Sustainability in Writing and Life

The last couple of months have been a wild ride, with the dismantling of Roe v. Wade,  the ongoing Ukraine war, climate inaction, inflation, oppressive heat waves, ugh. Staying engaged seems especially challenging these days. Writing, even more so. At the same time, how can we move forward if we’re not engaged? How do we stay resilient in the face of so much yuck? You might also be wondering if writing even matters when the world is on fire. The Importance of Sustainability in Writing and Life   The past few years have been a doozy, and as we continue to navigate these deeply challenging times, I keep returning to the importance of sustainability. The only way I can affect change is to stay grounded, nourished and sane. When I fall into panic, overwork and depletion, nobody benefits. But when I can stay […]

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Birthing a Book + Memoir Writing Classes

Yesterday, one of our writers shared that she’d just landed a publisher! J and I have been working together for a few years and it took her longer than she expected to get her memoir written, so it’s especially sweet to see her so close to the finish line. After celebrating, we spoke about the challenges of writing memoir, and how birthing a book is a process. Much like birthing a baby, we can’t rush the process. As you probably know, writing a full-length memoir isn’t the easiest journey. Because of its personal nature, memoir can be a long and twisty journey, one that’s even trickier for those of us dealing with difficult material. It also isn’t the easiest journey to travel alone. And you might find that you need different kinds of support along the way. Memoir Writing Classes   Here’s the […]

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How to Build a Strong Narrative Arc in Memoir

A key concept in my memoir courses is the importance of building your memoir around conflict and tension. In the simplest possible terms, your character needs to want something. What is it that she wants? What’s stopping her from getting it? And what’s at stake if she doesn’t get it? The answers to those questions create tension, which is what keeps the reader turning the pages. It’s what keeps your reader engaged. But when we’re writing a book-length memoir, it’s easy for the tension to drop in the middle. And if your reader gets bored and puts your book down, then you’ve lost your chance at making an impact. That’s why we discuss various ways to maintain that tension throughout your entire memoir in my new 9-week online course, Navigating the Messy Middle. Juggling your primary theme with your minor themes (or subplots) […]

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The Importance of Choosing

With the New Year around the corner, many of us are excited to start new writing projects or dive into old ones. If you have multiple writing projects on your plate, it can be challenging to decide where to spend your precious time and energy. How to Focus Your Writing Time and Energy That can be even harder if you’ve been working on your memoir for a long time. Stories grow and change over time, and sometimes we need to let go of an outdated vision in order to make way for a new one. Other times, the beating heart of the project is still there, waiting for us. The trick is in consciously deciding. Oftentimes, we put off choosing in a misguided attempt at keeping ourselves safe. But that just keeps us stuck. And it keeps our dreams on the back burner.  So […]

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What are You Really Writing About?

What is Your Memoir Really About? With memoir, it can take some digging to get to the heart of what we’re really writing about. There’s the story of what happened, and then there’s the meaning we’ve attached to it. In memoir, it’s not enough to tell us what happened—we need to know what that event meant to you. To help with that clarity, here’s an exercise I did with a recent class at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. “Truth in a memoir is achieved not through a recital of actual events; it is achieved when the reader comes to believe that the writer is working hard to engage with the experience at hand. What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the larger sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story […]

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Writer’s Block? Try This

In my Memoir Mastery course and Mastermind workshop group, we’ve spent the past month talking about structure. There’s the craft and technique of writing memoir and then there’s the pulling together of all the pieces. That can be daunting with a book length project. It can be easy to fall into overwhelm. Memoir Writing Tips Today I’d like to invite you to bring curiosity to your project. To approach your memoir with inquiry instead of overwhelm. Instead of shutting down into “I don’t know how,” try opening into inquiry: “How can I?” This can be a powerful reframe, helping us write from an open and expansive place vs. a stressed and constricted one. Here’s an example of how this played out for me this week: For the past month or so, I’ve been circling around a structural problem with my current memoir. Forcing […]

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Course Correcting, Compassion and Forgiveness

In my Memoir Mastery course, we talk a lot about course-correcting. Writing a compelling memoir isn’t the straightest of paths. There’s exploration and play, deepening and thickening, and the final piece often looks different than expected. That’s why we start with a plan, then compassionately adjust as we go. It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. –E.L. Doctorow Part of the writing process involves course-correcting our expectations. We often think the process will be easier and quicker than it is. That’s where compassion and self-forgiveness come in. If we get stuck in the inner critic loop, we’re done. I’ve learned this the hard way. In the past 20 years, I’ve written five books, two of which have been published. Course-correcting has been an essential part of this […]

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How to Fill Your Creative Well

Filling Your Well vs. Burning Out In capitalist Western culture, we’ve been taught to prioritize hard work in exchange for “success.” Many of us work harder and faster, without taking the time and space we need to refill our well (health, happiness and well-being). I find this all too often translates into our creative work as well. We’re taught to write every day, do more, work faster, blah blah blah. I call BS. Because if you’re on constantly on task/ under the gun and you’re not feeding your creative well, you’ll eventually burn out. That’s not why we’re here. Art is meant to feed and inspire us. But it can’t do that when we’re trapped within the confines of urgency and perfectionism—hallmarks of capitalism and white supremacy culture. What’s Filling Your Creative Well? What’s Inspiring Your Writing?  Now that my kids are fully […]

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Reboot Your Memoir

Community and Support for Your Memoir One of my big takeaways from the pandemic is the importance of community, especially for us writers. Today, I’m excited to share two offerings that have come out of this challenging year. First up is Reboot Your Memoir, a 4-week class I’m offering this June to help you reboot and reinvigorate your memoir. (Keep reading for more info). I’ll also be offering a beautiful new Writer’s Circle community for accountability and support designed to support the serious writer. Priority will be given to Memoir Mastery alumni, and we’ll start in July. More info coming soon! Reboot Your Memoir Writing your memoir can be an especially rewarding journey. At times, it can also be quite challenging. On bad days, it can feel like you’re shooting at a moving target. There’s a reason so many memoirists get stuck, particularly once the initial […]

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Which Creative Seeds are You Planting?

Change and transition seem to be my watchwords these days. Spring, the Covid vaccine and pivotal birthdays have been going on in my corner of the world, inspiring me to think about ritual, thresholds and what inspires real change. All the more so after Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict here in the U.S. last week. It was a drop in the bucket, to be sure. But finally, a bit of accountability. Let’s keep it coming, folks. We have so much work to do with Black Lives Matter, climate change, gun reform and anti-Asian violence, to name a few of the shifts we’re currently navigating. With biracial children and a Japanese American husband, the recent spate of anti-Asian violence has hit especially close to home. (See a list of anti-Asian violence resources here.) All of which has got me thinking about what enables change and […]

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