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What Integrity Looks Like For a Memoir Writer

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of seeing—and hearing!—Adele in concert during her Las Vegas residency.

I had some issues with Las Vegas itself, but that's a story for another day.

The show was intimate, authentic, and spectacular all at once.

Just over a year earlier, Adele had done the unspeakable: she postponed her residency less than 24 hours before the first show.

Calling it the worst moment in her career by far, she agonized over the decision but ultimately made the call because "There was just no soul in it," she said. "The stage setup wasn't right. It was very disconnected from me and my band, and it lacked intimacy."

It takes a great deal of integrity to make that kind of gutsy decision as an artist. As a creative. As a human.

Author and speaker Glennon Doyle made a similarly gutsy decision in 2016, on the eve of the publication of Love Warrior, her memoir about the redemption of her marriage to her husband Craig.

She...

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The Crucial First Step to Coming Out as a Writer

Everyone has a closet.

In her memoir The Family Outing, author Jessi Hempel writes: "The more I live in the world, the more I come to understand that everyone has a closet."

I agree.

Maybe your closet is:

  • Your faith—or lack thereof.
  • An eating disorder or a drinking problem.
  • The desire to leave your "good enough" marriage.
  • Your grief over a loss the world doesn't acknowledge.
  • An estrangement with a family member.

Memoir writers bravely open the door to their closets—for their own sake and for the sake of their readers.

Claiming your identity as a writer—someone who has something to say to the world—is brave and it's scary.

I know what that feels like.

When I first came out in 2016, I couldn't say I was gay or lesbian or queer—let alone that I was a queer writer. I didn't really know what label to attach to the life-changing awakening I'd experienced at midlife.

Shortly after my husband and I decided to divorce, I...

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It's Time to Call Yourself a Writer

Writers, have you ever had an identity crisis?

I had a long professional identity crisis in my thirties and forties. After practicing law for a brief period, then caring for young children, the wandering and searching for the "thing I was meant to do" ensued.

For years, I felt frozen—and shame—every time someone asked me "What do you do?"

You know that question everyone inevitably asks when they first meet you.

I stammered and made apologies when I didn't have a simple—or satisfactory-to-me—answer, and pretty much wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in it in those moments.

During those years of wandering, I often forgot my gifts and what I loved to do.

I forgot that I had been a teenager who published my first article when I was a high school senior, a personal essay in my local newspaper about a study abroad experience in England. 

My father, back in New York with the rest of my family, had mailed me a copy of the newspaper clipping with this note:

...

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The #1 Key to Creating Your Writing Life

My yoga studio has a Century Club—you earn a prize once you reach 100 classes a year. One year, pre-pandemic, I practiced over 200 times! That meant showing up on my mat 5 x a week on average.

This fall, I barely showed up at all.

In October I practiced yoga ONCE.

Life got in the way.

I was:

  • Knee deep in revising GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES, my coming-out-later-in-life memoir.
  • Preoccupied with my elderly mother’s health crisis.
  • Traveling.
  • Drinking too much bourbon, which impacted my sleep.

I’d sign up for classes and cancel at the last minute.

It got to the point that I was embarrassed to go to the studio because I hadn’t been there for so long.

I stopped thinking of myself as a yogi. I stopped even signing up for classes because what a joke! I knew I would cancel.

One day I said to myself, you are getting on your mat no matter what. You don’t have to practice 5-6x a week. You just have to practice today.

I showed up to class. It was hard, but I felt...

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2022 Book Round-Up

books suzette's stories Jan 05, 2023

I'm a little late to the game for a 2022 book roundup, but better late than never.

This year, like the two years before it, is a time to give each other grace, don't you agree?

Readers aren't always writers—but writers should always be readers! If you aren't reading in the genre you are writing in, start now! That's the number one thing you can do to improve your writing.

You'll notice that my list is heavily skewed toward memoir ...

So READERS and WRITERS, here are 12 books that moved me (and why) in 2022:

1. Lost and Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz

The author explores the relationship between grief and joy, two emotions that feel like opposites but are very often held in the same experience. That certainly has been the case for me in my "new life," and it's a tension I plan to explore in my next book.

2. Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood by Mary Alice Hostetter

This is a cool one for me! The author grew up in Lancaster PA, where I now live, although under very...

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What Brave Looks Like For a Memoir Writer

I smiled earlier this month when my business coach asked a fill-in-the-blank question during a goal-setting workshop:

I wish I was brave enough to _________.

Really? My memoir, GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES, is all about breaking free from a play-it-safe and small life. Do I have to keep being brave? Wasn't leaving everything I knew behind and starting over in my mid-50s brave enough?

Yes, that's a photo of my condo on move-in day five years ago.

But as I held a pen in my hand, the answer came quickly:

I wish I was brave enough to put myself out there more.

I’m going to have to put it out there soon—my coming out later-in-life memoir will be published in late Fall 2023 or early Winter 2024.

It feels so VULNERABLE. So visible. So public.

Truth bomb: Writing your personal story is an act of bravery.

This is especially true for people in the LGBTQ+ community who've been judged and shamed for simply being who they are.

These writers are brave souls who know there are readers...

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4 Big Learnings From My Memoir Revision

Monday morning I sent the final draft of GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES to my editors at the University of Wisconsin Press!

And ever since, I've been sitting with all the feels.

I'm thrilled. Terrified. Proud of myself for being brave enough to tell my story. Happy I didn't give up when the rejections piled up and it seemed like I would never get clear on what my story was really "about."

The final edits were "interesting" to say the least. As I went through my manuscript ONE LAST TIME (okay, who am I kidding? THREE LAST TIMES), several important insights emerged.

Here are 4 big learnings from my memoir revision:

1. Trust your gut

There were sentences, phrases, and even words that bothered me every time I reviewed my draft. Sometimes it was because the text was awkwardly written or the words did not communicate exactly what I wanted to say.

I wondered if the detail was necessary or gratuitous—was this a "darling" I needed to chop or was it important to the story? If I was...

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What Are Your Writing Goals for 2023?

Years ago, when I was in the throes of hands-on parenting, my nightstand was piled high with parenting books.

One of those books was GOOD FAMILIES DON'T JUST HAPPEN.

As I recall, the author was the mother of TEN SONS (and no daughters) and her book described the intentionality with which she and her husband approached child-rearing and what made their family work.

Putting aside the astonishing amount of testosterone in that household, the central point of the book is a good one (an aside for writers: note how perfectly the title communicates the point of the book!).

Good families don't just happen. They require intentionality, commitment, consistency, support, and a plan—and the ability to pivot when the plan isn't working.

And good books don't just happen—they also require intentionality, commitment, consistency, support, a plan—and the ability to pivot.

Those 80%+ of Americans who say they want to write a book "some day"—most of them, I reckon, would like...

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Why I Read and Write Memoir

Behind the public-facing (Instagram) joy of landing my book deal, life is, as Glennon Doyle calls it, "Brutiful." Brutal + beautiful!

My 87-year-old mom fell eleven weeks ago and the stress hasn't let up since. Beth, my sister and only sibling, has shouldered most of the load.

ER visits. Hospital stays. Rehab. Managing caregivers and medication. Grocery shopping. Phone calls at all hours from health care professionals and our mother. I've done what I can from long-distance—primarily dealing with insurance companies and being a safe place for my sister to vent.

We've never had to deal with a situation like this before. Our mom was the caregiver for our dad, who died eleven years ago at age 73 after living with Parkinson's disease for 22 years. Now we're the ones on the front lines.

We're exhausted. Angry. Frustrated.

And many days we feel alone—and hopeless.

We're grasping at straws, searching for help, information—something to help us get through this.

...
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The Right Publication Path for Your LGBTQ+ Memoir

Maybe you’ve heard it’s impossible to get a book deal for a memoir if you aren’t a celebrity or you don’t have millions of followers on TikTok.

You’re not a celebrity (yet) and you don’t have millions of TikTok followers (yet), so maybe you're thinking “why bother” writing a memoir at all?

After all, it’s a big commitment.

It will take time—and require a lot of emotional energy.

And, if you’ve never written a book before, there’s a steep learning curve ahead of you.

So why bother writing a memoir?

That’s a great question and one every writer should ask themselves before they say YES to writing a book.

When I ask my LGBTQ+ memoir clients why they want to share their story, many of them say—”This is something I HAVE to do. I HAVE to get this story out.”

Why bother? Because:

  • YOU need to tell this story for YOU.
  • There are readers whose very lives depend on hearing your story.
  • ...
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