I don’t like to think about the pandemic days very much; they were harrowing and left an indelible mark on most of us. But one of the only good things from that time for me was how I learned to reach out for connection in ways I hadn’t before, meet other writers, and slowly build a community that ultimately spanned timezones, writing genres, and life stages. Four years later and I’ve maintained lots of these friendships, been able to visit some of these virtual friends in real life, created panels with them at writing conferences, appeared at book events together, and had them as guests on my podcasts.

And as if that wasn’t gift enough, many of these friends shared my memoir When She Comes Back (Motina Books, 2021) and my short story collection Home is a Made-Up Place (Motina Books 2023) on social media, wrote reviews, had me at their book clubs, and invited me to be a guest on their podcasts. It’s been a generosity feedback loop that has taught me a lot about giving back, supporting my peers, and remembering that we need each other in this writing life.

Listing all of the opportunities I’ve had because of the kind support of my peers would fill pages and pages and would be nearly impossible to accurately trace since each new connection led to so many more. I am grateful to them all and a special thank you to Allison K. Williams and Ashleigh Renard who kicked off this new understanding of how lifting up other writers is the best way to also feel lifted. I know that had it not been for what I learned from Allison and Ashleigh and the online groups they fostered, I surely wouldn’t have become this productive or fulfilled in my writing life.

The memoir question I’m addressing this week is all about community and creative growth. Read on for more.

A Memoir Question Answered

On May 7th I hosted a Memoir-Ask-Me-Anything with Lisa Keefauver MSW which was a highlight of the month for me. Lisa, the host of the podcast Grief is a Sneaky Bitch and author of a new book by the same name is generous and insightful and I always learn something new when I’m in conversation with her. We were able to answer a bunch of questions but at the end of the hour we still hadn’t gotten to a few so I’d like to address this one now.

Question: “How do I find a writing group that I can trust, is at a similar level as I am and is willing to workshop with me? Or do most emerging writers hire editors just to get feedback?”

Writing groups can be integral to our growth as writers and can help us hone our editing skills. If you are interested in a group there are different ways to approach finding one. I appreciate that you are also asking about groups you can trust; that is so important. You should always follow your instincts and if you don’t feel comfortable or that the advice you are getting is good, don’t feel obligated to stay. You will benefit from a group of writers who are committed to growing, are respectful, and know how to share feedback in constructive ways. Sometimes it takes a while to find your people, but they are out there.

Editors are also a good option for improving your work but require a financial commitment. If you are far along in your project you may be ready for a professional eye on your work. If you are earlier in the process, a class or writing group is more economical and reading other writers’ work will also help you sharpen your skills.

One of the best ways to find a group is to take classes that go for 6 weeks or so which can give you time to become friendly with classmates who are also looking for a writing cohort. I can recommend several places/teachers who do these online and if you enjoy your time with your classmates and feel they are astute readers, then you can begin meeting after the class ends.

Of course, classes cost money and are a commitment, but if you know you’ll be investing in one anyway and you gel with your classmates, you can suggest that when class is over, those who are interested continue meeting. As a group you can set parameters for frequency and format. Groups that form from classes can be great places to hone your craft because they are free, you are familiar with one another, you are most likely at similar writing stages, and you have already established ground rules for workshopping writing.

Here are some venues for online classes:

Memoir Courses with Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers Brooke Warner of She Writes Press who was a guest on Let’s Talk Memoir and Linda Joy Myers, founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers offer a variety of memoir classes and coaching.

Craft Talks  Allison K. Williams and Sharla Yates curate these virtual sessions and bring talented teachers to their cross-genre roster. Their offerings are exciting and once you sign up for information you’ll get updates for upcoming workshops as they release them.

Hugo House This is the memoir class page for Hugo House and you’ll see some are 6 sessions, some 1. I really am a fan of the classes here and have taken fiction and nonfiction courses over the years. I’ve most recently been focusing on poetry and my last class has decided to begin a poetry workshop group and we are going to begin meeting once a month virtually. Hugo House releases new course catalogs each season so if you’ve missed the start of a class, check back.

Resilient Writers I teach virtually for Rhonda, the founder of Resilient Writers who is in Canada and she has a writing accountability group and community for a pretty moderate cost monthly where you can also find people to connect with.

Your questions: If you have questions about memoir writing or publishing you’d like me to address you can send me a message here or find my on socials.

On the Podcast

Season 4 of Let’s Talk Memoir is fast becoming one of my favorite seasons thanks to my incredible guests. Recent episodes cover the nature of mercy with ourselves and those we write about, how we can harness mythological archetypes to deepen our narratives, and a conversation about the memoir publishing landscape with the nonfiction director at Ballantine Books. Read on for more about these episodes.

Truth is the Arrow, Mercy is the Bow featuring Steve Almond

Steve Almond joined Let’s Talk Memoir for a conversation about the ambivalence memoirists often experience when writing about others, the story underneath the story we are telling, disrupting the negative feedback loop of writer’s block, dialing the ego down, questions of inner life, his contribution to Dear Sugars podcast, generosity and mercy in our work, performing versus storytelling, how our failures are actually are teachers, and his new book on writing, Truth Is the Arrow, Mercy Is the Bow.

Memoir Through a Mythic Lens featuring Maureen Murdock

Maureen Murdock joined Let’s Talk Memoir for a conversation about how myths help excavate our stories, memoir as a way to reclaim the past, invisible primary patterns in the psyche, letting ourselves meander and reflect, using process journals to excavate fears about being vulnerable, allowing structure to emerge, a favorite prompt of hers, and her latest book Mythmaking: Self-Discovery and the Timeless Art of Memoir.

Coming up 5/21: A Conversation with Nonfiction Director at Ballantine Books Sara Weiss

Be sure to listen this Tuesday for my conversation with Sara Weiss, Director of Nonfiction at Ballantine Books who acquires memoir. In this conversation we talk about what memoir writers always need to ask themselves, her interest in memoir with purpose, the editorial decision-making process, building a writing community, how many books we can realistically sell, making our work ready, and the pace of publishing these days. I was so happy to be able to have this time with Sara and you can find our conversation first thing Tuesday morning, 5/21 on your favorite podcast platform.

Mark your calendar, my next Memoir Ask-Me-Anything is June 25 at noon with Hannah Sward, whose memoir is Strip. We’ll be talking about approaching addiction and recovery in memoir and take your memoir writing questions. Registration opens soon.

If you enjoyed reading this newsletter and found it helpful, you can share it with a memoir writer you care about. 🧡

Until next time,