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Women’s Memoir Author Conversations

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #252– Memoir Writing Tip – Matilda Butler



[UPDATE: Congratulations to Steff for her great comment. Jo Giese chose that comment as her favorite (although she mentioned she had several others she really liked). A free copy of Jo’s memoir, Never Sit If You Can Dance, has been sent to Steff.

Thanks to everyone who read Jo’s interview as well as those who left comments. I read all of the comments and so appreciate what all of you bring to this community of memoir writers. — MB]

[NOTE: In honor of Mother’s Day, Jo Giese is giving away a copy of her new memoir – Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below in the comments section. Jo will choose one. That person will be contacted for an address.]

Matilda Butler of Womens MemoirsMATILDA BUTLER: I’m pleased to introduce Jo Giese in this week before Mother’s Day as we celebrate the publication of her memoir featuring her mother.

Jo, welcome to WomensMemoirs, a community of women who are writing or considering writing their life stories. Congratulations on the publication of your new book. Will you tell us a little about your memoir, Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother?

Jo Gives Memoir AuthorJO GIESE: Thanks Matilda for inviting me to talk about my new memoir. At a turbulent time in America, when personal connections are fleeting and shared values are rare, I’m so pleased to be able to offer uplifting lessons in old-fashioned civility in my new book. My mother, known as Babe, was no goody two-shoes: she drank, danced, and stayed up very late. She favored colorful clothes, liked giving parties, adored her husband, and told me, “Never sit if you can dance.” Hence the name of my memoir.

As I have had the opportunity to share this joyful book with readers and audiences, it’s exciting to see that the lessons from my mother are serving as a jump-starter for important mother-daughter conversations.

Matilda Butler of Womens MemoirsMATILDA BUTLER: Jo, although many people want to write about their life, deciding to commit to actually writing a memoir can be a difficult decision. It takes time and determination. It means going outside one’s comfort level. What made you decide to write your memoir at this point in your life?

Jo Gives Memoir AuthorJO GIESE: Thanks for asking. For me the decision was fairly easy. My mother, Babe, had died, and I kept remembering and savoring all the fun, good, goofy things we’d done together.  I wanted to capture and share them before they evaporated.





Matilda Butler of Womens MemoirsMATILDA BUTLER: Writing a memoir is such a worthy goal, but it can be quite difficult. I wonder what was the most difficult part of writing your memoir?



Jo Gives Memoir AuthorJO GIESE: Why prejudice the writing process and presuppose it was difficult? It was a pure joy.  I loved revisiting these favorite family stories and having the chance to get them down on paper.








Matilda Butler of Womens MemoirsMATILDA BUTLER: That’s a good point Jo. Some stories are certainly easier to tell than others. Looking back on your writing life, what is the one piece of advice you’d give to a woman struggling with writing her life story?



JO GIESE: In my writing classes I’ve found time and time again that students struggle with the thought “But what will Thelma, my grandmother, think about what I’ve written about her.” This fear about what family and close friends might think can paralyze new writers to the point that they never write or publish anything.  

Early in my career I was writing about my seven years with infertility and it was awkward writing about such an intimate, personal story. It must have showed because my writing teacher said, “Keep your mother away from your typewriter!” I’d advise women to bravely forge ahead and write their story in their voice.  After they have their story down, only then they can revisit the material for family suitability. 

Matilda Butler of Womens MemoirsMATILDA BUTLER: Jo, thanks for that advice. I think all writers will appreciate the line “Keep your mother away from you typewriter.” (or computer in an updated version). It is easier to listen to the don’t-do-that-don’t-say-that voice than to develop one’s own voice and perspective.

I have a final question in honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day. I wonder if you have one of your mother’s favorite recipes that you might share.

Jo Gives Memoir AuthorJO GIESE: A number of years ago, I wrote The Good Food Compendium. Here’s one of my mother’s recipes from that book.

No family get together was complete without Mom’s clam dip. Mom was from Seattle, an area where memorable family outings included digging for clams on the shores of the Puget Sound. Maybe the omnipresence of clams inspired Mom to make this dip, but she used canned clams. She always used cream cheese, but for a softer texture it could be made with creme fraiche. Now Babe’s party dish appears so simple it seems like it hardly requires a “recipe” with instructions.

Babe’s Clam Dip

from The Good Food Compendium by Jo Giese

Ingredients:
16 ounces cream cheese
1 12 ounce can minced clams, drained
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco
Paprika

Makes 2 cups
1.  Place cream cheese in blender or food processor.  Add drained minced clams and blend until smooth. If it needs more liquid, add some of the clam juice.
2. When well blended, spike with as much Worcestershire and Tabasco as you like.
3. Refrigerate overnight so the flavors penetrate.  Sprinkle paprika on top and serve at room temperature with carrots, radishes, celery, fennel, steamed green beans, asparagus, crackers.  As an alternative, slice the tops off of cherry tomatoes, and stuff the dip inside.

More About the Author
Jo Giese is an award-winning radio journalist, author, former TV & radio reporter. As a special correspondent, she was part of the Peabody Award–winning team at Marketplace, the most
popular business program in America. At Marketplace she won an EMMA for Exceptional Radio Story from the National Women’s Political Caucus and a GRACIE from the Foundation of American Women in Radio.

She has contributed to Ira Glass’s This American Life and is the author of Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother (She Writes Press/April 23), A Woman’s Path (St. Martin’s Press) and The Good Food Compendium (Doubleday). Giese has written for scores of publications, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, LA Weekly, European Travel & Life, and The Malibu Times. She lives in Southern California and Bozeman, Montana, with her husband, Ed Warren.
For more information on Jo and her books, visit her website: jogiese.com.

Be sure to leave a comment below to enter the memoir giveaway contest sponsored by Jo Giese. She’ll read your comments and choose one. That lucky person will receive a copy her memoir: Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother.

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Julie & Julia Week at Women’s Memoir Writing

by Kendra BonnettDecember 28, 2009
Julie & Julia Week at Women’s Memoir Writing

Women’s Memoirs celebrates the last week of 2009 by dining on Julie & Julia. We’ll discuss what the blog, book and movie mean to memoir writers, foodies and bloggers.

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Author Conversation with Memoir Writer Sue William Silverman Emphasizes Tenacity

by Matilda ButlerOctober 26, 2009
Author Conversation with Memoir Writer Sue William Silverman Emphasizes Tenacity

Sue William Silverman shared her experiences that helped her grow as a writer, talked about how to overcome problems as a writer, discussed a technique for recalling early memories, highlighted her use of the five senses, and much more. Listen to an audio of our interview with Sue.

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Interview with Leslie Gilbert-Lurie Provides Insights for Memoir Writing

by Matilda ButlerOctober 5, 2009
Interview with Leslie Gilbert-Lurie Provides Insights for Memoir Writing

Women’s Memoir Author Conversation with Leslie Gilbert-Lurie began with a lively discussion of the importance of a message for your memoir as it helps the author stay focused on the task and provides the reader with the reward for reading the book — a clear sense of what was being said. Be sure to listen to our interview with Leslie as she talks about her newly published memoir, Bending Toward the Sun. She thoughtfully answered questions about working with other family members, handling negative comments during the writing process, finding the right opening to your memoir, and many others.

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Interview with Karen Walker – Author of Following the Whispers

by Matilda ButlerJuly 27, 2009
Interview with Karen Walker – Author of Following the Whispers

How do you reshape a personal story of lost parental custody into a memoir of learning to listen to one’s inner whispers? Listen as Karen Walker, Following the Whispers, shares her experiences with us.

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Conversation with Author Alyse Myers

by Matilda ButlerJuly 16, 2009
Conversation with Author Alyse Myers

Ever thought about the way an author can take advantage of her Blackberry? No, you probably haven’t and we hadn’t either until our fascinating interview with Alyse Myers, author of “Who Do You Think You Are?” Join us in listening to the recording of that interview where Alyse shares insights from writing her memoir and answers your questions.

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Jessica Bram Shares Her Thoughts about Memoir Writing

by Matilda ButlerJune 29, 2009
Jessica Bram Shares Her Thoughts about Memoir Writing

Memoir author Jessica Bram answers your questions and shares her expertise on women’s memoir writing.

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