Q: I understand that health problems lead you to write your memoir Riding Grace:A Triumph of the Soul. If a writer is contemplating writing a memoir or stories from life, how should he or she approach such a daunting project?
A:Writers often get stuck contemplating how and where to start and end their memoirs or they feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material, not knowing what stories from their lives to include that will appeal to readers. I suggest you focus first on the transformational journey you want to convey.
You were one person when you started. Then, by the end of the life segment you want to write about, you had changed. Maybe you went from being lost to finding courage and strength. Or, like me, you faced a health challenge that had no cure and then you healed in more ways – body, mind, and spirit – than you imagined.
To begin ask yourself what are the one or two main messages you want to convey about that time? What are the one or two main lessons you learned? What life theme did you explore? Then, consider what stories from your life, relationships, conversations – both the high points and the key struggles and obstacles –show those main changes, messages and lessons. Write those stories first and you are on your way.
My memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, covered 12 years of a healing journey.When the illness appeared, I had already been a professional writer, with a nonfiction book published by a large traditional publisher. So writing was my natural form of expressing what I was called to share about this life-changing event. At first, I started writing all the breakthrough stories of my healing experiences and ended up with 1000 pages without a viable structure. And I knew no publisher would touch it at that length.
When I asked myself those three questions, I found the core message of my book and I cut 800 pages. Some of those 800 pages included meaningful, beautiful writing and stories. But I learned to stay focused on the transformational story and message I most wanted to convey.
Q: Can you talk more about the workshop you’re teaching at Claim Your Story and your approach to teaching and mentoring other writers?
A: Most writers I know and work with face writing challenges that go beyond questions of craft while creating a book – from fear and self-doubt to lack of time and the inner critic. Yet many writers feel alone in these inner struggles. They are not.
These challenges are a natural part of the writing process. Writing challenges are like the “guardians at the gate” on the journey to completing your book. Each time you face one and pass through a gate, you build confidence and hone your writing skills. Writing challenges also hold opportunities such as teaching you to deepen your self-expression and commitment to writing.
We will be discussing three core—– of all writing challenges, the challenges themselves and offer lots of practical tips and keys to transforming them. And I share personal experiences and the experiences of other writers as well.
I’ll be sharing what worked for me and we’ll spend time on guided writings and prompts and to inspire them to find their own natural rhythm and style of writing within busy lives and work schedules.
Q: What challenges do you face when you write?
A: The shorter question would be what challenges do not still drop by from time to time. The difference now is that I have tools to use to transform them into energy for writing and to glean the messages they bring me about my writing.
I also have a knowing deep in my heart that I have gotten through them before. I can and will do it again. I have a choice. Persistence is such a key for me. I acknowledge the challenge, and I continue to show up and write. I hold my larger purpose in my heart.
Q: What is your best advice for writers in 12 words or less?
A: Show up. Write for yourself first. However you write it is right.
Q: When you are not writing how do occupy your time?
A: Going to movies, reading, hiking and exercising, spending time with family and friends, rejuvenating in nature and my garden, meditating, playing with my cat, and – let me not forget – doing all that is involved in promoting the various aspects of a writing business from social media to speaking.
Q:What books are on your night stand?
A: Proof of Heaven by Eban Alexander, Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and A Year With Hafiz: Daily Contemplations, poems by Hafiz and Daniel Ladinsky
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I am writing a novel entitled Secrets of the Trees. Set in the aftermath of the fall of Soviet rule in Latvia in 1993, it is about fraternal twins traveling there to search for answers to an ancestral mystery that lies in secrets hidden in an ancient forest, the heart of a classical ballet dancer they are destined to meet and the massive singing revolution that brought freedom to the Baltics after 50 years of Soviet oppression.
I continue to blog on writing and support writers to write and complete their books and stories through writing coaching, editing and classes for memoir, nonfiction and fiction writing at Transformationalwriters.com. I am also developing a series of new writing mentoring classes, including one called In the Writing Zone: A Writing Inspiration, Craft and Transformation Extravaganza, another one on Writing the Transformational Journey and a third on transforming writing challenges, which builds on the presentation I am making at Claim Your Story.