Spending time with writers is always fun and rewarding. And that was my experience participating in the panel discussion and leading a breakout session on writing memoir at Sinclair’s Writer’s Workshop on April 9.
Crystal Wilkinson, Keynote Speaker, advocates for being true to yourself
Before the workshop, I read this interview to learn more about our keynote speaker. I found many aspects of Crystal Wilkinson and her writing fascinating, but hearing her commitment to being true to herself touched my heart. I talked with Crystal before her keynote address and told her I liked that about her. I understood completely when she reflected that a colleague has more material success than she and sometimes questions the wisdom of this commitment. I struggle with that as well.
I found Crystal’s use of birds as metaphors in her novel, Birds of Opulence, and her method of weaving them into her story captivating. I learned in the interview I read that she is currently working on a memoir about her mother’s mental illness. She finds writing memoir much harder than writing fiction. That amused me because I experience just the opposite.
April Wilson demonstrates Literary Citizenship
Lucky for me … April Wilson and I shared our writing experience with the whole group on a panel.
In addition to being a highly successful contemporary romance writer, April is a Literary Citizen Extraordinaire who mentors other authors. She formed The Miami Valley Writer’s Support Network which meets once a month and is also forming an Ohio Writer’s Support Network.
As one of my mentors, I appreciated April for singing the praises of my memoir during the panel discussion. April’s topic at the Writer’s Workshop was the business of being an author. What fun it was as we each fielded great questions from the writers and aspiring writers present.
“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” ~Harriet Goldher Lerner
My Most Meaningful Connections
During the Panel Discussion
I knew one of the workshop participants slightly from a a yoga class I used to attend. Coincidentally, she experienced a similar situation to mine with her son. During the panel discussion, she shared her dilemma about whether to write her story as a memoir or a novel. During the break we hugged in support of each other as mother’s of challenging sons. She asked to purchase my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, and I offered to be a reader for her as she writes her story. We hugged again and she expressed her gratitude for my offer to be a reader. That exchange meant a lot to me.
“The value in writing memoir is the opportunity it affords to do a thorough ‘life review.’ Writing A Long Awakening to Grace gave me a whole new perspective and transformed my perception of my life’s meaning and purpose. Unearthing the wisdom gained from life experiences and consciously sharing it for the benefit of others gives hope for the future of humankind.” ~Linda A. Marshall
One participant shared about wanting to write a memoir because she thought a lot could be learned from doing it. However, she feared hurting a family member. This is a common concern for memoirists. However, writing doesn’t necessarily mean publishing. I advised her to write it and learn all she could from the story. And who knows, at some point her family member may be more open and publishing would become an option. Later this participant approached and thanked me for encouraging her to move forward. I felt grateful to pass on to her the wisdom I had gained from the process of writing my memoir.
Another participant was a member of the first writing class I took at Sinclair in 2007 … Writing Your Life and Times taught by Kay Berg. I admire this woman greatly and she has a very powerful story to tell. I ran into her at the new downtown library after my memoir was published. She came up to me and said, “Guess what I’m reading.” I was thrilled that she thought enough of me to read my story.
During the memoir breakout group she held up my book and announced to the other participants, “When I grow up, I want to be Linda. She kept going until she got her book written. That’s what I want to do.” And I sincerely hope she does. It is a relevant story for today and one which would definitely benefit future generations. I feel honored that I have inspired her to get her story out into the world.
I feel immensely grateful to Sinclair for giving me this opportunity to make these meaningful connections with other writers in our community.