The Healing Power of Memoir Writing Through Truthtelling~A Guest Post by Self-Published Author,Boyd Lemon
“The truth isn’t always beauty but the hunger for it is.” Nadine Gordimer
We had a great discussion about self-publishing last week with self-published author,Rebecca Bricker, This week Boyd Lemon will share his self-publishing journey with us.
When I read Boyd‘s Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,I was fascinated by his raw honesty in addressing the truth about his life story. I am thrilled to have Boyd share his story and his decision to self-publish with us all.
On addressing the truth in memoir writing~
My memoir, Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages, was finished in late 2010, and it was published in May 2011. Some of the writing was exhilarating for me, but the introspection required to uncover what I had buried for years, my role in the destruction of my marriages made most of it emotionally excruciating.
I naturally was concerned about how my ex-wives would react to my honest assessment of why our marriages failed. I had to write about incidents that did not put any of us in a favorable light, as well as disclosing intimate details of our lives. I also worried about its effect on my four adult children.
In the end, writing the memoir was healing. Acquiring insight into why my marriages failed, what my role was, and through therapy and further introspection, forgiving my ex-wives and myself for being flawed human beings, as all of us are, brought me a peace that I had never known.
My ex-wives were not happy, of course. One does not speak to me, although we didn’t speak much before I wrote the memoir. One originally said she liked it, but after reading it a second time became angry. The third refused to read it because, she said, it would upset her too much. As I write this, the book has been out for eight months, and they have taken no legal action. I doubt if they will. I wrote the truth, and anything they might contest would not be sufficient to have caused them any monetary damages. I changed the names of all significant characters in the book, so that there are few people who know who my ex-wives and children are.
My children have been supportive, as I expected them to be, although I don’t doubt that they are saddened by the publication of some of the incidents involving their mothers. I feel very fortunate to have their support.
My advice to memoir writers is to put aside the fear that naturally exists and write your truth. It is unhealthy to hold it in. Let others worry about how it affects them. However, never include in your memoirs or personal essays incidents or facts merely for the purpose of revenge. You should decide on a theme, a main point of your story, and then include only those people, incidents and facts that are relevant to that theme. Anything else will distract from the story and unnecessarily hurt someone else.
About the same time I published Digging Deep, I also published a little book of ten of my short stories, titled Unexpected Love and Other Stories. These stories are about love and life and how we flawed human beings deal with some of the challenges that we face.
On writing a travel memoir~
I have recently published a second memoir about my experiences in living in Paris and Tuscany for a year, Eat, Walk, Write: An American Senior’s Year of Adventure in Paris and Tuscany. Writing it was all pleasure. I had religiously kept a journal during the year, and editing and polishing the journal so that I had a book that was more readable than the journey brought back all those wonderful memories of Paris and Tuscany, and the frustrations and challenges that I experienced while I was there dimmed in my memory after writing the book.
On the next project~
I am currently writing what may be my final memoir. It is a part memoir, part “how to” book on retirement. It has the potential to help a lot of people deal with unforeseen emotional aspects of retirement. It is a pleasure to write because I am writing about something that I finally did right in my life.
On deciding to self-publish~
Originally, I tried to obtain an agent to sell Digging Deep to a traditional publisher. I sent out query letters to a dozen or so agents, three of whom asked to see the manuscript. I waited six months, and when I hadn’t heard from any of them, I decided to publish with a so-called author services publisher. I am glad I did. I never heard from any of the agents. Publishing has changed so much and so rapidly in the past few years, and is still changing rapidly, that a novice writer has very little chance of having his work published traditionally; and even if he succeeds in that endeavor, he still will have to do all of the promotional work and incur the expense of promotion himself. So unless and until you become a best-selling author, there doesn’t seem any point to me in trying to have your book published traditionally. Even then, I’m not sure it is smart, but I’ll worry about that when I become a best selling author. So far, it hasn’t happened. I am fortunate to have sufficient retirement income so that I do not have to rely on my writing for financial support. On the one hand, I sometimes feel regret that I didn’t pursue my passion for writing when I was younger, but on the other hand, then I would have had to try to eke out a living from it or pursue it only part-time. Now I feel so fortunate to be able to pursue my passion full-time.
If your passion is writing, but you have to work at a “day job,” write as much as you can. Whenever you have a few minutes, just sit down with your notebook and pen or computer and write. It will nurture your soul.
Thank you ,Boyd for sharing your experiences with us. You have addressed memoir writing’s biggest challenge,telling the truth in a way that does not disparage others.
Visit Boyd as boydlemon on Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/boydlemon
For excerpts,reviews and other information:http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com
Alternate email address: Boyd@BoydLemon-Writer.com
Please leave any comments or questions for Boyd in the section below~ Winners of the three books will be announced at the end of the week.