Dear Pamela’s Back with More Answers to Your Questions

by Pamela Jane on March 28, 2017

Pamela Jane New Book CoverDear Pamela is back today and we both want to thank this community of memoir writers for your great questions. Pamela loves the way they challenge her.

As I mentioned last time, her memoir coaching and editing as well as new writing projects are keeping her busy. [By the way, she’s working on her second memoir. I hope she’ll share her ongoing experiences in a future column.] I doubly appreciate her taking time to provide responses and advice to our memoir writing community.

Remember, if you have questions about memoir writing that you need answered, please leave them in the comments section of this article or you can send questions in an email to me — Be sure to use the Subject Line: DEAR PAMELA. Thanks. — Matilda

Which Tense is the Right Tense?

Dear Pamela, memoir advice

Dear Pamela,

“Could you help me with the use of tense in a memoir? Is the present the preferred tense for a memoir? Is it all right to use both present and past tenses in the same memoir? If so, when is it appropriate to use them?”

Thanks. Jane-Questioning-Tense

Dear Pamela

Dear Jane-Questioning-Tense,

The use of tense in a memoir is a personal and artistic one and should be governed by what works best in the context of the story or chapter you are writing.

Let me give you some quick tips as you consider what is right for you and your story.

Dear Pamela Advice and Tips

Tip #1. A Great Mixup: Past and Present

If you want to draw a sharp contrast between the present and the past, you could use the past tense for earlier events, and the present tense for what is unfolding in real time, as you write and think back on your story. This could work well, since a memoir is a blend of past events and present thoughts or reflections about those events.

Tip #2. Try before you buy

Take the tense for a test drive. Try out various tenses and see how they flow and read. Then decide which tense or combination of tenses works best for your memoir. Take one chapter or one vignette and write it using the past tense and then go back through it and change to the present tense. You may want to read each version out loud to see how each sounds to you or to others in a writing group.

Tip #3. You win either way

There is nothing inherently wrong with using only past or only present tense in a memoir; all that matters is that your writing is clear and engaging to readers.

Tip #4. Be consistent

While there are no right or wrong answers to the question of use of tense in memoir, there is an obligation to the reader to be consistent. It’s off-putting to be reading about the 60s in the present tense and then suddenly have that era be written about in the past tense. Figure out what you want to do and then stick with it.

Jane-Questioning-Tense, You’ve raised an important question and one that every memoir writer faces. I hope these suggestions will help you decide on and then effectively use the most appropriate tense to tell your life story.


Dear Pamela, memoir advice

Dear Pamela,

“I’ve already had three memoirs published by small press publishers, and want to try self-publishing for my fourth memoir. What advice do you have? I have my own book designer and an editor.

Yours truly, Publishing-Pearl-Peal

Dear Pamela

Dear Publishing-Pearl-Peal,

Congratulations on having three published memoirs and for now working on your fourth! Such a fantastic set of accomplishments.

I have not self-published a book. Well, I did self-publish one of my children’s books that went out of print. But I have learned quite a bit about self-publishing from other authors who have self-published, and from promoting my own memoir, which was published by a small press. It’s excellent that you have already found a book designer and editor.

Below are seven marketing tips that may help you. If you specifically want to know the nitty-gritty of using CreateSpace and Kindle for publishing print and ebooks, I suggest you scroll to the bottom of this post. I know Matilda is offering an early May workshop in Hawaii called Market! Publish! Write! She will work with attendees to accomplish their personal goals. Among other activities, she will take participants through each of the steps of using CreateSpace and Kindle for publishing. Information at the bottom of this blog post will tell you more, if you are interested.

Meanwhile, here are my tips.

Dear Pamela Advice and Tips

Tip #1. Build your social media presence.

As I’m sure you know from your previous experiences, you will have to promote your book aggressively to bring it to readers’ attention. Look into joining or creating Facebook and Twitter lists to interact with potential readers and other writers, and consider taking a “Pinning” class to learn to use Pinterest effectively, if you don’t already do that. Here is one:

While Pinterest may seem to be oriented to crafts and cooking, there are many boards related to books. You can create “pins” with interesting backgrounds and feature quotes from your book. [And to give you even more material, you can pull quotes from your other memoirs.]

Tip #2. The Internet is your marketing friend

Look up blogs or essays online about how other authors effectively market their self-published books, such as this one:

There are many others as well but use this one as a starting point. In fact, I think the most popular blogs are those that tell you how to market!

Tip #3. Social media require time, but they are important

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the demands of social media. But there is one aspect you can do that is important but not time-consuming. Keep your author profiles on Goodreads, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., updated. Also, consider Amazon’s Author Affiliate Program if you have not already done this:

This lets you get a small additional payment from Amazon for each book sold through your link.

Tip #4. Check out book review blogs

Search for blogs or other sites that review books similar to yours; contact them to ask if they are willing to review your book and/or do an author interview. You can also pay for promotion from places like Wow (Women on Writing).

Have you used Story Circle Network? They only review books (primarily memoirs) written by women and have a fantastic group of book reviewers.

Tip #5. Consistency in emails

Be sure to add your website and social media contacts to your email signature, and a small photo of your book cover once you have it. This way you are reminding people about your upcoming book (right now) and your available book (when published). If you aren’t already doing this with your three published memoirs, be sure to add their book covers to your email signature as well.

Tip #6. Old-fashioned approaches still work

Get bookmarks or postcards made of your book cover with your contact information and some flap copy or a review, and TAKE THEM EVERYWHERE, i.e., to the vet, the grocery store, schools or churches, anywhere and everywhere you go, and give them out. Do you belong to a writing group? If so, your fellow writers may be willing to hand the bookmarks or postcards out to friends.

Tip #7. Marketing is like long-haul trucking

You clearly understand that you are in this for the long haul since you are now working on your fourth memoir. Yet I still want to urge you to be patient as you continue to build your readership and online presence.

Good luck, Pearl! And, if you want to comment below and share your experiences, I’m sure our readers will be interested in hearing why you decided to self-publish and your ongoing experiences with marketing your other memoirs.

If you have a question for Dear Pamela, please
leave a comment below or send an email along
with your question to
Be sure to put DEAR PAMELA in the Subject Line

Who’s Dear Pamela?

Pamela Jane is the author of over 30 books from board books to memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story that Story Circle Reviews called “a fine, five-star read.”

Pamela has published essays in The Writer, mothersalwayswrite, Literary Mama, Parent Co., The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Huffington Post. Please visit her at

Wonder what her memoir is all about? You can read the first chapter of her memoir here:

Memoir is now available as an ebook on Amazon.

Her new memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story which Story Circle called “a fine, five star read” describes how she, an idealistic young newlywed, dreamed of a bucolic future in a country house while her husband plotted to organize a revolution and fight a guerrilla war in the Catskills, a conflict that resulted in explosions of various intensities, drove her mildly mad, and ultimately led to her becoming a writer.

You can see Dear Pamela’s Memoir Book Trailer below. Follow her @austencats.

First Editing ServicePamela Jane heads the First Editing Service and invites you to contact her if you are interested. Click Here for more information.

The First Editing Service offers a great (and inexpensive) way to see where you have been and where you are going. Pamela’s understanding and insights have helped others with their memoirs and can help you move forward on your writing path.

Reviews of An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story

“…Jane takes us masterfully through her story of a lifelong writer struggling to emerge.” —Deborah Heiligman, author, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, a National Book Award Finalist

“…a fine, five-star read!” – Story Circle Reviews

“…incisive, funny, and touchingly candid…” —Howard Rheingold, author, The Virtual Community and Net Smart

“…a harrowing story that invites the reader to experience the thrill and danger of the Sixties from a place of safety and acceptance.” —Tristine Rainer, author, Your Life as Story

“…an inducement to all writers who aren’t afraid to take their past experiences and use them towards the future of their dreams…” – a comfychair

“Jane’s memoir…of the hundreds of memoirs I’ve read, is the only one that gives us the opportunity to go into the heart and mind, behind the flashy images of the Woodstock and hippies of the Sixties.” – Jerry Waxler, author The Memoir Revolution


Achieve Your Memoir Goal!

What do you want to accomplish in 2017?

Market Your Memoir?
Publish Your Memoir?
Write Your Memoir?

We’ve put together the perfect workshop for you. You get an overview of all three topics and then can delve into one or more, depending on where you are in your memoir journey.

If you want to attend this Hawaii workshop, let me know right away as this will be a small workshop so there can be individual attention.

Intrigued but can’t make up your mind? Again, get to me and share what you are interested in achieving.

1. WORKSHOP: 3-Day Workshop includes Writing, Publishing, and Marketing Your Memoir. There will be an overview of all three topics on the first morning since all are important to a memoir writer. And I am ready to work with you on this triad of topics. However, if you want to focus on one of the three areas, then I will provide assignments and give feedback to you just on that topic for the remaining days. See #5, #6, and #7 below for more details.

2. DATES: May 8-10, 2017

Matilda Butler in Hawaii3. LOCATION: The workshop will be held in my condo in Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii. This is the Kona side of the Big Island — about 20-25 minutes north of the Kona airport. Attendees should arrive at least by Sunday May 7 and then can leave as soon as May 11 (of course, you may want to come early or stay late.) There will be an evening get-acquainted on Sunday May 7.

4. LODGING: There are many places to stay near me. My condo complex has rentals through Aston Hotels and Resorts. I can speak to Aston about the best rates, if you are interested. The complex is called The Shores at Waikoloa Beach. Aston Hotels and Resorts rents one-bedroom and two-bedroom condos here. You can check this place out on the Internet.

We are also across the street from the Waikoloa Hilton. This is a fabulous resort and even if you don’t stay there, we’ll all have a meal over there just to enjoy the facility. (I call it an adult-Disneyland.) One favorite restaurant there is next to the dolphin pool and we’ll get to see these spectacular animals during our lunch. Another restaurant features Mexican food and we can take the motor launch right to the restaurant’s dock.

There are other hotels as well such as the Waikoloa Marriott that also face the ocean.

5. WRITING FOCUS: One focus of the workshop will be on powerful memoir writing using the Writing Alchemy approach. There will be a presentation of the approach, time for writing, sharing with others in the group, and feedback. As a participant you may want to bring one or more vignettes to work on or can use the creative time and space of Hawaii to write new vignettes. I will also have several writing assignments including what I call the CLUSIA CHALLENGE. Each participant will be given several clusia leaves and a sharp instrument to draw the theme, the message, or the story arc of one of your vignettes. This is a fun challenge and will give you a unique perspective on your story as well as something special to take home with you. Don’t worry about being an artist. Your memoir and your life story are all you need to be successful.

6. PUBLISHING FOCUS: This second focus of the workshop will provide detailed information on publishing your book through CreateSpace (for a print version) and/or Kindle (for an ebook version). We’ll cover manuscript formatting, book size choices, book cover development, title placement, book pricing, file uploading and checking, book description for Amazon listing, etc. You don’t have to have a finished manuscript to focus on publishing. You will be learning all the steps and can even use a sample file I’ll provide so that when you are ready, you’ll know just what to do.

7. MARKETING FOCUS: The third focus will be on marketing your memoir. No matter how much work you put into writing your memoir and to having a good looking print or electronic book, no one will read it unless you market it. Even large publishers will require marketing from all new authors (unless you happen to be incredibly famous). What is marketing all about? What approaches will work best for you? Can you really do this? Yes, you can and I have an approach that will help you be successful. You don’t have to have a finished manuscript or published books to be ready to learn about marketing. There are many marketing steps that can (and should) begin while still writing and publishing.

8. PRICE: The regular price of the 3-day memoir “workshop-only” is $300. There is a $50 early-bird discount if you reserve and pay by April 10, making the fee $250. If you sign up with a second person, the additional cost is half-price. This means the price for two people is $250 for the first person and $125 for the second if paid before April 10 or $300 for the first person and $150 for the second person if paid after April 10. Assuming you are able to use both the early-bird and two-person discounts, the fee is just $167.50 for each of you.

I am excited about the information I’ve put together that will help you Write. Publish. Market. your memoir. And, of course, I’m looking forward to the opportunity of meeting you and working with you to achieve success in your memoir journey.

Aloha, Matilda

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