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Your Story Matters

Why LGBTQ+ Stories Matter

Today is National Coming Out Day, a day I didn't even know existed when I was living as a straight woman in a mixed-gender marriage.

Back then, I was oblivious to the struggles of LGBTQ+ folx and the history of that community. I "knew of" gay people, but I didn't have a single LGBTQ+ friend. Or at least I didn't think I did.

This isn't an uncommon experience.

In fact, it's one of the main reasons why National Coming Out Day exists.

Robert Eichberg, one of the founders of NCOD, said in 1993:

"Most people think they don't know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes."

It wasn't until I made a pilgrimage to Iona, a tiny isle off the southwest coast of Scotland, that I realized I did have an LGBTQ+ friend after all.

The year was 2001, and I was a forty-year-old stay-at-home mom searching for my purpose.

I'd left a toxic work environment as a corporate...

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5 Tips for Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster of Writing a Book

You know the roller coaster I’m talking about right?

I wrote about how I felt riding the low point on the emotional roller coaster last week as the high from landing my book deal wore off and the work I have to do on my book—plus life—hit hard.

My clients hit some lows too:

  • "How can I draft a book proposal if I don't even know what my title is yet?"

  • "I'm overwhelmed so I'm not doing anything."

  • "How do YOU make time for writing?"

Here's what I told my writers & myself:

  1. The roller coaster is normal.

The Serenity Prayer that is often shared in 12 Step Meetings is a great guide for writers, even if you never intend to darken the door of a church: 

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Accept the fact that the roller coaster will happen. Don't beat yourself up when it does. 

  1. Life happens and it's okay to take a break. 

You...

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The Emotional Roller Coaster of Writing a Book

"Normalize the roller coaster" is one of the mantras of Dallas Travers who runs The Hive, a business mentorship program for coaches.

Ahh ... the emotional roller coaster.

One day you’re a coach or an entrepreneur flying as high as a kite! You've gotten a few new clients, have discovery calls lined up, and your bank account is finally looking healthy.

Everything is clicking on all cylinders.

Until it isn't.

One of those new clients backs out. On one of those discovery calls you were so excited about, the prospect challenges your prices. You start panicking about the money you're spending on your virtual assistant.

The emotional roller coaster isn't limited to coaches and entrepreneurs.

It happens to writers.

This week it happened to me.

Last week I was still flying high after getting a book deal! 

You can read about my book deal here.

But this week life happened and the high wore off.

My elderly mother fell and was sent by ambulance to the hospital.

I started my book...

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What Following Your Writing Dream Looks Like

 

In my early forties, I began noticing an almost supernatural glow on the faces of certain friends when they talked about a new project or work they felt passionate about. Work where their gifts and the needs of the world were aligned.

Truth be told, I envied them—I wanted to glow too.

I had left a toxic work environment as a corporate lawyer in my late twenties, and between birthing and raising two sons I'd been searching for the right fit career path.

After my kids left for college, I finally found that path.

I put a stake in the ground and claimed my call as a writer. I set aside time to write. Went to writers conferences. Joined a writing group. Hired a book coach—and later trained to become one myself.

I finished one manuscript and started another.

And in the process, my life changed, in more ways than one.

Nearly a decade after saying "I am a writer"—something I had known my whole life but had been afraid to say out loud—I...

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Representation Matters

I'm in a conference room at my wife's workplace, Temple University, here to celebrate the investiture of the university's new president and go to the homecoming game.

Every so often, Wendy pops her head into the conference room to introduce me to one of her colleagues. She's proud, I think, of me, and excited that she has a wife to show off. :)

She's finally in a workplace where she doesn't need to hide who she is or who she loves.

That wasn't the case when we first met.

Back then, Wendy was working for a Christian college where it was technically okay for a community member to be gay but only if they didn't act on it.

WTF?

Wendy, on faculty for 20+ years, could have been FIRED for holding my hand in public.

Yep. In 2017, this was the case, and it remains the case today. And firing Wendy would have been completely legal.

I hope someday she'll let me help her write the story of how she ended up being subjected to...

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Don't Be Afraid to Dream Big

My friend Byron is a Southern gentleman with a wicked sense of humor and an equally wicked sense of style.

Like he would wear a made-to-order seersucker tuxedo to a black tie wedding.

And in that very dapper seersucker tuxedo, Byron asked me about my book.

Sidebar: If you're writing a book and you let people know about it, be prepared for questions.

ALL.

THE.

TIME.

What's happening with your book?

When's it coming out?

Where can I buy it?

But Byron isn't just a good friend; he's also a board member of a nonprofit independent press that focuses on Southern authors and stories. He knows a thing or two about publishing.

After I told him that I was "this close"—I was holding my thumb and forefinger a half inch apart—to being offered a publishing contract by a university press, he asked me how many copies I expected the press to print in their first run.

A question I frankly hadn't even thought about. A question I now know to research and ask about when I...

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Celebrate the Milestones in Your Memoir Journey

My heart nearly stopped when I read the subject line of the email:

Readers Reports: Graveyard of Safe Choices

The email from the university press I'd been waiting for all summer was finally here.

Catch up on the previous steps in my publication journey here.

I scanned the email:

Happy news.

Both readers recommend publication.

I put my head in my hands and started to cry. 

After 4+ years and I don't know how many drafts, it looks like my memoir has found a home.

It's not a done deal yet—there's still a couple of approvals left to go and one more semi-substantial revision to address the very helpful comments from the peer reviewers—but I think this thing is going to happen.

I'll shout it from the rooftops once I have a publication date—but I'm not going to wait to celebrate.

This is a big f**ing milestone!

Because there were days—many days—that I wanted to give up.

When I thought no one would care about my story.

When It felt too hard to revisit...

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What Memoir Writers Fear Most

Beck came to me last spring with a vague idea about the story he wanted to write.

Snippets of experiences from my childhood living as a girl and moments of parallel in adulthood, as I re-experience firsts as a man.

Okay.

I knew there was an important story there, and I also knew that "snippets" weren't going to do it justice.

"What are you most afraid of?" I asked. I figured the snippets approach was a way for Beck to protect himself, to guard his heart from further trauma and judgment.

Snippets! So light and breezy!

Because this is a writer who has been abandoned over and over by the people who are supposed to love him most.

"Oh, I'm afraid that people will think my book is a narcissistic journey into nothingness," Beck said.

I chuckled, not because this was funny but because I hear a variation of this fear all the time from writers.

Being afraid that people will think you're a narcissist if you write your story really means you're afraid that no one will...

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The #1 Key to Writing a Memoir That Works

I once heard an editor from one of the Big 5 publishers say: “I’m looking for books that are both completely unique and exactly the same.” And she laughed.

I laughed too.

But now I've come to believe that the intersection of “completely unique” and “exactly the same” IS the key to writing an effective memoir.

Two Ways Your Memoir Needs to Be Exactly the Same

#1: It Belongs in a Clear Category

Agents, editors, and publishers like to put books in categories, in boxes. That’s how they know whether they can sell them or not, whether there are readers for those books.

Here are some common categories for memoir:

Cancer journeys. Addiction. Abuse. Trauma. Grief (I read a lot of these). Travel memoirs. Food memoirs. Coming of age. Spiritual journeys. Coming out memoirs.

When there isn’t a clear category, it makes your book more difficult to sell.

#2: It Communicates a Universal Message

Your memoir can’t just be...

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Writer Years Are Like Dog Years

This weekend I head to HippoCamp, a fantastic conference for creative nonfiction writers in Lancaster PA, which happens to be where I now live.

So convenient!

I attended my first HippoCamp four years ago. Four years that have gone by in a flash and at the same time feel like a lifetime ago.

Is that what time feels like for dogs? I've often wondered, being a new-ish dog mom to Lucy, my 9 lb. chihuahua mix. But I digress ...

When I walked into the Lancaster Marriott for HippoCamp 2018, I was just on the other side of a couple of very difficult years navigating coming out as LGBTQ+ and a divorce resulting from that coming out decision. 

I had been furiously writing since coming out, trying to make sense of the life-changing experience I was going through. What was it really about? Why had I made the choices I'd made? Why would anyone care about my story?

I was definitely in "1st Draft Mode"—writing to understand what I was writing...

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