No Slings and Arrows for Me: Free Stuff for National Life Writing Month; Plus Info on other Writing Observances, Official and Unofficial

November is National Life Writing Month. It is unofficial in the same way as National Family History Month in October: Congress did not pass a concurrent resolution for the President to sign.

Not to let such minutiae deter their commitments to the genres, the faithful forged ahead with observances. Check with your library, writing group, arts council, or college on what may be going on in your area. If you find nothing, I encourage you to start something.

Among activities for National Life Writing Month is a free memoir-writing tele-conversation November 10 from 6-7 p.m. Central Time, sponsored by the nonprofit National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW). Presenters are Denis Ledoux, Nina Amir, and NAMW founder Linda Joy Myers. Sign up and receive the audio link free for thirty days after the event, then it will be for sale. 
Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux
Founder of National Life Writing Month, workshop presenter, life writing coach, and author of Turning Memories into Memoirs. Through his Soleil Lifestory Network, he trains and certifies professionals who want to start a business teaching memoir writing. His free "Memory List Question Book" is thirty-two pages of questions to help memoir writers focus on key events. In observance of National Life Writing Month, Ledoux offers free tele-classes on memoir writing.
Nina Amir

Nina Amir
Founder of Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN), also unofficial; writing coach, columnist, author of numerous guidebooks including the forthcoming How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books, April 2012). Join her mailing list and receive a free report, "What's an Author's Platform and How Do I Build One?"

Linda Joy Myers

Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D.
Founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, author of instructional programs on writing memoirs and several books, including The Power of Memoir--How to Write Your Healing Story. Join her mailing list and receive a free report, "Begin Your Memoir Today."

Shakespeare and Hamlet revisited
Not wanting to be pelted with slings and arrows if I left out anything close to the hearts of my readers, here are monthly/weekly observances, official and unofficial, I found related to writing:

National Book Month

Black History Month
National Storytelling Week, first week of February

National Women's History Month (I haven't found a National Men's History Month, but that's another soapbox.)

National Card and Letter-Writing Month
National Poetry Writing Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15

National Family History Month

National American Indian Heritage Month
National Life Writing Month
National Novel Writing Month
Write Nonfiction in November

Photos courtesy Denis Ledoux, Nina Amir, and Linda Joy Myers.

What other national writing observances are you aware of? What are your plans for National Life Writing Month and Write Nonfiction in November? Let us know your experiences from participating in the November 10 tele-conversation and WNFIN. 

Thanks to William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Jonathan Coe for inspiring me to write the longest post title in the history of my blog.

Yvonne Erwin: Ready, Set, Write

Yvonne Erwin
Guest article by Yvonne Erwin

I'm doing a call-out to all writers; any writer within the sound of my voice as it were, all writers who need to know, who need to believe in their voice, to all writers who need to connect with the soul of writing.

Here is what I want you to do:

Go into your private place, the place where you write. Never mind where; it can be on the couch in front of the TV with a paper tablet and pencil, or on the dining room table with your typewriter. You may not have an actual room complete with a door and computer. Point is, just go. Go to that place.

Sit down, get comfortable. No phones. No TV. Absolutely no Internet. No distractions. Ask your husband/wife to get the kids a snack. Close the door, if you're lucky enough to have a door. Tune-in to yourself. Turn on whatever music you need to begin the process. I've been told that Stephen King writes to hard rock and that music by Mozart stimulates the creative side of the brain. No matter. Turn on whatever brings you inspiration, whatever wakes your writing side. If you prefer silence, fine. Just bring yourself into that place where you can write.

Now, write or type the first thing, the first thought that comes to your mind. Write it down; don't worry about it being physically perfect, just get it out of your brain. Let it go now, let it breath, let it take on a life of its own.

Don't think about it, don't analyze it, simply let the process begin within you. You're giving birth now. Isn't that a gas?

Write another sentence, and another and another. Allow yourself to enter into that place where you begin to flow; let go, let go. It's not scary. You can do it.

For a first time experiment, I'd say give it twenty or so minutes, although I will not tell you to watch the clock. Your internal clock will dictate. However, if you quit sooner, or if you sit all day writing, don't worry about it. See where it goes; just follow along. Don't worry about formatting. Don't worry about anything proper. Simply get those thoughts out of the bucket of your soul, out of your brain and heart, and put them onto the page as words.

Come back and tell me what you wrote and what your experience was.

Freelance writer Yvonne Erwin is vice president of Springfield (Missouri) Writers' Guild. Her nonfiction has been published in Weeping Waters 3rd Edition and fiction in Glimmertrain. She blogs at

Photo by Doris Plaster.

I'm looking for guest writers. If you would like to see your article published here, please read Guidelines for Guest Posts and Book Reviews. Submissions selected are subject to editing.

Value Your Life Story

Stylized theater masks 
for comedy and tragedy
“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.” Mark Twain

Each student in my monthly writing classes brings something different while having other things in common. This different-but-same framework creates new dynamics with each class. Students are male and female, younger and older; married and single; experienced writers, new writers, and would-be writers. Often, they come to class with preconceived ideas—obstacles that keep them from starting to write their memoirs, life stories, or family histories. They say things like:

“I don’t know where to begin.”
“I’m not a writer.”
“My family and friends will think I’m conceited.”
“Nobody is interested in what I’ve done.”
“There is too much hurt for me to write.”
“I can’t reveal family secrets.”

Motivation is the key
As we work through techniques to help them overcome these obstacles, I impress upon them the most important aspect of writing their life stories—grasping motivation. I tell them, “When you know why you want to write your story, then you will be able to write your story.

Common motivations include: leaving a family legacy, celebrating charitable or public service, going from rags to riches, witnessing to a life of faith (or struggling to find faith), surviving a loss or lessons learned from a health tragedy, distilling business advice based on experience, healing wounds, sharing stories of romances won and lost or just-for-fun travel experiences.

Budding memoirist Kathleen Pooler says: “My intention in writing my memoir is not to seek revenge or disparage anyone. But in order to bring my story alive, I have to expose my experiences, my vulnerabilities, my feelings, my truth despite the repercussions from others, at least in my first draft. I can change names, identifying features at the end. But I can’t change my own truth.”

Your story belongs to you, not anyone else. You own it. You will remember differently, feel differently, and change differently than those who enter and exit your story. Give yourself permission to write your story your way.

Novelist, nonfiction writer, and College of Charleston professor Bret Lott advises his students to write “from your own chair.” They have deep wells of materials from their own viewpoints and their own experiences and their own stories. And so do you.

Why life stories are valuable
Author and memoir-writing instructor Linda Thomas says life stories are valuable because they:
Are among God’s most powerful and effective tools.
Bridge gaps between past and future generations.
Fortify timid hearts and soften hard hearts.
Help solve problems.
Inspire readers to make sense of their lives and plan for the future.
Guide, persuade, and influence.
Inspire prayer.
Bring healing.
Share wisdom, hope, and faith.
Help readers comprehend and remember more readily than do facts, figures, rules, lectures, or sermons.
Help readers make important decisions.
Help readers discover God’s purposes for their lives.
Make a difference.
Can change individuals, families, communities, towns, nations—and even the world!
Can change lives for eternity.

Your life story is valuable. Decide now to put it into writing for your family and friends.

Kathleen Pooler is a retired family nurse practitioner writing a memoir about extraordinary events in her life through her faith in God. She blogs at Memoir Writer’s Journey.  

Linda Thomas worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators for eleven years in South America and Africa.
Her memoir, Grandma's Letters from Africa, is about her first four years in Africa.“Stories are valuable” adapted from her

Image courtesy Artist unknown. 

What obstacles have you faced in starting to write your memoir, life story, or family history? What specifically have you done to overcome the obstacles?

Boyd Lemon: Challenge and Healing in Writing My Memoir

Boyd Lemon
Guest article by Boyd Lemon

When I decided to publish a memoir about my role in the destruction of my three marriages, Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages, I struggled with the fact that I would be disclosing intimate details about my marriages and the conduct of my ex-wives. Ultimately, after much soul searching, I came to the conclusion I must simply tell the relevant truth as I perceived it. There would be no point in publishing a watered-down version.

My truth
The word “relevant” is important. The memoir is about my role in the failure of the marriages. It would be cruel to disclose facts that were not necessary to the theme of my book, if I disclosed details for the mere sake of embarrassing my ex-wives, to show what bad people they were, or for revenge. But to disclose relevant parts of their conduct in the marriage was necessary to understand my truth. I was very careful not to talk about extraneous conduct of my ex-wives. In the end, the memoir was my memoir, not theirs, so it had to be from my perspective. I recognized that. But I didn’t have to trash them in the process, and I don’t think that I did.

I dug deep to see the issues from my wives' perspective, but in the end, they collaborated with me in destroying the marriages, no doubt about it. So I decided to tell the whole truth, as I saw it.

I tried to be as factually accurate as humanely possible and as memory allows, but I concede I wrote from my perspective and my memory. I did consult with two of my ex-wives, who agreed to talk to me about several specific issues and I mention those in the book. Otherwise, I didn't ask them for their points of view. I didn't intend to write a debate about who was at fault.

My wives
I told each of my wives in advance I was writing the memoir; I didn't want to hide it from them. I got no reaction except from my third wife, who said it made her nervous and she hoped I would decide not to publish it. I decided not to show them any pre-publication drafts because that would have resulted in endless debate about the accuracy and fairness of what I wrote.

After publication, my first wife said the book was well written, that she thoroughly enjoyed it and read it twice. My second wife did not respond to me, but from our adult children I understand she was very upset. I'm sorry about that. My third wife told me she would not read it because it would upset her too much.

Although it seems obvious now, I wasn’t aware when I started writing the memoir what its affect on me would be. As I began trying to see issues from my wives’ perspective, my role in the failure of those marriages became increasingly apparent to me, something I had kept buried. To realize this was emotionally devastating at first. I consulted with a therapist in hopes she could shed some light on my role. She helped me understand the guilt I felt as I unearthed my contributions to issues in the marriages. I was especially guilt ridden about the four children of the marriages. Fortunately (I don’t know how), our children turned out to be productive and reasonably well-adjusted.

My healing
What was surprising to me was that after I finished the book, having understood for the first time a lot about my role in the destruction of these marriages, I felt healed, at peace with myself about my marriages. I hadn’t realized what a burden it was to carry around those unexamined issues and how rewarding it felt to be relieved of that burden. I now realize how important it is after the breakup of a marriage or any committed relationship to examine and understand one’s role in what happened, rather than just burying the issues and “moving on” as I had done.

I also realized that not just thinking about these issues, but writing about them, was a big part of the healing. There is something about expressing these insights in writing that makes them graphic and permanent. So for anyone who likes to write, I especially recommend writing as a means of healing. I would have been thrilled to have written this memoir, even if I hadn’t published it, or even if it hadn’t sold a single copy, simply because of how it healed me.

Boyd Lemon lives in California. He is a member of the California Bar and the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. He may be reached at His book is available in print and in Kindle and Nook editions.

Photo courtesy Boyd Lemon.

What challenges have you faced writing about painful memories?