Monday, March 2, 2015

Cate Russell-Cole On Life Stories

While dozens of useful resources exist on how best to write and market a book, it's not as easy to find strategies to address that all-too-common fear  . . . is my story mundane? Is it worth telling?

As Cate Russell-Cole points out in this essay, writing has value on many levels  . . . and the connections we make by taking that leap of faith and sharing our stories are often surprising. 

"Stories have value. The most mundane one you have is not mundane to someone who needs to hear it," Cate writes.   

"The greater self-understanding you gain from writing will be rewarding, and will assist you through your journey ahead; plus the legacy you can leave for your family, is irreplaceable." 

Cate, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, has researched, written and taught five creativity-orientated courses; worked as a freelance writer and has authored ten non-fiction books. She supports other writers and offers interesting and useful resources through social media.

I was honored to be invited by Cate as a guest blogger recently on her website as she celebrates her 15th anniversary of "Write Your Life Story."  My blog post can be read here:

Please welcome Cate to the Women's Writing Circle

There is no such thing as an average housewife, or a boring person. After fifteen years of teaching memoir, I can confidently state that. 

Some stories are more spectacular than others, but everyone has one that I can be inspired by, marvel at and wonder how I'd cope, if I found myself in the same position.

I've taught a number of different courses over the years and after a time, I find I get restless. I keep hearing my voice churning out the same words again and again, and I grow weary of it all. I have noticed though, that I never get tired of the sound of other's voices, telling their unique tales. Memoir is something I have never wanted to stop teaching.

I have heard stories of tragedy that made me cry; I've heard magical stories of childhood that had the whole class enthralled. Those stories often bring back precious memories of my own, that I'd forgotten. 

I have been known to leave a group then go home and write, as my students have inspired me. A group will pick up threads that elude the individual and working together, the wealth of inspiration that can be pulled together is incalculable. 

I will never forget the day when one of my students introduced herself in a new class, saying that she wanted to write the story of her father, who had been a British pilot in the first World War. 

He had made aerial food drops to a town in Poland. Another lady spoke up and asked, "what town?" It turned out to be the same town where she had lived as a small child. Her family lived barricaded in by enemy troops, and starving. 

That British pilot's efforts kept that Polish child and her family alive. There wasn't a dry eye in the room and those two ladies will be friends for life. Even more remarkable, was the fact that this class was taking place on the other side of the world, as both women had immigrated to Australia.

One of the most inspiring approaches to memoir I have seen, came from an Italian mother, who wanted to write down snippets of her story, plus parts of her family history, in a cookbook form. She also intended to include personal photos and recipes. This book was to have a dual purpose, which is why it has stuck in my mind as being a prime example of the power of memoir. 

There was a rift in her family, which had been around for many years; and the desire was to use the book to mend that rift. It would only be vanity published for family members and the hope was that when people read past their current prejudices, the road to reconciliation could be opened up.

I met her again, several years after the course, and she was one of the very few students who was still continuing to work on her book, despite a very busy life. Having such a strong purpose enabled her to push past distractions, and any lack of confidence she may have felt as a writer. I sincerely hope that book did go to print and achieve it’s goal.

Take the time to write your story, no matter what competency doubts, or time roadblocks may bar your way. It will bring you sorrow, joy, laughter and greatly improve your writing skills. 

If you would like to read more on memoir, Cate’s blog, CommuniCATE Resources for Writers is hosting various memoir authors as guests throughout 2015. There are also a wealth of old, but relevant posts on memoir on the blog. Visit and search for “memoir” at: 

Cate’s Facebook Page on Memoir is here: Write Your Life Story, The Memoir Project

You are also welcome to follow Cate on Twitter. Writing resources are constantly shared in her stream.

Cate’s Bio: Cate Russell-Cole is a qualified creativity coach and social worker, who is fascinated with the psychological and technical aspects of the writing process, characterization and the overall science of creativity. She has a love of the science fiction - fantasy genre and has been writing diaries, poetry and short stories since she was a child. Cate lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and two cats and habitually writes everything in Australian English.

In addition to her freelance work and creativity-oriented courses she is a Christian science fiction/ fantasy author who is working on The Chronicles of Mirchar Series, plus a non-fiction book on the life of King David.

Cate writes and coaches online to an international audience, providing both how-to resources and writer support. Cate also teaches in Brisbane, with both local government and private training providers. More information can be found on her web site at:    Her quick read books for time starved writers can be found on: Most titles are currently 99c.

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