Your Story Matters

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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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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What's My Story Really About Anyway?

My essay “The Subaru Should Have Been a Sign,” went viral on today.com.

I still can’t freaking believe it.

In case you haven’t read it yet, click on this link.

Barb from Subaru Customer Service reached out to say that her colleagues were in awe of the piece. “It really resonated with us,” Barb said. “Everybody at some point needs to take a big leap and follow their heart.”

My heart took a little leap at that moment, and I may have even gotten a bit choked up. Because isn’t that what we all want as writers? To know that our writing connected with a reader. That we touched someone’s heart. That they felt seen or known or less alone.

And the interesting thing for me—so far—has been that I’ve heard from at least as many straight readers as I have from readers in the queer community.

Because my piece wasn’t about being gay or coming to terms with my sexuality later in life. That was the...

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Good Memoirs Are Not Acts of Revenge

 

Are you searching for your next read? Keep reading below to learn more or watch the video all about this recommendation! 

[Video trigger warning: the recommended book mentions sexual abuse]


Like you probably do, I get my book recommendations from people I trust. I’m in several online writers groups and a member of one of those groups is Laura Davis, the author of The Burning Light of Two Stars . I heard enough buzz about the book in the group that I decided to check it out, plus the subject matter interested me.


It’s a story about a complicated mother-daughter relationship and the tension that can arise between siblings when one sibling is bearing the brunt of the care for an elderly parent. A story many adult children can relate to. I certainly can.

Key takeaways for readers and tips for memoir writers:

The #1 takeaway for me from this memoir is that it’s possible to reimagine a challenging relationship with a parent—it’s...

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This is What a Writing Community Looks Like

This week in my Write Yourself Out Foundations group coaching call, I had the privilege of listening to queer writers share their dreams and fears about writing their stories.

I heard stories about the importance of finding common ground in the disparate parts of the queer community. About fighting insurance companies for gender confirmation surgery. About being forced to hide who you are to do work you love. About tapping into your divine to live as your authentic self. About losing friends and family as you celebrate finally being yourself.

An hour later, my cheeks were wet and my heart was full as I imagined the impact these books will make once they are out in the world.

In my book coaching work, I ask writers to dig deep to get clear on WHY they are writing their books. These LGBTQ+ writers already have a profound understanding of their “whys.” They are ready to go all in and do the hard work of planning their books so they can write forward with intention and...

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Memoir and The One Thing Rule

I handed my friend J some of my favorite books on memoir, including Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir and Beth Kephart's Handling the Truth. J was an accomplished writer already: she'd had a YA novel traditionally published and also had placed essays with national publications. But this was her first foray into memoir writing, and I could tell she was struggling.

"It's a memoir about my dad," she said, then listed several angles she was hoping to include in her book. Red flags went off in my head. I'd been down that road before with clients and also in my own writing process. There's a natural temptation to want to throw everything in, which often comes from one of two places: First, the feeling that this is your ONLY chance to share everything you want to say. And/or second, you really don't know what you want to say so you'll say it all!

The One Thing Rule

"What's the one thing you want people to walk away from your story knowing?," I said to J after listening to her for a while...

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