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Archives for April 2015

Writing My Mother’s Memoir: So Who Is She Really?

Today’s guest blogger is Denis Ledoux sharing his experience with writing his mother’s memoir. He’s the author of Should I Write My Memoir?: How to Start (The Memoir Network Writing Series Book 1) Learn more at his website.
Denis' mom is the one standing in center back.

Denis’ mom is the one standing in center back.

If you are like me, you know many details of your mother’s—or father’s—life. But there may be many vague relationships between this event and that event, between causes and effects. In other words, your parent’s life may end up seeming a mishmash of dates and facts and impressions and none of them blending very well together.

Being a person who has always been interested in family history, I considered myself aware of my mother’s and my father’s lives. Having worked with people to write memoirs, I wanted to be sure that I was not caught, as so many people have been, with not getting my parents’ story while the story was still available—which it wasn’t in my father’s case as he was deceased.

I begin to write

In 2009, I began to focus on interviewing my mother. Every few weeks (she lived in a different city), I would visit with her and get in a half hour interview. Since my mother was not primarily interested in preserving her life story (it was my interest), she was not committed to a beginning-to-end interview process. What I ended up doing was simply asking her questions—often in a conversation. Once back home, I would write down her answers to my questions.

My mother did not always sense that I was interviewing her for her memoir. Every once in a while however, I specifically had to inquire, “When was the date that you did this or you did that?” or “Which came first: this event or that?” In those moments, she became aware that I was continuing to write her memoir.

Tweet: My mom asked, “Why are you writing my memoir? Who will want to read it?”http://bit.ly/1dyT1Ju

She also might say, “How in the world are you going to find enough information to fill the pages of a book, even a small book?”

Since I was also working full-time at my company  Memoir Network, writing my mother’s book fit in around the edges of books that I was editing, coaching, ghostwriting. and teaching. In short, it fit around my income production. This process is not unlike how most people will write either their own memoir or the memoir of a loved one.

The memoir continues to grow

Over the next four years, I interviewed my mother and wrote text. When my mother gave up her apartment and moved into an assisted-living facility, I knew the leisurely pace at which I had been writing had to change. I applied myself to completing the memoir and set a time for finishing. I had wanted to get to a later point in her life as the ending.

However my mother’s ability to contribute to the story was diminishing. She had less of a grasp on specific details, on dates, on who was there and who did what when. I opted for a different end point than I had anticipated, one that was closer to the time of the text that I had already written. This proved to be a good closing point even if it was disappointing to three of my siblings whose birth did not make it into the memoir. (I mentioned them in an afterword.)

What did I get from writing my mother’s story?

I got acceptance of her life, a sense of who she was, and that who she was was just fine.

Tweet: Writing my mother’s memoir gave me the opportunity to get to know her in an intimate way. http://bit.ly/1dyT1Ju

Writing my mother’s memoir gave me the opportunity to get to know her in an intimate way that I had not had the opportunity to before. Her past had been vague; the setting of her life not at all clear; the sequencing of events haphazard at best.

There were a few occasions in my mother’s life when her response was a hero’s response, when she rose to the needs of an occasion that was difficult to live. She conducted herself well in those circumstances. That is a hero’s response. But the bulk of my mother’s life was yoeman’s work, pick and shovel work. It consisted of making a home, going to work, raising children and so forth. It was day-after-day work. Now this may be hero’s work of a certain kind but it turned out that it was a rather humdrum and ordinary sort of work. In a way, my mother’s life helped me to understand and to accept my own yeoman’s work.

In time, I produced a book I called We Were Not Spoiled: A Franco-American Memoir.

Finally, the hard copy was finished and I showed it to my mother.

Tweet: When she saw the memoir, she said “How in the world did you ever find enough to say about me to fill so many pages?” http://bit.ly/1dyT1Ju

As I wrote her life, one task that was important to me was to fit her life into a cultural, social, and historical context.

Large parts of the 208-page book have to do with her time, with cultural or historical events. For instance, there was a flood in her city in 1936. Briefly I wrote about that flood. There were developments in the political life of her city that affected her. I also dealt with these on occasion. There were historical contexts that made for why she lived where she lived.

Many details having to do with our ethnicity, details that distinguished her adaptation to American life from that of members of other groups, found their way into the book. My mother’s bigger picture was one that was familiar to me and it was not difficult to place her life in that larger context.

Because of this bigger picture, the book proved to be of interest to more people than my mother anticipated. We Were Not Spoiled: A Franco-American Memoir has been sold on Amazon and has attracted comments either in the review section or in emails that people have sent me saying, “You wrote my mother’s life! How did you know her so well?” This, of course, is a fun note to receive.

Tweet: Whether you are writing your own memoir or somebody else’s I urge you not to put the task off. http://bit.ly/1dyT1Ju

Go ahead and commit to writing. The benefits are well worth the effort that you will have to expend.

Good luck.



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Orange County Self-Publishers and Indie Authors, Join Our Meetup



After talking to many aspiring self-published/indie authors in Orange County, I became convinced there was enough interest to justify a meetup focusing on the business of self-publishing.  That’s why I created OC Self-Publishers and Indie Authors on the Move.  To join this meetup, visit http://www.meetup.com/OC-Self-Publishers-and-Indie-Authors-on-the-Move/

This group is for you if you’ve

  • spent months or years creating your novel, memoir, or nonfiction masterpiece, but not sure how to publish or make money from it
  • heard that self-publishing is the fastest way to get your book published and sold, but you don’t know where to start
  • you need a platform, but have no idea what that means or how to get one

Our main meetups will take place monthly at the Microsoft Store in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa starting Friday, April 10th from 10AM-11:45AM. The Store is located on the lower level between the carousel and Corner Bakery.

In addition to our main free meetup, I’ll announce other free and paid events to help you advance your writing/publishing endeavors.

Discover the 10 New Rules of Publishing and How They Benefit You

Publishing was already changing at the start of the 21st century, but during the last decade there has been rapid change and growth. In our first meeting we’ll discuss the 10 new rules of publishing and how they’ve turned things in your favor.

Space is limited (no joke!) so reserve your spot right away  to get live consultation on your self-publishing questions.

All aspiring authors welcome! I’ll buy the coffee and the muffins, you bring your questions for this and future meetings.

This meetup fills quickly, so be sure to RSVP early.

Once again: SPACE IS LIMITED. If you discover you can’t make itm be courteous to others who would like to attend and please keep your RSVP status current. You can always come back to this meetup and change your status from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ with just one click. Help us keep an accurate count of who is attending. Thanks!

Get Started Before the First Meetup

In the meantime, how about introducing yourself on the meetup page.  How could this group most benefit you? Where are you in your publishing journey?  Fiction? Nonfiction? Genre? What is your biggest writing/publishing challenge?

Be sure to upload your photo to your profile so when we can see your lovely personality shining through.

Download a copy of a free ebook I’ve prepared for you, A Manifesto for Aspiring Authors. Sign up to get it now at https://coloryourlifepublished.com/landing/welcome

To join the OC Self-Publishers and Indie Authors on the Move meetup, visit http://www.meetup.com/OC-Self-Publishers-and-Indie-Authors-on-the-Move/

Join Us at the Inaugural Meeting of Publishers and Writers of Orange County, Sat., April 4th

happy writers--canstockphoto.com


Publishing and writing can be lonely, but there’s no need for it to be.  Success comes much faster when you build relationships and share experiences  with fellow travelers on the road to publication.




Saturday, April 4, from 10 AM to Noon


City of Orange Library (Rotary Room)
407 East Chapman Avenue
Orange, CA 92866


What’s Really Going On In Publishing Today? Power to the Author!

With Borders out of business, rumors of Barnes and Noble’s demise, Amazon growing by leaps and bounds, and ebook readers showing up everywhere, publishing is definitely the New Frontier. Karla Olson, 30-year veteran of the publishing industry, will share her observations about the business and the best strategies for realizing your publishing dreams.

But even though it has become so easy to publish, this isn’t the time to skip steps and cut corners. Book buyers know what they want, and typos, hard-to-read layouts, and books that don’t deliver on their promises are making them mad. Don’t fall victim to the “write today, publish it tomorrow” mentality. If it is worth publishing, it is worth publishing it right.

Karla Olson, Director of Patagonia Books and founder of consulting agency, BookStudio, will take you step by step through the stages of the publishing process, and tell you why it is more important than ever to spend the time, money, and thought on publishing not just fast, but right. Along the way she will offer ideas of what the standards are that you need to meet and ways to find the resources you need. Karla Olson is the Director of Patagonia Books, the publishing division of Patagonia, Inc. She is also the founder and president of BookStudio, a publishing strategist, consultant, editor, and book packager. She is the president of Publishers and Writers of San Diego, and the founder and president of Read Local, an online directory of local authors.


Please RSVP at http://www.meetup.com/Publishers-Writers-Orange-County/events/221189347/
$10 for members; $20 for non-members. We accept cash, checks, or credit cards, but consider paying by PayPal when you RSVP.

For questions, please contact Karla Olson, PWSD President at Karla@publisherswriters.org