Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wonderful memoir writing advice from Kathy Pooler

Kathleen Pooler was guest here last November and happily agreed to bring her memoir writing wisdom back again. Please welcome Kathleen to Choices. I'm sure you're like me and can't wait to read her memoir once it's launched.

I look forward to your reading Kathleen's six writing tips.

Six Tips for Honoring the Story Within: A Memoir Writer’s Challenge
By Kathleen Pooler

“Your sacred place is where you find yourself again and again.” 
Joseph Campbell

Writing a memoir is hard work.

I know because I have been writing mine for the past four years.

That’s not counting the vignettes I started writing about thirteen years ago and the journaling I’ve done since I was a preteen. But I didn’t get serious about my memoir writer’s journey until 2009 when I started memoir writing workshops and started attending regional and national writing conferences.

It’s very humbling to learn what you don’t know, and when I started out, I knew nothing about writing a memoir. I only knew I had a story inside me I wanted to write about it.

It’s a well-known fact in memoir writing circles that writing a memoir is a daunting task fraught with many challenges, not the least being:

* Excavating painful memories
* Standing in your truth
* Dealing with family members or close friends who may not agree with your      perception of the truth.

All that on top of a market that says you have to be a celebrity to sell your story. Granted, some of this is changing with digital publishing but the fact still remains—getting your memoir into the hands of readers remains a challenge.

The odds of writing a memoir that sells can feel pretty overwhelming.
But readers love stories they can connect with and we all have a story to share.

How can we honor these stories?

Here are six tips I’ve learned to counteract these odds and honor the story within:

Tip #1: Connect with your purpose for writing.
         Be clear about why you want to write your story. Do you want to leave a legacy for your grandchildren or are you determined to seek mainstream publication? Either way is fine. You just need to be clear on your purpose.
Connecting with your purpose for writing the story only you can tell, allows you to have a story to tell.

Tip #2: Put your inner critic in his/her place.
         We all have that nagging voice inside that tells us we can’t write; no one will be interested in our story and who cares anyway? Find a way to silence that voice so you can get on with the work of writing. I wrote out this dialogue with my inner critic which helped me.

Tip #3: Find your authentic voice.
         Keep writing until you find the story that is begging to be told and once you find it, believe in it. I found this to be the most challenging part. Once I started writing vignettes, the story unfolded and took on a life of its own. I found my voice through writing and rewriting.

Tip #4: Commit to excellence in every step of the process.
         Study your craft and seek professional guidance along the way—writing mentors, editors, publishing experts (traditional and self-publishing), marketing experts. You can always do it yourself if you know what is expected in each phase of the process and are sure you can meet these expectations with excellence.

Tip #5: Develop a tough skin:
         Be open to having your work critiqued honestly and constructively by readers and writers you respect. Rejection is part of the process. Figure out a way to get over it and get on with the work at hand. Here are two links about not giving up:

 Tip #6: Share your stories openly and often.
         Ask others –besides your family—to be beta readers for your work-in-progress. Joining Joe Bunting’s Story Cartel has been one of the wisest investments I’ve made. I recently sent my work-in-progress memoir to my second round of beta readers as a result of the encouragement received from Joe and other writers in The Story Cartel Course. I also have developed a whole new network of fellow writers and prospective readers. We help promote one another.

Do what it takes to take care of yourself so you can take care of your writing.

Honor the story within. Not only does it deserve to be told, it deserves to shine.

Kathleen's bio
Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir and a sequel about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal, and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving, and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: and can be found on Twitter @kathypooler and on LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads and Facebook: Kathleen Pooler
One of her stories “The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012. Another story: “Choices and Chances” is published in the mini-anthology: “My Gutsy Story” by Sonia Marsh, 2012.


jzr said...

Thanks Kathy and Madeline for a great post. I'm going to look into the story cartel. Sounds like an interesting place.

madeline40 said...

Thanks for stopping by, jzr. Kathy always has great writing wisdom.

Joe Bunting also has a lot of good advice at his The Write Practice blog.

Best, Madeline

Pat said...

Thanks, Kathy, not only for the right on target advice that you always bring on the art of memoir writing, but also to bringing me to Madeline's blog. One of the greatest side perks for anyone who follows you at Memoir Writer's Journey is the way you are have become such a great connector to interesting,like-minded souls.

Unknown said...

Kathleen ... a very thoughtful piece. I think the point that hit home for me was about finding your voice. It took more than a year of writing to even know what it meant to find "my" voice, as opposed to mimicking the voices of writers I admired. But it's exciting when it happens.

madeline40 said...

Pat, I'm so glad you found my blog. Thanks so much for your visit and I hope you'll come back often.

Mary, I agree. This is such an insightful piece. I think I found my voice in writing my memoir - it's much harder with my novel. So some great tips here.

kathleen pooler said...

Thanks, Joan. I hope you do check out Joe Bunting's Story Cartel. It's a supportive place to share our stories.

kathleen pooler said...

Pat, I'm happy you found your way to Madeline's blog! This is such a wonderful, supportive community and I love how we all learn so much from each other. Thanks for stopping by and for your ongoing encouragement and kind words. It is all much appreciated.

kathleen pooler said...

I know , Mary. It seems our voice is always there just waiting to be discovered. All we have to do is show up and write our way to it. Then once we find it, we have to learn to trust it. It definitely is a process that unfolds in it's own time. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thought-provoking insights. Thanks!

kathleen pooler said...

Dear Madeline,

It is such a pleasure to be your guest. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

madeline40 said...

Dear Kathy,
You are always welcome to return to Choices. Thanks so much for your wise words. All best. xo

ShirleyHS said...

Such clear advice. Your dedication to the task of writing this memoir over many years speaks to me, Kathy. And I think I have seen you develop your voice as we have connected many times over the years. You will have a huge crowd of fans when you finish this project, and I, for one, can't wait for that to happen.

Madeline, you have helped many of your own readers by choosing Kathy to guest post. You exemplify these six traits yourself. Cheers!

kathleen pooler said...

Thank you, as always, Shirley for your kind words and your ongoing support and encouragement. I have had many wonderful teachers among you all to guide me on my journey and for that, I am most grateful.

madeline40 said...

Dear Shirley,

Thanks so much for your kind words. It is always my pleasure to have Kathy as a guest here. I hope you'll join me sometime as well.


Write Wisdom said...

Enjoyed the post, thanks!

Write Wisdom said...

Enjoyed the post, thanks!

kathleen pooler said...

Thanks for stopping by, Write Wisdom. I'm happy you enjoyed the post.

Anonymous said...

Look who's catching up on reading blog posts? So good to read your wisdom here at Choices with Madeline. Thanks, Madeline, for hosting Kathy.

Unknown said...

Great job Madeline and Kathy! I'm grateful to continue learning from both of you. Here's to the writing journey and companionship through the process.

Unknown said...

Thank you both! Here's to great courage and the memoir writing journey. I continue to learn from you all.

kathleen pooler said...

Thanks Sherrey and Sue. So good to see you both here--like old home week :-) I love that we keep learning from one another. Thank you both for stopping by.