Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to write a memoir

    Writing a memoir is not easy.  Once a friend told me I'm not like other writers.  "Writing memoirs is easy," she said.  "You don't have to plot things.  You just write what happened.  How hard can that be?  Writing fiction is much harder . . . that's what real authors do."  Her comment made me laugh inside though.  For someone who couldn't write a memoir, she sure knew a lot about them.
    In a sense, she was right (I didn't have to plot things), but in so many other ways she was wrong.  By writing a memoir, I took everything about myself and put it on the line.  I wrote about people I love . . . people I hate.  
    My first memoir, "The Golden Sky," is actually my journal.  It's there for everyone to see my strengths and my weaknesses.  Another person said she didn't like some of the choices my main character made.  I guess that's because I didn't sugarcoat anything--tough luck the main character is me.
    My book has been published for a little over a month; strangers, friends and family have read it.  I've received amazing letters in care of Wayman Publishing.  I've gotten e-mails and phone calls.  Some people are upset they weren't in my journal.  Some "friends" feel terrible about the way they treated me, Cade, even Zeke's memory.  Sure, their names have been changed, but they know who they are.
    I thought about apologizing to those I'd written about, then I changed my mind.  "The Golden Sky" is real.  Sometimes, just like my blog, life is hilarious, fun, even when it's kicking you down, there's always something good to take from the situation, and that's what my book is about.  I had no money.  My son died.  I kicked my husband out.  But, I had a daughter to fight for, a family who would support me (even while moving my furniture when I was away) and I also had those strange people (like Miss Priss) who always seem to be a part of my life.
    So, is writing a memoir easy?  No.  But I think it's absolutely worth it.  
    Just last week I received two e-mails that made me feel like Christmas came early.  Here are two quotes from them:

    "I was so often struck by how completely real and raw your pain and sorrow was throughout the first parts of the book.  And I went along for that ride, Miss Elisa, I really, really did, through the ups and downs - God, it still feels like my heart is in a vice when I think about it - it was just so drenched with your pain, soaked with your soul, that it was impossible not to.  
    "You are such a beautiful writer - and freakin' funny.  There were points where I was crying and laughing like a crazy person at the same time (again, subways, I really didn't get any stares).  Your soul truly is in each word- you've folded it up so it would leak into each one of these pages.  It's so brave of you to share these pieces of yourself with us.  Brave because you are exposing a part of your life that was pure hell on earth - but I have to tell you, it's one of the most inspirational pieces of literature that I've ever read."  

    That e-mail meant the world to me, especially because I'd just gotten a phone call from a family member who thinks it's terrible I'd put so much of my life out for everyone to see.
    The next e-mail made me cry.  Do you remember how I decided what to accomplish in life?  If I can do anything, any one thing, I want to be called a 'good shit' after I die.  Well, one of the Vietnam Vets read my book.  Here's what he sent to me (talk about the best thing ever):

    ''If ever our country is in danger of being 'over run' by  the enemy.....I would pick 'you' to be fighting next to me ....you are one tough woman''!!!!.....You take care..................

    If you've thought about writing a memoir, I encourage you to do so.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone has something special to share.  Although it's been hard, it can be worth it and so rewarding too.


    From now until January 6th (the Epiphany), my eBook is listed as 99 cents HERE on Smashwords and for kindle it's 2.99 HERE on Amazon.
    P.S. Remember my book launch? How Cade and I purchased an iPad2 to give away to a lucky winner? Well, last week someone won. Her named is Robin Murphy!!! Congratulations.  I hope you'll love it.

P. S. My laptop still isn't fixed. I'm on my mom's computer. Thank goodness for mothers ;)


  1. You are a good shit. I told you so. sigh. why won't you ever believe me? lol

  2. your book is next on my read list. this post definitely got me hooked...

  3. Love you woman! And your book is every book as amazing as those emails say. Hope you have a fantastic day. Zeke is so proud of you.

  4. Haha such a a good shit. See now it's here twice, isn't that nice..haha No doubt a memoir is work, both my be different structures and stuff like that, but ever bit of it takes work. As a reader, once amazing memoir you put out too.

  5. I love writing about me, too. I am so fascinating. I definitely have memoir plans.


  6. It seems lots of writers have advice along the lines of "Writing XXXX is much harder . . . that's what real authors do." My advice is typically: screw that. We all do as we must.

    If anything I'd call your book a whole hell of a lot harder to write than fiction because I can imagine that during the writing you had to relive parts that perhaps you didn't want to.

    While I I'm not going to say that any story is an easy birth, at the end of the day when I write about nerdy vampires or people being torn apart by monsters I know one thing...there are no tears (at least real ones :) and no deep emotional pain attached. Comparatively, I'd say that's easier.

  7. To LOLA--I've always found you fascinating. That's why I've been known to follow you up to 6 times a day.

    To ELISA--You are not only a good shit--YOU ARE A MENSCH!! And a very talented writer! I've already read "The Golden Sky" twice & I'm planning on reading it again right after the holidays. LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I finished your book last night. I'm going to do a review of it for Families.com. I only hope I can do it justice. Thank you for sharing the good and the bad, after all, life isn't pretty sometimes.

  9. I think you really have to be brave to be a writer. Yes, you will expose people close to you, and they might get mad, but hopefully, eventually they will forgive you, because you end up giving so much to everyone.

    I do not consider myself a writer, but enjoy writing. You Elisa are a writer!;)

  10. People who write memoirs most definitely are 'real' authors - and brave ones at that! :)

  11. Here is the review. I hope I did it justice.


  12. The family member who complained is not a surprise. we read your journal and thank goodness for those who apologized, they should and so should anyone who makes you feel like you are wrong for sharing your story. Patrick Swayze said it best: "No one puts Baby in the corner."

  13. When you write memoir you don't have the luxury of invention or hiding behind fictional characters. You not only expose yourself, but the other people in your life. You have to re-experience boldly the good and the bad. But you need distance, perspective, and a voice or it can end up being just a self-serving diary. Good writing is hard...fiction or memoir. They're just different. That's my two cents--LOL!

  14. Even though I am officially on a blogging break, I've just had a mammoth read of all the posts I've missed. Elisa, you truly are a phenomenal young woman. Don't ever change anything about yourself!

  15. As a writer, I know and understand that writing a memoir is no easier than a work of fiction. I say if your book has touched other people then you've done something wonderful.

    Wishing you all the best for the holidays!

  16. Very cool post. I think writing a memoir would be 100 times more difficult than writing fiction. At least in fiction the emotion is well, fiction.