Memoir Writing Hurts So Good!

Writing memoir hurts so good! I read that somewhere and often open my talks with it. Writing memoir hurts so good! This might be a great book title. It captures why so many of us want to get our stories down, whether it’s for ourselves, our families, or the world. I’m reminded of a dignified gentleman who once took my course. A retired intelligence officer with a foreign government, he had a great life story to tell – but couldn’t tell it. So he focused on all the exotic places he had visited. Another student, this time during one of the transatlantic cruise ship crossings, wrote her story because she wanted a re-write of her life. It gave her the chance to answer Dr. Phil’s question, ‘How’s that working for you?’ by finding out where it wasn’t working. It was painful writing and yet, cathartic too. She actually enjoyed the process. Writing memoir can hurt so good because it involves rebirth and rekindled hope.

More and more people are capturing their own stories. Over 750 copies of our book Writing Your Legacy are now available at public libraries here in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Holland (okay, just one copy there), Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. On average, over a quarter of them are currently on loan. People want to be heard. They want to leave their children and grandchildren a legacy.

I’ve been invited to speak at this summer’s annual Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. Be assured that I will stay well grounded. There are several fellow speakers and most (probably all) have far more professional chops than I do. Jill Abbinanti has written for Law & Order, Deborah Cahn was a writer with The West Wing, and wrote and produced ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy for eight seasons, and is currently involved with the TV series Vinyl, which is co-produced by Mick Jagger. Jennifer Keisbin Armstrong has written for the New York Times Book Review, Sarah Domet has her Ph.D. in literature, Kerrie Flanagan has written for six Chicken Soup for the Soul books (now that’s a major cred!), and Jen Grisanti, was Head of Current Programs for Aaron Spelling’s company, Spelling Television, Inc. The list goes on, from A-Z. I got as far as G for Grisanti. Time to stop. Well, maybe just one more thing. The keynote speaker is novelist David Baldacci. I look forward to meeting him but first, I’d better read one of his books.

Note to self: Every year, the conference sets aside time for a book-signing event. Authors sit behind desks – their signing pens in hand – chatting with delegates and maybe selling a few copies. Last summer’s conference featured New York Times best-selling suspense writer Jonathan Maberry as keynote speaker. The line-up in front of his desk was very long. Beside him sat another author, lesser known, and she was very much alone out there. She could have pretended to look busy but instead she sat there in regal silence with a welcoming smile on her face. Perhaps she was thinking: “My day will come.” But first she had to pay her dues. She did it well – and I let the moment stay with me. I knew then that my book had just been released and that one day I would be in the same position – paying my dues. I have the feeling that these dues will be paid in blood at this summer’s conference. I will likely be sitting right next to David Baldacci. I suppose I can sit there stoically with my iPad, checking facebook, or I can take mindless notes, or – now here’s an idea – maybe I ought to get up from my own desk, walk over to his line, get a signed copy of his latest novel “The Last Mile”, and start reading.

Writing Hurts So Good! Yes, I like that phrase. I might use that for my next book title.

Richard Campbell

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