My Writing Process and Why it Matters
I wanted to tell you a little about my writing process and what it has been like to navigate the writing and publishing world. So, those of you that know me- I am a nurse and knew nothing about writing until I started my memoir. I've journaled most of my life to process my thoughts and feelings and sometimes to get through the day. But I never formally wrote (excluding all those term papers in college) for a publication.
It all started about ten years ago. Beca (my youngest daughter) was in high school and seeing a tutor a couple of times a week at night. So, instead of going home and then coming back, I brought my notebook to a local coffee shop called Kaldi's (I loved that place) and started writing about my cancer experience. As I said, I write in my journal to process my thoughts and feelings. Well, feelings came out that I didn't expect. Memories that I had long put away started creeping in again. The nightmares, anxiety, and impending doom feeling hung over me like a dark cloud. It wasn't until I kept writing that eventually, the darkness would go away, but I couldn't shake the foreboding thoughts that were still recurring in my head. When I realized most of the nightmares that I was having were related to my childhood. I tackled each one to get them out of my head and onto the page.
Then I came across a memoir writing workshop that would take place on the east coast in Connecticut. I can't remember where I saw it. But I thought this would be a great thing to explore, and then I could visit my grown children in Mass while I was there.
This workshop changed my life. When the instructors said: write down as many moments in your childhood that could make a scene. I looked up and noticed the other twenty-five people or so had stopped writing. Me, I was still writing. I wrote down 48 incidents that day. Now that was a book! At the end of the conference, the advice given to me was to -"just keep on writing" - so I did.
There were 12 x 12 sticky notes I hung on my wall to organize chapters. My first, second, then fifth draft. Each time I got better and better at writing. I read everything I could about writing a memoir; I joined the National Association of Memoir Writers. https://www.namw.org I reached out to my mentors from the conference for advice, guidance, and editing. (Yikes… it was so bad in the beginning :) ) I wrote more, learned about reflections, takeaways, and made my writing meaningful.
I had a couple of editors at the beginning of my writing. And, revised, revised and revised. I hired Brooke Warner (https://brookewarner.com), and she changed my life. She is the publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, and president of Warner Coaching Inc. I hired her as a developmental editor. Because my memoir is a braided one, it weaves from the past to the now, and I needed help in organizing it. Scenes were added and taken away. I deleted whole chapters and added some. We worked together until we thought it was complete.
I sent out proposals to agents and publishers and finally decided to publish with She writes Press, A hybrid publisher for women writers. https://shewritespress.com Then came more editing, proofreading, more editing, more proofreading. Designing the book cover (shout out to Book design by Stacey Aaronson) receiving ARC's (advanced readers copies) and then proofreading that. Thanks to my friends Beez and Ruth, who found some errors I didn't. I hired a publicist to promote my name and book. (https://booksparks.com) My finished book will be officially sent off to the printer next week and ready for the world on August 24, 2021.
Wow, What a journey!
I came across a sentence that spoke to me today. Bessel van der Kolk- author of the book- The Body Keeps the Score. (https://www.besselvanderkolk.com) I am sure you've heard me mention that book before (because it truly changed me and my way of thinking).
Trauma is a fact of life. One in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Trauma literally reshapes both the Body and brain, compromising sufferers' capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust.
I mention that because when I started writing my memoir, I felt so alone. Most of the time, I was reliving the pain and suffering I had gone through like it was just yesterday. My friends told me to put down the book, to stop writing because it was stressing me out. I became depressed, anxious and started having panic attacks again. SO why did I continue? I felt like I had something to say. I wanted that little girl and teenager inside of me to have a voice. Nobody was listening to me during my childhood, and I had a lot to say. SO, now I am saying it.
I know it will help other people, look at the stats. One in four grew up in an alcoholic home. I know what's that like, the loneliness, the fright, the sleepless nights. No kid should have to go through that.
I think there is a tremendous amount of power in sharing your journey with others. I wrote my memoir to connect with others, release my pain, and make sense of my life. I have learned so much that I continue to write and am working on another memoir.
Thanks for listening.
Till next time.