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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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Two Ways to Handle Rejection for Writers

In 1978, I was a high school senior and an exchange student living in Knutsford England, and I wrote a personal essay for my hometown paper about my study abroad experience.

My first byline!

But it wasn’t until the Southampton Writers Conference in 2013, when I took the plunge and applied for Mary Karr’s memoir workshop that I finally—publicly—declared “I’m a writer.”

It took me 35 years after that first byline to COME OUT as a writer.

They don't call me a late-in-lifer for nothing!

When I soaked in Mary Karr’s wisdom as I sat around the table with 12 other writers, many of whom were much more accomplished than me, I realized how much I didn’t know AND I knew that I was in the right place.

The learning curve would be steep and I would get there someday. And someday has happened.

My coming out later-in-life memoir GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES will be published in Fall 2023.

More details to come! 

Now that I work with...

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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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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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