Memoir Giveaway–Author Martha Graham-Waldon Reveals the Pain in Writing, Was It Worth It?

by Matilda Butler on December 22, 2015

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #220 – Memoir Writing – Matilda Butler

Welcome Martha Graham-Waldon

Today I’m pleased to introduce Martha Graham-Waldon, author of Nothing Like Normal: Surviving A Sibling’s Schizophrenia.

I got to know Martha as a writer when she submitted a story from her memoir to our contest last year. She had one of the award-winning entries — “A Time to Lose, A Time to Heal” — that will be published in the anthology Tales of Our Lives: Fork in the Road on January 8, 2016. Her memoir has just been published by Black Opal Books so I asked her to tell us about her thoughts as she now–with book in hand–looks back on the process of writing.

Your Comment Just Might Win You a Free Copy of Martha Graham-Waldon’s New Memoir

Martha has graciously offered us a free copy of her memoir for one of our lucky commenters. So leave your comment below about why you want to read Nothing Like Normal or why Martha’s perspective on writing helps you with your own writing. Martha will choose one of these comments and send you the ebook version of Nothing like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia.

UPDATE (January 11, 2016): The winner of Martha Graham-Waldon’s Book Giveaway has been announced. The winner is Julie. She is receiving the ebook version of Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia. Martha and I both thank all of you for your wonderful comments. It’s clear that Martha’s article on the healing power of memoir speaks to many memoir writers. We both hope the article will continue to give writers much to consider. — Matilda Butler

Thoughts on My Book Launch

By Martha Graham-Waldon

Since my manuscript was accepted over a year ago, I have waited in anticipation for the big date, the finale, the release date my publisher held out as a promise for 15 long months. Longer than a pregnancy and perhaps just as painful, and now that the calendar has closed in on that illusive, looming date, I’m looking back on the whole experience of how it all happened.

At my sister’s memorial eight years ago, I confided to my first cousin who is also a writer how I felt about writing about my life with her. I just didn’t want to do it, I admitted. I want to write something light and fluffy, like a children’s book or novel.

“But people like to read about painful things” Stephanie simply said.

In my heart I knew this was the truth. But more importantly I came to realize that I needed to write my story for me. I needed to reconcile myself with the past and the events that had taken place in my family. And so I started out by flinging memories down on the page each day. Soon there were so many that I finally printed them out and literally cut and pasted them chronologically on poster board into a timeline and then reorganized the pages on the computer.

One day I wrote a beginning. Oddly, the ending was easiest. The “muddy middle” that memoirist Linda Joy Meyers speaks of was the hardest and most trying part.

George Orwell said, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

And exhausting it was. Some days I could not write and some days I could only write a little. But by the time I finished my memoir, I did have a sense of closure and resolution of my past that brought me to a place of peace in the present.

Even though writing my memoir was painful, I know it would have been even more painful not to write it. To carry around the hurt and memories like a cloud hanging over my head would have been harder still. Instead, I was able to release the clouds into bursts of cleansing rainfall and healing sunlight after the storms.

To hold your book in your hands is a proud moment that is well worth the battle.


memoir author Martha Graham-WaldonMartha Graham-Waldon is the author of the new memoir Nothing Like Normal: Surviving A Sibling’s Schizophrenia published by Black Opal Books.

A vignette based upon her memoir will appear in Women’s’ Memoirs anthology, Tales of Our Lives: Fork in the Road on January 8, 2016. Her memoir is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Black Opal Books. Her website is

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Matilda Butler December 22, 2015 at

Thanks so much for joining WomensMemoirs today. Your thoughts are just right. We all know that writing can be healing, but we can get stuck in the process because it is so hard to keep going forward. You’ve reminded us about the positive outcome that is worth the pain and effort.

Dyane Harwood December 23, 2015 at

I’ve already purchased Martha’s book, but I just wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far.

Martha’s thoughts about her book launch are fascinating and poignant. I’m still on the other side of the memoir process in which I have a book deal with a great publisher and a first draft. However, I have a long way to go. It helps me to read of Martha’s observations; especially the line “To hold your book in your hands is a proud moment that is well worth the battle.” Thank you Martha and Matilda for sharing this insightful article!

Martha Graham-Waldon December 23, 2015 at

Thank you Dyane for reading my book. I’m glad my words offered encouragement to you. How exciting that you have a publishing contract! Congratulations, before too long that book will be in your hands to treasure. Best wishes to you this holiday season!

R.M. Madison December 23, 2015 at

Martha, Thank you for this article. I am working on a memoir and hope it will help me find healing from a dysfunctional family. You give all memoir writers courage to keep going.

Martha Graham-Waldon December 30, 2015 at

Best wishes on your memoir. I’m sure you will find it to be a cathartic and healing experience that will bring you peace. Thank you for your kind words and many blessings to you in the New Year.

Steff Walker January 1, 2016 at

Great article, and best wishes for the success of your book, Martha. I have decided that this is the year that I put my thoughts and dreams of writing into practice. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of last year, and now that treatment has slowed down enough to gather my thoughts, it’s time to get them out of my head and onto paper.

lorrie January 1, 2016 at


I enjoyed reading your thoughts about your book launch. I feel more confident now to start my own memoir. I have had a lifetime of dealing with PTSD and depression. And like you, I also would like to write something more light. I have had ideas for children’s books for many years, but never seem to get around to writing them.

Now I feel that if I get get my memoir out of the way, my mind can release all the darkness and I can finally be free to write what I want to. Thank you for that push :)

I look forward to reading your memoir.


Julie January 1, 2016 at


I know how hard it is to write about painful occurrences in life, but your memoir will help people struggling through similar circumstances. I would love to read your story. Thank you for taking the time to write it.


Sharon Syrette January 1, 2016 at

Thanks for posting about your experience. For so many writers, the pain and confusion that comes with putting things down on paper can be so difficult, and they avoid it. It is easy to put it off, with all kinds of excuses and busy-ness. It takes real courage to continue, and to go further and publish their personal stories. Congradulations on publishing your book.

Michelle January 1, 2016 at

A good perspective for those of us who are nervous about exposing ourselves, our siblings, our family, to the outside world. Perhaps that would also make a good topic for a memoir book.
-Michelle Saint-Germain

Marjean January 2, 2016 at

Martha, My heart goes out to you as you display warmth and caring for your family and sibling. Your strength and courage are to be praised as God heals all. Thrilled you put your story in writing for the benefit of others and you.

Denise Grier January 2, 2016 at

I would love to win this. I need to read every memoir that comes my way. I am an author but have not written my memoir yet.

Katherine January 2, 2016 at

Thank you sincerely Martha. I have a memoir perking away and an inner voice keeps pushing me to continue writing. I did write for over a year but abandoned that process due to the pain. I have had quite a few challenges in my family of origin including a couple of suicides and now both my husband and mother in a facility due to dementia. I am hurting with all of this. Your words are the prompt I need this second day of January for 2016 to be the year I focus on writing my memoir as an act of healing.

Rachel Van Den Bergen January 2, 2016 at

I wrote a memoir in 2009 called The Changing Scenes Of Life. It’s about the care system in the way of children’s homes and I’m in the process of writing another about mental illness.

Martha Graham-Waldon January 2, 2016 at

Wow! So many great comments in this brand new year! I want to offer my encouragement to all of you who are thinking about writing a memoir, to those of you who have finished your memoir and to those like Katherine, whose memoir is “perking” inside!

I too, wrote “in my head” for many years. I have to admit it was the impetus of grief that forced me to commit to the actual writing. But I do feel free to write other “light” stuff now that the memoir is done, Lorrie, as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

As women and humans we are all united in our experiences of pain and the struggle for self-worth but we all have a unique voice. And as my publisher, Black Opal Books, says “some stories just need to be told.” Mental health and other health issues are particularly topical now so please know that your perspective and experience may help many others as well as heal your own heart.

To everyone who commented — I would love to read your memoirs and so will the rest of the world!

Thank you all & keep writing!

Clo Carey January 3, 2016 at

Thank you for this. I’m afraid I hid behind light, frothy, and kids writing, while coping with a schizophrenic son, a bi-polar husband and parents suffering from dementia and Alzheimers. I didn’t have the courage to write about what I was experiencing. I think perhaps it is time to dive in now; that however painful, it just might be cathartic as well. Congratulations on getting to that point!

Alice Klies January 3, 2016 at

Hi Martha. I have been inspired by your words. I have been told by agents that I need to turn my story into a fiction novel. I am torn as what to do? It doesn’t seem right that my experiences need to be fiction just because I am not a famous person. Again thanks for your encouragement.

Martha Graham-Waldon January 3, 2016 at

You will know when the time is right for you to dive in, Clo. It may be when some time has passed and some of these conflicts have been resolved, then you can look back on them with new insight. Escaping through frothy writing is not a bad idea either! I started a novel in November through NaNoWriMo that I hope to return to. When you do write your memoir I hope it will be as cathartic and healing as it has been for me. Best wishes on all your writing!

Martha Graham-Waldon January 4, 2016 at

Alice-Not to mince any words here, I think those agents gave you horrible advice! You should write from your heart what is right for you, whether you are “famous” or not! Trying writing without labeling it one way or another and it will be clear at some point if it needs to be fiction or memoir. Write it for you first, as a healing experience. In the end, maybe you will become “famous” but your own catharsis is more important. Best wishes!

Rachel Van Den Bergen January 4, 2016 at

When I do autobiographical work I also escape through frothy writing and I turned it into poetry pamphlets alongside it. I find doing autobiographical work very emotional but it’s great when the book is complete.

Martha Graham-Waldon January 5, 2016 at

Integrating poetry in autobiography/memoir is very creative, Rachel and makes the work much more personal and appealing. I feature my poetry and my sister’s poetry from our teen years in my memoir. It sounds like you know how to do that effectively. Thanks for your input!

Micki Peluso January 19, 2016 at

Hi Martha,
Sorry this is so late but I’ve been I’ll the past two months. Your book is especially interesting to me since my sister-in-law first true signs of this miserable disease hit when she left for college at 21. She was beautiful, talented and should have had a great life. Instead it’s been one mental institute after another. Now she lives in a halfway home with adult supervision and refuses to see anyone. A wasted life.
Your book is one that needed to be written and I am so glad you did it. I look forward to reading it.

Martha Graham-Waldon January 20, 2016 at

Thank you for writing, Micki. I am sad for your family and your sister-in-law. I have heard about this illness surfacing when young people leave for college and end up in a totally new environment. But of course, it may have happened anyway. I do hope that she will allow her loved ones back into her life someday. In the meantime, you can only cherish the memories and keep her in your thoughts & prayers. Take care of yourself.

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