is the part that I find difficult to deal with. It really, really saddens me when this happens. But, there's no other way for me right now.

I had to choose between taking much, much longer to sort out my technical issues - and not updating this blog... Or, just learn to move on without the comments. I chose the latter because it's the only way forward at this stage.

In any case, how are you? How are things with your writing? Are you well? I sure hope so!

And, I sure hope that I can blog a bit more often around here...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

eWriteLife Giveaway: And the Winner Is...

Well. I know I've been meaning to finalise this giveaway for a few days now. Unfortunately, NaNoWriMo, grad school assignments, family life, and personal illness have all been conspiring against me. But I finally managed to squeeze in a bit of time to get this sorted.

So, here you go... The winner of the book giveaway, "Will Write for Shoes" by Cathy Yardley is...


If you're curious how I came up with this, I used Random.org to choose the winner.

Congratulations, Sherina! Please email me your mailing address (please send to: shaicoggins AT gmail DOT com) so I can send the book to you asap.

Thanks again to all who participated! I hope to do more of these one day...

Marjorie - 2 entries

Jasmin Tragas - 1 entry

Em Dy - 3 entries

Heather - 1 entry

Sherina - 2 entries

Christie - 1 entry

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm a NaNoWriMo '09 Rebel!

nano_09_rebel.pngJust when I thought I can't be a NaNoWriMo '09 Participant, I found out all about NaNoWriMo Rebels. So today, the official start date of NaNo, I decided... Well, why not?

Yes, I'm now officially counting myself in a NaNoWriMo participant. A rebel one, yes. But, a participant nevertheless.

How am I a rebel?

Well, two main points:

  • I'm joining NaNo '09 with my Work-in-Progress. I really don't want to abandon this novel that I started a month ago. Well, I started writing it about 3 weeks ago. But, since I've been doing a lot of worldbuilding, character sketches, and research in-between, I haven't really managed to put in that many hours in the actual writing. And, since my current target word count for this novel is about 75,000 anyway, and I only have about 4,000 words in, I figured that if I can put in at least the 50,000 words target via NaNoWriMo, I'd be much closer to finishing my draft AND I can still call myself a "NaNoWriMo '09" winner. Sort of. :-)
  • I'd be having my "end date" earlier than everyone else. Since I'm travelling on the 28th of November onwards, I have to try and complete 50K words before that day. I know this lessens my chances of 'winning'... But hey, that's fine. I just want to be part of this fun journey! There's something about the solidarity of the writing community this time of the year that makes me just want to be part of it, win or not.

What about you? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you joining the rebellion too?

Friday, October 23, 2009

eWriteLife Giveaway: Will Write for Shoes by Cathy Yardley

To celebrate my return to a "proper" writing life and the resurrection of eWriteLife, I'm giving away ONE (1) hard bound copy of "Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel " by Cathy Yardley. Cathy herself actually donated some copies of her book for my different blogs/sites and projects. And, I decided to use one of these books right here, right now.

So, what do you need to do to win? There are THREE ways (and yes, you can enter thrice!):

1. Leave a comment in this post answering the question, "Why do you like to write?".

2. Blog about eWriteLife and/or this contest in your own blogs.

3. Tweet/Post to Facebook (or other social network) this contest and/or eWriteLife.

Each comment will be considered to be one entry for the giveaway. A blog entry will be another entry. And, a social network post will be another entry. Each individual may have 1 entry for each (a total of 3).

Contest ends on 2nd of November 2009 (Adelaide, Australia Time). Winners will be drawn randomly and announced on this blog shortly after. The winner should be prepared to provide complete mailing address.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On NaNoWriMo '09 and Sharing Our Writing Life

nano_09_red_support_120x90.pngLast year, I made it a point to join NaNoWriMo for the first time. And, although I didn't end up finishing my novel, I'm happy to say that I continued to work on one of those that I started. Yes, I started about three during that month! Eeeps. Anyway, I still love those stories that I started and I hope that I'll get to write and finish them one day.

But yeah, I think part of the problem was that I entered NaNoWriMo last year without planning. I didn't have a story. I didn't have any idea about what I was going to do. So, I got lost in the process.

This year, I wanted to try to join again. However, as I was plotting and planning, I ended up starting to write my current novel about two weeks ago. So, I think that pretty much ruled out NaNo this year. Probably just as well, as I'd be going away for a holiday overseas by the end of November anyway.

At least, I can now say that YES, I AM WRITING! Really writing. It has been a while since I last worked on a novel every single day from start of the idea. So, I'm really glad that I finally found a story that I'm busting to write. So much so that I'm actually dreaming inside my novel some nights. Heh.

Anyway, I've been so excited about working on this project so much that I decided to revamp eWriteLife once again to reflect a new phase of my writing life. For one thing, I wanted to have a place where I can share my writing goals and progress. Although I do have a personal blog, it doesn't seem right to turn it in to a full writing blog (especially since I have eWriteLife!). And instead of starting yet another blog, I thought I might as well use this site. So, yes, even though I do feel a bit scared about the whole idea of sharing my ongoing writing work, I thought it might be a good way for me to stay motivated and accountable. So, other than making this formal announcement in this blog post, I also added a "Scribometer" on this blog's sidebar. There, I hope to share my fiction writing progress. Plus, I'm also hoping I can write about where I am in the process of creating this novel on a regular basis. We'll see how it goes!  

I guess, that's one of the strengths of doing NaNoWriMo. When you have an actual goal, and you make this goal public, and you know you have other people working with you on the same thing, you become more motivated.

And I suppose, even though I'm not able to join NaNo this year, I'm still hoping to have a similar motivation through eWriteLife.

Oh, and since I've been doing a lot of research and I'm keeping a closer watch on the writing and publishing industry again, I started to collect more and more interesting resources again. So, I plan to share those things on a more regular basis with you too. Even just in short posts. I'll start to share snippets of writing prompts again too, whenever possible. Just like I used to.

So, what about you? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you already working on your book?