The Memoir Coach Blog

How Hard Can That Be?

How Hard Can That Be?Tammy Coia and Pups

I think this has been my mantra most of my life. Saying this phrase has led me to some amazing places. It was because I never saw things as obstacles, rather they were opportunities. In 2008, I sold all my possessions and moved to Palm Springs to start my second business from scratch. How hard could that be? I told myself, I had already started one in 1999 that was very successful. Well, it was hard. If you remember the economy took a dive and it was hard to convince women to spend their money on extra-curricular classes, no matter how great I thought they were!  But, I worked harder than ever and happy to say I succeeded!  When I was turning 49 I had already spent a year learning about Judaism and wanting to plan something special I decided to spend my 49th year planning for a full Batmitzveh!  My rationale was if a 13 year old can do it, why can’t I, and besides…how hard can that be!  Well, it was hard. It was hard learning Hebrew and reading the Torah, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything!

What is your hard? And how hard can that be? My latest adventure has been going back to school. As I am typing this I have just completed 2 semesters and I am working towards my Masters of Divinity. Going to back to school at the age of 56 hasn’t been easy, but guess what, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

With every book I read and paper I write I find myself sinker into all the questions that life poses on us. In writing memoir it helps me to see all of the ways that this question of how hard can that be has motivated me through life.

Live in the questions…explore and write.

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Was that you?

This month I learned that an elderly couple died in my town where I live, it made the national news.  It was a murder suicide.  The man called 911 and let them know that he was going to shoot himself and their bodies would be found in the front bedroom.  The dogs would be in another room of the house.  The note left behind indicated due to his wife’s health deteriorating and the fact that he could no longer afford the medical bills.  My heart broke when I read the article.  Even now my heart hurts that they saw no way out, it made me wonder if I had ever been around them in town.  Did I see them?  Could I have made a difference in their lives?  I have always, always, always felt a certain affection for the senior population.  When I was in HS I would go weekly to visit the local nursing home and made many friends.  So below are just my musings….nothing polished or finished but I just wanted to share this with you…



Was that you?


I stand behind you at the checkout line with Harmony,

You smile at us as you talk to my granddaughter about her purchases.

We smile back as you put your few items on the conveyer belt in front of us.

The cashier seems annoyed that your 3.98 purchase you pay with a hundred dollar bill.

She asks, “don’t you have anything smaller?”

You shake your head no, almost apologetically, that you need the change.

As you leave you look back and tell Harmony to have a good day…


Was that you?

Sitting together on the park bench watching the world go by?

You smile as Harmony charms you with her daring running back and forth in front of you…

She stops and tells you that you both have matching shoes

I sit beside you as you tell me bits and pieces of your life story.

Now I know you turn 89 just 9 days after Harmony turns 4, you were born in Manhattan and that we both lived in the bay area around the same time and we both were in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

You tell me it is a small world and that you moved here 10 years ago, why I ask?

You tell me because of a woman, we both smile and laugh.




Was that you?

I wait patiently as you make small talk with the cashier at our local grocery store.

You tell her your garden isn’t growing as good as it was last year,

Something about squirrels and needing to figure out what to do…

Your merchandise scans as the checker nods not looking at you…

Does she see you?  Is she listening?

I notice the frozen dinners getting bagged

As the total gets announced by the blankless cashier you fumble in your purse

A checkbook appears as you now search to find the pen

The checker appears annoyed as you scrawl out the amount

I smile at the checker hoping to convey I am in no rush

I hurry out after you and see you have parked next to me

I say good luck with your garden as you steady the cart near your car

Can I help you?  I say…

I put the groceries in the back seat of your car and tell you that I hope you have a nice day…


Was that you?  Two cars ahead of me waiting to turn left

The car behind you impatiently honks at you as I see you looking nervous

I say a prayer in my mind that you just take your time, don’t worry about him

The car honks again and this time you feel rushed and pull out quickly

I catch my breath as I see that you barely made the turn as a car came barreling toward you

I wait my turn and before I know it we are both turning into the same parking lot.

I park next to you and wait for you to exit your car

I’m sorry that man was honking at you, I say acknowledging I was nearby,

Some people just have no patience…you just ignore those drivers

You smile at me and stop and look deep into my eyes

Thank you honey, driving makes me nervous these days you say

Me, too, I smile back at you and look at your weary face

Me, too.




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Traveling the world…

Elena and I just completed our third retreat together!  She is my Greek counterpart and I know my Corfu retreats are successful due to all the time, energy and love she gives to us each year!  We are happy to announce that in 2020 we are adding to our Greece adventure by adding on Pelopenese for a fall retreat!  This retreat will not just focus on writing but the wonderful history Greece has to offer and of course the food!  I will be making the announcement of dates and prices first of all to the women who have joined us on one of our Corfu Retreats before opening it up to the general public.  We are excited to share Pelopenese with you! 

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Why every woman deserves a writing retreat!

I have been a long time fan of retreats, even before I started leading my own.  Whether you attend a group retreat or a personal writing retreat there are benefits to both.  Let me start first with talking about a group retreat.  I have been on several and from my very first one I knew that I did the right thing.  Of course not all retreats were the same.  Some weren’t exactly what I had in mind but I found I could find a benefit in each one.  The beauty of a group retreat is that you get to write with other women just like yourself.  I find the bonding in each workshop I lead such a beautiful thing to witness. I interview each woman that is wanting to partake in one of my retreats because it is important that it will be a right fit for her and for me and the others attending.

I lead retreats all over the world, this year for instance I am hosting retreats in Greece, Italy, Canada, California, Washington and Vermont.  If you google women’s writing retreats you can find lots of varieties of retreats, from low budget to more luxury.  I believe what sets my retreats apart is that mine are all-inclusive and small and intimate.  There is plenty of time for workshops plus one on one time with me for everyone that chooses to schedule it.  You can use the down time to work on your own work or get to know the other women better on your retreat.  My goal is that each woman leaves inspired and encouraged that they matter and that what they want to write about matters!

Another type of retreat I lead is the private retreat.  I host these in my home in Washington or in California.  The women who join me on a private retreat are focused on their own personal writing journey.  Some come to me with a manuscript that is finished but needs a rigorous rewrite with fresh eyes, others come with just an idea still in their head.  I plan the meals and create a space to encourage freedom to really just write (and learn!).

I love both these types of retreats and each serves its own purpose.

Bottom line is are you ready to invest in yourself?  Let’s talk about how we can make a retreat a possibility in 2019 or 2020….

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Guest Blog from a wonderful high school senior

Afloat in the Pacific

By Mlen Azurin


Superpowers do not exist, so they say.

But let me tell you about human flight.


In 1996, a young man flew for 11,700 kilometers.

He soared 30,000 feet in the air

to land in a country that didn’t even use the metric system.

So I used feet here for dramatic effect

And so Americans can understand.


Now his English was okay,

A little accented, but just enough to get by.

He lived in a tiny LA home,

with an aunt to teach him the way.


Shortly after, a young woman he knew from college joined him.

He proposed to her a while before over the phone.

I was eight, with wide eyes and a glittering in ‘em,

When I learned of this not so romantic story.


Now let me tell you about where he flew from.

A country riddled in poverty,

But with a hospitality that can cleanse the filthiest heart

And lands so riveting they have to be art.


In 2000, a little girl was born at 7:42am.

So much potential in the tiniest of bundles,

Surrounded with love and grace.

Who knew of what she would face?


Now let me tell you about myself.

I’m stuck in this ravine of cultures

The Philippines is in this strategic spot,

And because of it, in wars it was caught.


From it bubbled a confusion.

I’m not Asian enough Because of imperialism from Spain

But I will not claim the source of 300 years of pain.


My origin is not considered Hispanic, either.

Because of its language and East Asian influences,

And its basic geographical location Which places it in Asia.


But the country that this man flew to,

The one that doesn’t use the metric system,

Ruled us, it’s true.

And it’s the location of my birth.


Now let me remind you of the importance of labels.

Outsiders find it so necessary

To put us on a spectrum

Because it’s easier that way.


For them, but not me.

Not us,

Not the little girl born at 7:42am,

Who’s stuck in this arbitrary web.


She wants to fit in with the larger crowd,

But she can’t help but feel a bit lost

. A little too different,

Like she’s afloat in the Pacific Ocean.


Now let me tell you about superpowers,

The man could fly,

The woman built force fields to protect the girl,

And the girl could swim for lifetimes

But still feel like she’s drowning.

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"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

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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.

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