What About Writing a Book?

Do you want to write a book?  Tell your story?  I am.

It’s scary for so many different reasons.  There are people we don’t want to hurt.  Maybe someone will claim it didn’t happen the way we say it happened.  Say we’re wrong.  Say we’re crazy.  What if we feel we just don’t know how to write?  Don’t have the right to write about our lives since our lives involve so many other people?

Other times writing is amazing, invigorating, strengthening.  It takes courage to say, “This is how I say it happened!”

Everything that happened to you belongs to you.  I got that from Anne Lamotts’ Bird by Bird, an excellent book on writing.  And she’s right.  Every single experience you’ve ever had is your property to do with as you will.  Tell it, make it into a secret—which isn’t always healthy—write it, publish it, don’t publish it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if people want you to write nice things about them, they should have done nice things to you.  If they didn’t, what nice things can you write?  That’s not your fault, it’s theirs. vintage-technology-keyboard-oldvintage-technology-keyboard-oldvintage-technology-keyboard-oldvintage-technology-keyboard-old

Names can be changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.  True events can be fictionalized.  It used to be true that most author’s first novels were autobiographical.  It might still be true.  But with the rise of books like The Liar’s Club and The Glass Castle, memoirs by people who aren’t famous are getting published and becoming best-sellers.  No one has to fictionalize their lives if they don’t want to.

You also don’t have to publish if you don’t want to.  There’s nothing wrong with writing a memoir for yourself.  It’s cathartic, affirming, and healing either way.

In these days of Amazon and Kindle, anyone can publish a book for not much money.  Many Kindle authors don’t even bother with print copies, but print copies can be arranged for not very much as well.  People are doing that as Plan A, or as Plan B, if they can’t get an agent.  This is a different book world than twenty years ago.

Join a critique group.  That is one of the best things a writer can do.  Get your work in front of other people.  It’s better to do it before it’s published than after!  Read books about writing, especially about writing memoir.

And read.  Read, read, read.  It’s been said writers who don’t have time to read, don’t have time to write.  I tend to agree.  Reading books teaches us how to write books.  Read the best books.  The best memoirs if you intend to write a memoir.  Read as many as possible and when it’s time, sit down with pen and paper or at your computer and write.  Tell your story, your one and only story that belongs to only you.


Memoir Excerpt: Learning to Add

I have been working on my memoir for a long time.  When I finished the first draft it was 150,000 words.  I got it down to 120,000 and now 90,000 words.  Finally a reasonable length to submit for publication.  But the process of cutting left a lot of scenes out of the book.  I am going to share some of my favorite passages that aren’t in the book here on my blog.  I hope you enjoy them.

Mrs. Potter was my first grade teacher.  I didn’t like her.  I didn’t think she was nice at all, especially compared to my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bigio.  I needed a nice teacher and started hating school because I was sure Mrs. Potter didn’t like me.  For some reason, I couldn’t deal with numbers as numbers once we started using them to add and subtract.  I had to anthropomorphize the numbers to deal with them and came up with a complex system to add.



Mrs. Potter believes in threes, but I don’t.  Shemath_is_easy_poster-re802a45cfcb742638162006324d910c5_wfq_8byvr_324 believes in fours too, and sixes and sevens and eights and nines.  Not me.  ‘Cause those aren’t real numbers.  Only five is real.  All those other numbers are just different fives.  Some are nice fives.  Some are mean and greedy.

Nice fives give me presents every time I use them.  Greedy fives charge taxes when I use them.

When I add, I talk to the numbers, but only in my head so I won’t get in trouble.  I like the nice fives—six and seven and eight and nine.  Nine is the nicest of all.  She gives me four cents every time I use her.  I always say thank you.  The fives hear me.  I know they do.

I don’t like the greedy fives, like three and four.  I keep telling them not to be so greedy.  I tell them they should be ashamed of themselves for charging taxes, but they don’t listen.

Mrs. Potter just says three plus three is six, four plus five is nine.  She never tells us the real truth, what the answers are before we pay all the taxes and get all the presents.  She never tells us about all that.  But I know who those numbers really are.