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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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How to Find the Unique Angle for Your Memoir

"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 :)

For a long time LGBTQ+ literature has been largely “L" and “G” and white.

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?

Yes. Here's why it matters to ALL writers:

I've never...

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The Truth About Who Needs to Read Your Story

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 feel seen. Understood. Less alone.

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...

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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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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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