My Long and Zig-Zaggy Road to Memoir Publication

by Matilda Butler on February 26, 2014

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #112 – Memoir Writing – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: Women’s Memoirs is pleased to welcome Becky Povich to our website. Becky, thanks for joining us today. You’ve just published your memoir From Pigtails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir & More and we’re so excited for you. It often takes many years to complete a memoir. Would you share your experiences?

Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: Thank you for inviting me. I call this journey “My Long and Zig-Zaggy Road to Publication or So, You Think You’re Too Old to Write.” It’s been quite an experience. Seeing my memoir, From Pigtails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir & More, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other websites, still doesn’t seem real to me. I guess that’s normal for newly published authors. Even after receiving several boxes at my doorstep, delivered by the friendly UPS Guy, it still hasn’t sunk in. My memoir. I actually completed and published my memoir and it only took about 12 years!

I jokingly say 12 years because I considered writing my memoir in May of 2001 after I received a phone call concerning my estranged father’s health. Hearing he was very ill and might not live brought deeply hidden emotions to the surface. Once again I felt a love for him and wasn’t ready to say goodbye. After seeing him in the hospital, I sat at my laptop and the words just flowed. It was incredible. (Ahh, if only it was always that easy!) I titled it “Thoughts on Love & Forgiveness” and because of it I obtained a guest spot with the Opinion Shapers in the St. Peters (Missouri) Journal. (Definition of “guest spot” is “no compensation!”) A few years later, an edited version of it was accepted and published in Chicken Soup for the Soul; Divorce & Recovery. I believe it’s the only story in the book written through the eyes of an adult child affected by a parental divorce.

Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: It sounds like you had some early success with your writing. What happened in the years that followed?

Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: I continued to have ideas about writing my memoir for quite a few years, but it was around 2007-2008 that I got serious about it. At that time, I only had a couple of chapters written but I found a small local press that wanted to publish it. I was thrilled, but it didn’t make my writing any easier. I just kept putting more pressure on myself, hoping to be worthy of their confidence in me. I wasn’t given a deadline. They told me, “So don’t worry about it now…just write, write, write…and have fun.”

Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: Was that advice helpful?

Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: Fun was something I definitely wasn’t having. Writer’s block and self-sabotage took over so many times it’s a wonder I never gave up. For months, I found everything else in the world to spend time on: making homemade greeting cards, playing spider solitaire on the computer, and browsing e-bay, to name a few.

Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: Did you ever consider letting go of your dream?

Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: I never considered quitting. Give up? No way! I believed in myself. I just knew I had to keep going. That’s when I realized what it felt like to be passionate about something in life. Until then I couldn’t understand what writers, artists, sculptors, and other creative people were talking about when they excitedly discussed about their craft. Passion was a word I only associated with love/sex relationships. I finally got it. I was a writer, and as so many writers have said, “I couldn’t not write!” I submitted more stories to Chicken Soup books and other anthologies, some of which were published. I attended writer’s groups and a critique group, all the while learning more and becoming a better writer.

Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: As a memoir writer, did you face problems that fiction writers don’t?

Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: Oh definitely. I struggled with issues that memoir writers usually face:

  • Should I include incidents that could possibly upset family members?
  • What if I ask and I’m told they don’t want it in the book?
  • I finally decided, “It’s my memoir. Let them write their own book!”

    Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: When writing a memoir takes many years, questions from friends can get to be a bit depressing for some people. Did you run into this?

    Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: Here are some of the questions I had to contend with:

  • “Are you still writing that same book?”
  • “What’s your book about?”
  • “How many chapters a day do you write?”
  • “Who’s your agent or publisher?”
  • “How big of an advance will you get?

  • Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: I’m sure you eventually developed great responses because you kept going and now have your published memoir. Tell us a little about your publishing experiences.

    Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: Besides contending with all the typical struggles, other events happened that I never anticipated. The first was making the difficult decision in December of 2012 to look for a different publisher. It was an awkward situation because we had been friends, but things just weren’t going as planned. I felt like I was back at square one, afraid I wouldn’t be able to find another small press or publisher who would think my memoir was good enough to accept. At that time, I didn’t want to self-publish either because I knew I’d probably never get my book inside a Barnes & Noble, or any bookstore for that matter. But after talking to a few knowledgeable writers, I decided to look into Createspace, the self-publishing side of Amazon. It only took a few minutes to realize I didn’t have the computer skills to go with their “free” program, and I didn’t have the money to spend on any of their custom services.

    Next I tried to come up with the money to purchase one of the Createspace custom packages by using Kickstarter. It actually did really well, but I didn’t come up with the money I’d asked for. On Kickstarter it’s an “All or Nothing” deal, and I made the mistake of looking way too far ahead. Instead of just trying to obtain the funds that were immediately needed, I added amounts for future travel and book signings. How stupid! But, ultimately it was a good thing I didn’t succeed. My memoir still needed a lot of rewriting and editing and rewriting again.

    A few months after that, I found out about another local, small press, but they charged a rather large fee. Basically, they were no different than all the other publishing companies that were popping up all over the internet. They were charging a lot of money to help people self-publish, yet displaying the name of a “real” publishing company.

    Finally, in September of 2013, I discovered that one of my writer friends had published a book through Createspace a year or so ago, and said he would help me for free. There, once again proved one of my favorite sayings: “Everything happens for a reason.”

    And so, my memoir, From Pigtails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir & More was officially published on November 6, 2013.

    Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: Congratulations. What do you think that you got from writing your memoir?

    Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: We’ve all heard the expression, everyone has a story, and it’s so true. I encourage all women to write. Write about themselves, about their lives, past and present. It’s very therapeutic. Write your memoir, if for nothing else, for yourself, and/or your children, and grandchildren.

    If you have a dream to be a writer, then WRITE! I often relied on this Walt Disney quote to keep me going:

    “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

    Women's Memoir LogoWomen’s Memoirs: While you were working on your memoir, what are some of the books you used?

    Becky Povich memoir authorBecky Povich: I found the following books to be very helpful and I love going back to them over and over again. Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone, Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King, Writing Down the Bones, Old Friend from Far Away, and Wild Mind; Living the Writer’s Life all by Natalie Goldberg.

    Matilda, I’d like to thank you and Kendra for inviting me to share some of my memoir writing experiences. I’m currently working on the sequel, due out in 2015 and invite your readers to learn more about my journey on my blog and website.

    Becky Lewellen Povich was born in Illinois, has lived in a few different states, and also in West Germany. She loved books and reading from a very young age, had lots of pen pals, and still loves to write and receive handwritten letters. Becky lives in St. Peters, Missouri with her husband Ron, and their adopted shelter dog, Vern. She has grown sons and too many grandkids to count!

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