Post #63 – Women’s Memoirs, Author Conversations – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
Claiming My Memoir Writing Dream
By Ingrid Ricks
I still cringe when I think of my first memoir writing workshop.
It was at a writer’s conference ten years ago, and I’d just finished the first draft of my manuscript. Having worked as a journalist, I figured I knew how to string words together. But since the workshop was included in my conference registration fee, I decided it might be fun to attend.
About twelve of us gathered around a conference table that Sunday morning, each armed with copies of the first five pages of our manuscript as we’d been instructed to bring. I proudly distributed my copies to my classmates and then hung on to that pride until I began reading through the first submission I’d been given: a powerful grabber of a story about the loss of a child to cancer.
I suddenly understood what all that industry-speak about scene, setting and character development meant, and I knew my writing had none of it. I suffered through the humiliating silence that clogged the room when it came time for my classmates to offer positive feedback about my manuscript. Then I slithered out of the class, headed home and signed up for my first online writing class.
I spent the next few years immersing myself in writing courses and critique groups, each time inching closer to understanding how to bring my story to life. I wish I could say that once it all finally clicked for me, I hunkered down and churned out my book. But the actual task of doing what it took to turn my book dream into reality was so daunting that I pushed it aside. I had the typical list of excuses: not enough money, not enough time, two daughters who needed my attention. Then two aha moments forced me to refocus. The first was a trip to an eye doctor’s office – where instead of walking out with a cute pair of red cat-eye frames, I was diagnosed with a devastating degenerative eye disease, learned I was already legally blind, and was told my remaining eyesight could be gone within a few years. Next came a life lesson from my daughters, who decided it would be funny to do a parody of me as an old woman. They bent over, pretended like they were walking with a cane, and in the most crotchety voice they could muster, they both shouted, “My book, my book. I have to finish my book!”
Two kicks were enough. I cut back my client work, started getting up earlier and devoting at least two hours a day to writing my book. Within eight months, I had finished a solid version of my manuscript and found my agent (where I learned the reality of today’s publishing world…but that’s for another blog post).
Finishing my memoir was hard work. It was also the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. And having now experienced the rush of seeing my memoir published and the overwhelming enthusiastic response from readers, I can tell you it’s worth every ounce of sweat you put into it. Don’t get discouraged by early rejections or lousy first drafts. Just keep at it, every single day. And when it starts feeling too hard, consider these words of wisdom from my dad: “By the mile it’s a trial, by the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.” That’s how I got there. And so can you.
About the memoir author
Ingrid Ricks is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who focuses on living life to the fullest. She is the author of Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, a compelling true story about a teenage girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather and the suffocating poverty and religion at home by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond—until his arrest forces her to take charge of her life.