Friday, October 26, 2012

Reading And Relaxing the Perfectionist

For many people public speaking is about as pleasurable as root canal.  You move to the podium, adjust the microphone, take a deep breath, look out on a sea of faces, and hope it won't be painful; that your inner muse guides you.
What author can avoid public readings if he or she is intent on and serious about connecting with an audience?  So it was that authors in our Women's Writing Circle overcame the jitters and presented a lively and varied tableau of stories and poems in front of a packed audience at one of our local independent bookstores last night. 
For some it was their first public reading.  They had no idea what to expect.  For others, who are published authors, it was yet another opportunity to connect and bring our stories "alive." No matter how experienced you are, it is a bit terrifying, but always gratifying and stimulating.

Yet, what sustains, supports and empowers us is the camaraderie and magic of being in this together.  We broke the silence, relaxed our perfectionist's muscles, stuffed the inner critic in a corner and read in the belief we had something of worth to share.

Our readers' presentations ran the gamut: childhood recollections of a beloved grandparent; a woman's cry to be accepted and not labeled by her sexual orientation; the pathos of being forced by parents to attend charm school as a little girl; the craziness of Internet dating amid the longing for connection; being loved and loving a famous man; coming to terms and reviewing a life of friendships and missed opportunities but finding solace in the spirituality of something as simple as peeling potatoes under cool, running water.

And, so, last night we concluded our first public reading of the Women's Writing Circle here in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  For those in the audience, many of the stories were a preview of our upcoming anthology:  Slants of Light:  Stories and Poems From the Women's Writing Circle, which we are self-publishing and is due out this Spring.

Many thanks to the Chester County Book and Music Company for hosting us.

"The Circle," one woman wrote today, "ROCKS!" 

And, so it does . . .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's The Harm in Publishing Your Memoir?

What's the harm in publishing your memoir?   The answer was swift from one writer.   "It could change relationships."  Dwelling on that issue is without a doubt the greatest obstacle to many fine memoirs being finished and published. The concern of going public with a memoir that could paint an unflattering portrait - at least in the eyes of the person being written about - tends to overwhelm the writer, paralyze her. She becomes obsessed with questions about "betrayal" and "disloyalty."
Others, as voiced at the Women's Writing Circle, "have moved way beyond," those concerns.  They are the writers standing the best chance of finishing their projects.
Instead of the negative, let's turn to the positive side of writing a memoir.  As one writer said yesterday, "We are bearing witness to our journey."  I have written about this before; the generosity of sharing our stories. Many in the Circle agree that it is through our writing we have come to know each other better than many of our family and friends know us.  Not only have we borne witness to our story, we have thrown out a "creative lifeline" . . .one person bears witness, leading another and another to do the same.
No author should go lightly into publishing a memoir.  Rule Number One. It takes hard work to write a worthy book.  That means delivering information and experiences that help others, while engaging them in a "good read." If we write an engaging story, then it goes without saying we moved beyond the "fishbowl" of one life and broadened our story into the universal experience.

Concentrating on the positive, rather than the negative, frees us.  It unblocks our stalled energy, our demons, not just as writers, but as human beings.  Yesterday, one woman turned to me and said, "Why am I so hard on myself?  So what if I make a mistake? I move beyond that, shrug, and laugh it off, learn from it." 
Does your story harm others?  If the story is overpowered by bitterness, vengeance, regrets, you need to take a second look. Such a story harms you, the writer, as much as anyone.  The lessons of memoir - healing, writing about obstacles and how to overcome them . . . sharing a powerful and empowering journey . . . have not been learned or appreciated.
One of the writers at yesterday's Circle suggested a writing prompt:  What are you most afraid of?  Do you know?