subscribe

The Memoir Coach Blog

Are you ready to go all in?

This message is for any woman who has a story they need to tell.  And really, isn’t that all of us?

Whether you have a story that is a memoir or a novel that you are wanting to write, I have great news for you!  I am here for you each step of the way.  This past summer I had over 5 writers that came and stayed at my home to write with me.  There is nothing better than taking yourself away to focus on YOU!

The feedback I received from each writer was positive and uplifting.

There are so many options I offer for you to start (or complete) your story.

Let me list a few:

  1. The Online Writing Club: Come join the 2018 writing community from the comfort of your own home!  You will receive 14 months of lessons (starting with 2 bonus months, Nov and Dec) and mid-month an inspirational email to get you inspired and ready to continue on!  Each club is limited to only 10 writers so you won’t get lost in the shuffle…visit the page on my website for more information!
  2. Private Retreats: These are wonderful if you want to spend one on one time with me in my home.  I promise this will motivate, inspire and get your moving in your creative space.  I will treat you to home cooked meals, time to work with me and alone and a beautiful space to focus is all yours here in Washington.  (Or if you and a friend want to come write together, we can stay at a darling home on Lummi Island to write and explore on the page together!)
  3. Retreats! I have some wonderful things planned in 2018, Maui and Greece are two that I am really looking forward to!  (And if you are even thinking about Greece, this month if you email me I have special pricing planned and a great discount for you!  All inclusive which means once you arrive you have nothing to worry about!)

So as you can see, there are many ways to get motivated! I love what I do and let me help you love it as well!

Haiku Writer's Retreat

North Shore Maui, Hawaii

Read more

Excellent tips to getting your book published!

I met Ginni Simpson many years ago when I was teaching classes in Palm Desert, California.  She was on a mission, she was driven and knew that she had a story that she needed to write.  She worked hard on her story, she wrote, rewrote, edited and rewrote again and again.  I was happy to be a part of her beta reading group and see the process of the changes from beginning to published copy.  Her book has been earning many wonderful accolades and I am thrilled to see that she was featured on Marion Roach Smith’s online newsletter.  The article is below or you can click on this link to see the article on Marion’s site: http://marionroach.com/2017/07/how-to-write-and-publish-a-book/

 

LEARNING HOW TO WRITE AND PUBLISH A BOOK includes understanding both what to do and, of course, what not to do. And while I have given many lists to you on the topic of what to do, I frequently forget to discuss the “do not” side of things. So when memoirist Virginia Simpson proposed a list of the proven tips to ensure you never write a book, I was all over it. Why? Virginia Simpson is the author of the award-winning and beautiful memoir, The Space Between, a perfect read for all of us right now. But read this list first. It is written for you. Yes, I do mean you.

Ten Proven Tips to Ensure You Never Write (or Publish) Your Memoir

Many of us say we want to be a writer and publish our memoir. But do we really? If everyone who wanted to be a writer actually wrote, all those want-to-be-writers would be authors or at least know they had completed the book they always professed wanting to write. One thing is for sure, if you don’t write, you will never become a published author.

I remember the decades when I told anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a writer. Wanted is the operative word. I was like the brain surgeon Marion Roach Smith wrote about in her seminal book, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing Life. “When someone tells me that he is going to become a writer when he gets around to it, I reply, ‘And what do you do?’ And sometimes he says, ‘Oh, I’m a brain surgeon,’ and that’s my favorite reply. Then I can say, ‘When I retire, I’m going to become a brain surgeon.’”

During those years of not writing a book, I learned a lot about how to be a successful writer-want-a-be, or should I say, writer-not-really-want-a-be.

So, assuming you’re not ready to write, let me assure you that you are not alone and there is no reason to berate yourself. Instead be proud to know you have accomplished the one thing you’ve been doing anyway: not writing, completing, or publishing your memoir. I want to help you succeed. Try my time-proven successful tips so that you no longer feel you have failed.

  1. Don’t start.

It’s easy. That’s right. Don’t pick up a pen and paper or sit at your computer. Not starting is the easiest to accomplish of all my tips. Takes no effort at all. In fact, the point here is to make no effort. If you don’t start, for sure you’ll never write a book.

  1. Find every excuse you can think of to keep you away from writing.

Your electronic devices are excellent excuse providers. Make sure all those pop ups on your computer, tablet, and phone are working so that you never miss a tweet, Facebook post, instant message, news bulletins from every paper on the planet, email, Instagram, or phone call.

You must have daily household chores. Everyone has laundry or grocery shopping to tend to. And what about your real job, your partner, or your kids?

Your home is also an excellent resource. Is your apartment or house too small and you don’t have a space of your own where you can write uninterrupted? Ray Bradbury, Pulitzer prize winning author of such best-selling books as Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes wrote in his bedroom and living room in his small house with family members “talking all the time.” Please don’t let this inspire you.

Remember: Procrastination is your friend.

  1. Wait for the muse.

Waiting for the writing muse, or inspiration to appear before you write is a great strategy. She will never come because the truth is, the muse needs to know you are serious – you must show up and write. Only then will the muse, filled with ideas and inspiration, appear. You can’t be like the little kids who argue “You go first.” “No, you go first.” You have to start. But please don’t do that. You must remember Tip 1 if you are ever to accomplish your goal of not writing a memoir.

  1. Wait for Ideal Circumstances.

Tell yourself you must wait for the right computer, right desk, right time, right mood, or right idea before you can write. Perhaps you need your planets to be in alignment or Mercury out of retrograde. Feel free to add your own ideas to this list. Whatever it takes to keep you believing things must be a certain way before you can write. Pay no attention to the words of E.B. White, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” If White had waited, he never would have written Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, or The Elements of Style.

Since your goal is not to write, please pay no attention to White’s words. Wait for perfection.

  1. Keep believing you have more time.

This is a strategy I mastered. I personally used this tactic and watched three or four decades of my life disappear without doing more than writing starts of stories and a multitude of pages full of my thoughts and feelings. Had a serious car accident in 1994 proven fatal, I would have succeeded in never writing or publishing my book.

Feel free to take your chances that illness or an accident won’t intervene before you achieve your goal. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but that’s not something you can count on. Time is a gift and none of us knows how much we get or have left. But since your objective is to not write your book, remember to not carpe diem.

  1. Worry about what other people think.

Instead of imagining your story, focus on the imaginary reader who will hate what you’ve written. Scare yourself by contemplating all the agents and publishers who will reject your work. Visualize the bad reviews should you make it to publication.

If you write your memoir, you’re bound to offend someone you know. Keeping these people in the forefront of your thoughts will assure your ability to write is comparable to attempting to speak with a thick wad of cloth stuffed in your mouth held there by a wide strip of silver duct tape.

If you want to write, forget everyone else. It is your story and you can’t worry about anyone else. After you’ve finished, if you feel you’ve said too much, or it reads like a “gotcha” tale,” you can always edit.

However, because your goal is to not write, please, keep everyone else’s opinions uppermost in your mind as you attempt to tell your truth.

  1. Believe your first draft must be perfect and beautifully written.

According to Anne Lamott in her best-selling book, Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life, “writing is often about making mistakes and feeling lost…. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” Lamott advises, “Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance,” because “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” According to Lamott, all good writers write shitty first drafts.

Remember to ignore the idea that everyone writes shitty first drafts. Realizing you can expect a lousy first draft may be what you need to know in order to give yourself permission to join the authors who write shitty first drafts and have published fabulous books.

  1. Trust Your Inner Critic.

I would bet your inner critic has been with you for as long as you can remember and is more than willing to gather a lethal strength as you strain to write your memoir.

Two sure-fire ways to assure that your inner critic will stay with you, grow stronger, and continue to sabotage you is to (1) believe every nasty thing she says, and (2) get mad at her. When you judge the critic, the critic gains strength. The critic is a judge and “judging the judger” adds kindle to the fire. If you want your inner critic to succeed in keeping you from your goal of writing, please read no further.

If you want to write, here’s a secret I learned: you must make your inner critic your friend. Your inner critic is brilliant, creative, and discerning. When you ask for her help, you turn her into an ally who enables you to determine when your work is going well and when it needs changes.

Understanding how to work with your inner critic is crucial because she is toxic when you are creating your first draft and helpful when you’re editing.

But I digress. You don’t want to write your book, so please, forget what I just said, and instead, believe your inner critic and allow her to keep you from writing or finishing your book.

  1. Don’t take writing classes, hire a coach, or join a writing or critique group.

Never join a writing group or work with a coach. Why would you want to waste your time honing your craft and learning the elements that go into creating a good memoir? Being part of a group will result in your producing actual pages, which would surely sabotage your efforts to avoid writing and completing your book. We know you don’t want that, so please, do yourself a favor, save yourself the time and money.

  1. Don’t read books: memoirs, novels, or anything on the craft of writing.

Why would you want to take away from your invaluable not writing time in order to read someone else’s work? If you have spare time, wouldn’t it be better spent watching TV or texting friends? Although the ability to identify a well-written book doesn’t necessarily make you a good writer, reading will help you to understand why you liked a certain book or what made it popular.

If you insist on reading, let me offer a few (out of the numerous) books I could recommend for your consideration:

Memoirs

Paul Auster, Winter Journal

Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home

James McBride, The Color of Water

Alice Sebold, Lucky

Dani Shapiro, Slow Motion: A True Story

Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

 

Novels:

Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath

Donna Tartt, The Secret History

 

On Writing:

Lisa Cron, Story Genius

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir on Craft

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Sue Williams Silverman, Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir

Marion Roach Smith, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life

Now that you have all (or most) of the tools you need, you may now go through life and never write your book. Simply tell friends and anyone you meet that you’re “writing a book.” They will be impressed and you will have saved yourself from the hard and often agonizing work of writing your story.

I could say, “Now go forth and don’t write,” but by offering you these oppositional tips, I hope you understand and appreciate the creative ways you have stopped yourself from achieving your goal. After all, you wouldn’t be on this page if you didn’t want to learn about writing and finishing your memoir.

I know it’s an arduous trek, but as a published author (The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life), I can tell you that it is more than worth the effort. To be a writer, you must write, and to become a decent writer, you must be willing to work hard. Good writing demands practice.

I encourage you to keep learning and to keep writing, and, as Winston Churchill so famously said, “Never, never, never, never, never give up.”

The Space Between: An excerpt

Chapter 4

Practice Round ~ Day Five

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.

No man does. That’s his.

—Oscar Wilde

THURSDAY

Inside the hospital, it’s cool, the air laced with acrid smells of medical chemicals and cleaning fluids. Someone always seems to be mopping a floor. Food carts squeak as they are pushed down

the halls, and people on their way to rooms make noise, but I focus all my attention on the soft sound of my mother’s breath as she sleeps. The change in Mom’s arms since yesterday is a shock. The mottled bruises have spread and congealed into the appearance of midnight-blue or eggplant-purple opera gloves that span the length of her arms.

Outside it’s a warm July afternoon and life goes on. People stroll the blocks of Westwood Village, innocent of the dramas and traumas that go on inside this hospital. Those lucky people

walk the streets of my youth and happy memories. I’ve loved Westwood Village my whole life. When we were young, Mom and I would wander these same streets, look into windows, sometimes go inside and buy something, and always stop for lunch. In my twenties and early thirties, I’d come to Westwood to attend classes at UCLA, visit my therapist, go to The Bruin or Village to catch a movie, shop at Bullocks, or meet friends at Café Moustache, where I’d always eat a spinach crepe and chocolate soufflé.

But today there are no strolls, shopping, lunches, movies, classes, or therapy. Today I’m inside this hospital, a place where nothing seems to happen while the most profound aspects of life occur at every moment.

I’ve been at Mom’s side since 10:00 this morning, both of us in loud silence not talking about the procedure scheduled for 4:00 p.m.

When it’s time, two young men—one with curly, dark brown hair and a beard, the other a clean-shaven, shaggy-haired blond—wrap a white sheet around Mom and lift her out of the

bed with as little effort as it would take to elevate a feather. Their movements are slow and meticulous. With gentle care they place Mom on the slender, stiff gurney. I study their every move from my vantage point on the opposite side of the bed as though my attention will assure they won’t drop her. Mom seems teeny, small as a child.

This is a seismic shift in our relationship. Me, the adult; her, the child.

Author’s bio

Virginia A. Simpson, Ph.D. FT, is a Bereavement Care Specialist with more than 30 years of experience working with the dying and grieving. She holds a Fellowship in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education & Counseling (ADEC), and is the Executive Counseling Director for hundreds of funeral homes throughout the United States and Canada. Simpson’s articles have appeared in publications throughout the world.

In 2016, Dr. Simpson’s first book, The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life was published. It has won First Place for best memoir from the Sarton Story Circle, Readers View Awards (also Best book from West Pacific), and Independent Press Award, and was a Finalist in the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards, 5th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards, and 2017 International Book Awards.

The Space Between is a beautifully written story that reads like a novel….As a mental health specialist, I know that this book is an important conversation-starter for families who are brave enough to use it as the tool it can be for them. A MUST for book clubs! ~C. Jaser-Goulard, R.N., Ph.D.

To learn more about Dr. Simpson and The Space Between, go to:

www.drvirginiasimpson.com

www.virginiaasimpson.com

http://www.facebook.com/virginiaasimpson/

HOW TO WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK

I hope you enjoy Writing Lessons. Featuring well-published writers of our favorite genre, each weekly installment takes on one short topic addressing how to write memoir.

It’s my way of saying thanks for coming by.

Love the author featured above? Did you learn something in the how-to? Then you’ve got to read the book. And you can. I am giving away a copy, and all you have to do to win is leave a comment below about something you learned from the writing lesson or the excerpt. I’ll draw winners at random (using the tool at random dot org) after entries close at midnight Monday, August 14, 2017. Unfortunately, only readers within the US domestic postal service can receive books.

Good luck!

Read more

Private Writing Retreats at My Home in Bellingham, Washington

You deserve it!  Time spent away working on your project!  Do you need some guidance, maybe a quiet place for you to reflect and contemplate?

My home is the perfect location for you to come and spend time with me.

Check out the retreats section of my website and see why my retreats are different.

You will be spoiled with delicious home cooked meals, a comfortable private room and bath and all is included at the price of your retreat.

Come on a 3,4 or 5 day retreat.

I promise you will be motivated to begin, or complete your project!

I look forward to discussing the possibilities with you!

email me at thememoircoach@gmail.com


Read more

A Gift of Reinvention

The gift of reinvention.  How many times have you reinvented yourself?

As I have looked at my career as a teacher and writer I can follow the course of events and see that I have come closer and closer to my dream of who I truly am.

Each step I have chosen and taken has brought me closer and closer to what makes me truly happy.

I take note of what truly makes me happy and then I try to travel in that direction.

3 years ago, I played with the idea of living outside of the country, then 2 ½ years ago I set my intention and did just that.

I now have a much different life than I did a year or even two years ago.

One thing that has always been a constant in my life is my love of hospitality and encouraging other women in helping them succeed on their journey of writing.

I love nurturing the writer in each of us.

I am combining my love of teaching, hospitality and nurturing and offering private retreats at my home or if you prefer at a sweet little bungalow on Lummi Island in the beautiful state of Washington.

These all-inclusive retreats are exactly what you may be looking for.  Come away and let me give you the space you need to write, let me cook for you and take you away from all that is standing in your way of getting to your next step in your writing journey.

We will have built in time to work on your project, there will also be time devoted to things you would like to do outside of the writing time such as kayaking, sailing, or hiking the beautiful trails of the area.  Bring your passport and we can take the short 30 minute drive to the border and visit Vancouver, British Columbia and spend a day writing there as well!

Come away on one of my private 3, 4, or 5-day private retreats….

Give yourself the gift of writing and exploring.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hP_L8iGJpo

 

Read more

Guest Blog by Rosemarie Chesebrough

I am honored to have my wonderful friend share her words with us this week.  Rosemarie is one of those women that when you meet her, you immediately love her.  I think you will enjoy this beautiful piece she wrote.

 

Unmade beds: Not just a metaphor
Throughout all the years I lived with my mother, she never failed to make her bed.  Even on the rare vacations at a hotel, she made her bed “to help the maid,”  One of her proudest moments was when I was three and made my bed all by myself.
So now that things have reversed and mom moved to sunny California with me, I check the condition of her bed each morning, not as a punishment but as a barometer.
Let me back up.  My mom is  the personification of “cleanliness is next to godliness,” and it was a blight to have a daughter that was her opposite.  Her baby girl had inherited the infuriating mellow sloppiness of her husband.  Over the years, we reached a compromise.  When I visited her, my husband dutifully made our bed every morning, and he received her praise.
Nowadays mom lives with us.  It is a blessing and a challenge.  Every month she adds a new accessory: first, a walker, then a wheelchair, then oxygen 24/7.  Most recently, she has days where her memories jumble, and this is the hardest, most heartbreaking of all to watch. For she worries that her sisters never call her, that she angered them somehow.  She cries for her mother.  How do I tell her that all of these people are gone to heaven, some for many years?  Would that be yet another sorrow, and mourning to lose loved ones yet again?  Even the globe is juxtaposed, and she asks me to drive her back to a place, long torn down, 2,000 miles away.  On those days when the comforter is in a heap, it seems her mind follows suit. Chaos reigns.
Some days are like sunshine.  She is happy and childlike, watching the lizards scamper on the porch, and the lovebirds flirting  on the railing.   On those days, her bed is invariably neat and tidy.  Just like all the days of her life when she was strong and happy.
I never know what conditions I will find when I arise.  All I can do is make my bed, say a prayer and hope her bed is just as tidy.
Read more

"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
Wendy Price, Palm Desert, CA

Read More: Writing Teacher Reviews

Amherst Writers & Artists

Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.