Post #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
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.
Martha 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 www.nothinglikenormal.com