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.
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.
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...
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.
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:
"We're really excited about your book," the thirty-something editor said to me. "Because we want to publish the plurality of the queer experience."
Maybe that was her nice way of saying that there aren't a lot of books out there by middle-aged white women who discover they are LGBTQ+ in their fifties :)
Yes, we needed and need those stories. But we also need a plurality of LGBTQ+ stories to share the plurality of the queer experience.
Stories like IN THE DREAM HOUSE and GENDER QUEER from BIPOC queer writers like Carmen Maria Machado and Maia Kobabe, respectively. From lesbians, gay, trans folx, bisexual, nonbinary, young and old queer folx. From every color in the rainbow.
But what if you're not part of the rainbow? Does the editor's comment have anything to do with you?
When I ask my book coaching clients WHY they want to write their story, they typically say something like:
"I want to write the book I wish I had when I was going through X."
I get that.
When I was coming out, I was desperate to read stories of other women who came to terms with their sexuality later in life and how they had navigated that life-altering journey.
Did they stay in or leave their marriages? Could they find a way to live with their longings and not act on them? Was there any path to happiness or was their only path full of pain?
What did they do when everything they thought they knew about themselves was upended?
I wanted to know that it was possible to get to the other side of the bombshell that had exploded in my marriage.
That is, I believe, why we read memoir. Sure, there's the thrill of reading a page-turner, but there's nothing quite like that moment when you feel an author is inside your head, expressing feelings you...
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.”
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.
More details to come!
Now that I work with...
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.
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...
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.
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.
Your memoir can’t just be...
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...
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...
Writers go on a hero’s journey when they make the decision to get their story out of their heads and onto the page.
Queer writers go on a Queero’s Journey!
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