Memoirs: B2BCyber Convention and Book Expo

How Reading is Helping Me Write a Better Memoir

Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ~Stephen King, On Writing
 Most people I know who love to write also love to read—a lot.
Getting lost in a good book is right up there as one my favorite things to do. As soon as I finish one book, I am clamoring like an addict to get my hands on the next one. While I am partial to memoirs, I love to mix it up and dig into a good historical novel, a classic, a book by a writer I’ve never heard of, poetry. The list goes on and the pile of books at my bedside keeps getting taller. And I know you can relate.
Since I am in the revision stage of my work-in-progress memoir, On the Edge of Hope: My Journey Through My Son’s Addiction, I’ve had a laser focus on memoirs by mothers of addicted sons.

Addiction is a cunning beast which storms in like a tornado and leaves its victims shattered and confused. It goes hand in hand with codependency.

Memoirs I’m reading that have created sparks of recognition…

Every once a while, I read a book that sparks fireworks in my mind where scenes from my life pop out at me in rapid-fire fashion and have me grabbing for a pad and pen to jot them down. Pattie Welek Hall’s memoir, A Mother’s Dance: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Full Circle affected me in a deeply personal way as the mother of a son. It is about facing and conquering calamitous events with not one but two young adult sons, one who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident and the other with addiction.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

What was it about Pattie’s memoir that sparked such a reaction in me?
The highlight of a good memoir is the universal connection the reader feels with the story. Even though this is Pattie’s unique story from her point of view, she brought me into her sacred journey in a way that helped me connect with the story of my heart–my journey through my son’s addiction. 
Reading her memoir inspired me to find other memoirs by mothers of addicted sons. There are other powerful memoirs about addicted children, namely, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore  by Maggie Romera,  Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Scheff  and Broken: A Story of Addiction and Redemption by William Cope Moyers but I wanted to focus on the mother-son relationship.

That’s not the first time that has happened…

When I read Sandra Swenson’s The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction, I heard the same bells and whistles go off as I relived my own efforts to help my son and felt the same level of frustration about not being able to control his addiction. Though Joey is still active in his addiction, Sandra has found serenity in her ministry to educate and inspire other parents to believe that letting go does not mean giving up. She chronicles her journey “through the place where love and addiction meet”.   Sandra shares her story in this ASK documentary:
Sandy from Kurt Neale on Vimeo.

More mothers speak up–more fireworks in my mind…

Saving JakeWhen Addiction Hits Home by D’Anne Burwell follows the long, tough road to family recovery, highlighting the shame and silence that often accompanies addiction. What’s unique about D’Anne’s book is that she incorporates the latest resources and research about addiction into her story, reinforcing the point that educating yourself about the disease of addiction will facilitate the recovery process. Through her own arduous journey to understand and cope with her son’s addiction, she has provided a wealth of resources for anyone dealing with an addicted child.

In Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction, educator and author Libby Cataldi shares the story of her son, Jeff’s valiant struggle to recover from severe drug addiction from her point of view. I love the part where Jeff reflects on his side of the story in retrospect. Libby has continued her mission to educate and support those families suffering with addiction through her weekly blog, Stay Close with stories of hope and inspiration about addiction and recovery.
Each story similar–the same angst and heartache, the initial guilt and shame, the confusion, the silence and sense of betrayal and manipulation a mother feels when she discover her son is an addict. Yet so different in their presentations. All show the struggle and nurture the hope that recovery is possible.
 All these brave women have shared their story in hopes of helping others traveling the same terrifying path. They are advocates for families of addicts through their websites, radio programs, speaking engagements. Sandy helps cook at a home for unwed mothers. Sandy is involved with ASK, a program to educate families about addiction and codependency. D’Anne has  website ASK for Family Recovery. Pattie hosts her own internet radio talk show called Joy Radio. 

How has reading these memoirs helped me with my writing?

*They connected me to my own story in a deeply personal way.
*While reading outside my genre has helped me to learn about style, voice, narration, reading these memoirs has helped me to see how each author delivered their unique story–one I have a vested interest in– in a way that is believable and engaging. They each have their own voice and style, yet they all taught me the value of honest introspection, believable characters and showing their progress toward transformation. The transformation is the part that nurtures the hope.
*Reading a wide variety of authors with similar stories has given me a new perspective on my own voice.
While my story may be similar, it’s still unique to me and I get to tell it in my own authentic voice. There’s no right or wrong. Your story is just that–your story but if you don’t spark a connection with a universal story then the vision of helping others through your own life lessons is lost.
*Each story is an invitation into the sacred space of the mother-son relationship.
Pattie, Sandy, D’Anne and Libby are all warrior mothers who have faced the nightmare of awakening to the nightmare of their sons’ addictions. They have faced the truth and have forged ahead to find their own path to recovery. The lessons they share are making a positive difference in the world. They have inspired me to keep writing my own story in hopes of helping others who need it the most.
As I write about my son and the impact of his addiction on our family, I will keep Casey and Bo, Joey, Jake and Jeff and their warrior mothers who never, ever gave up hope, close at heart.
How about you? Have you ever read a book that inspired you in your writing? What about the book inspired you?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~

October 24  2016   Sci Fi Writer Mary Woldering: Her Interview 

 Mary R. Woldering has created the questions and has self styled this interesting interview, then generously shared it with me here at Soulsciences. Her interest in the metaphysical field of other lifetimes, reincarnation and more infuses all she writes. Her fascination with dreams and what she calls prophecy weaves throughout her work. 

1.        Describe yourself in 150 words or less.
Writer of Mystical History series Children of Stone. Costumer, student of wisdom, never a master, companion, old soul, Wise MaMa, Crone (not your sweet lil' old granny) - I'm brash, volatile, vital & out of control. I'm wise in life but the lifelong search for peace has not cooled my jets. I'm a spiritualist and spirit hunter but down to earth and often salty. I thirst for more life and new adventures. At one time I was cataloguing what I called “past lives and connections” I still have all the notes. I've written them into a series.
My old identity song was "Little Old Lady from Pasadena" except I would never drive a car that fast.

In my Children of Stone series, I teach what I have seen in my dreams...many times what I saw became prophecy

100 years ago I would have been in a madhouse.

2.Tell us about your published books.

I have published the first 3 of a 5 book series.
Walk into history with MARAI: a humble, goddess-worshipping shepherd who becomes a god!
Voices in Crystal (CHILDREN OF STONE Book 1), Going Forth By Day (CHILDREN OF STONE Book 2) and (CHILDREN OF STONE Book 3) Opener of the Sky

Remnants of an alien race of gods, wizards, shape-shifters, heroic mortals, immortals, slowly transform into the gods of ancient days. Like ancient superheroes, they wander through the reality of legend, RESHAPING myth and history.

And It just MOVES!
It entertains, it romps, It leaps, IT HOWLS and it's just plain fun.

3.     Did you go the traditional route or did you DIY publish? I tried traditional in the mid 1980’s and got tired of the rejections. I realize now, the novel was not ready and I was not mature enough or settled enough to write it, so it’s a good thing.

4.        Where was your favorite travel destination and why? I like travel PERIOD. If I have the funds and the companionship I like just about any place. It’s more about who I am with and the situation surrounding the journey than the location.

5.        If you were a picture, which room in the house do you want to be in? The living room. I have so much living left to do!

6.        Is there anything in particular that you refuse to write about, such as sex or mannequins?
Refuse, no. Be any good at is different. I really would have trouble with standard Christian fiction or HARD erotica that lasted more than a few pages. Also sunny HEA Romances would be tough because I’m always finding something dark or complex…really anything FORMULA

7.        Do you belong to any critique groups?
Northeast Cleveland Writers Group (Kevin Chapman, moderator) That may not be the exact name of the group. It meets monthly and they help me + beta read.

8.        Name one thing on your bucket list.
The only thing is getting my books published and to sell well. The DREAM was for them to be made into a movie with Jason Momoa playing Marai before he gets too old. The first star I had picked out is too old now.  Maybe I would like to go to Egypt and the Middle East if there is any of it left by the time there is peace (if that will even be in my lifetime)

9.        In regards to writing, what are you working on now?
Book 4 Children of Stone – Into the Lotus and a steampunk crime spinoff novella with two Children of Stone Characters visiting another life called “Miss Hattie and the Hoppers”

What’s your favorite song right now? I like “Helios” by Matenrou Opera. It’s a Visual Kei song (Japanese glam/metal) I enjoyed their concert because the young men in the group look like cartoons or angels and work with orbs.
I took so much of my writing from the lyrics of Doors songs, because I used to play that music when I meditated. I would visualize things when I did.

“The Crystal Ship”
“The End”
“When the Music’s Over”
especially though … the song about ME “Wild Child” because she’s still inside me

All right
Wild child, full of grace
Savior of the human race
Your cruel face
Natural child, terrible child
Not your mother's or your father's child
You're our child, screamin' wild
An ancient lunatic reigns
In the trees of the night
Ha ha ha ha
With hunger at her heels
Freedom in her eyes
She dances on her knees
Pirate prince at her side
Starin' into the hollow idol's eye

Wild child, full of grace
Savior of the human race
Your cruel face
Your cruel face

for more from Mary on YouTube click here

Memoir Book Review 
The Silence of Morning by Daisy A Hickman

Letting go as a phrase used in meditation encourages meditators to release thoughts and eventually beliefs and emotions, allowing a natural sense of being in the present moment to rise and fall with each breath.
Daisy A Hickman’s deeply poignant memoir traces her steps through a life outlined by cultural expectations to her present, ever present state of personal depth which means separation from expectation and acceptance of an ever present now.
That she followed these steps because of the death of her only son by his own hand makes this memoir all the more remarkable and poignant.
Hickman frames her memoir The Silence of Morning with time. Time as described by the cultural demands from grade school, time as a potential to describe hope for the future, time in every description, Hickman lays waste to the fantasy of time encouraged by our collective group belief. Time as a frozen construct, warbled to her by well-wishers eager to put distance (time) between her and them in stock phrases like, “time heals all,” that idea of time the author rejects.
 Hickman rejects the homily but not the intent of compassion, just as she rejects the notion her son’s suicide is an act from which she can, or will “heal.”
Instead, she emerges out of that dream of time through the nightmare of her only son’s addiction and suicide. What is left?
Letting go as a meditation mantra mouthed by millions of beginners sounds like a remedy for all of life’s ills and pains. Instead, as Hickman describes it, truly letting go means dissolution of false securities, unreal mental constructs, and fantasy beliefs dominating most lives. Letting go means taking on the face of the present moment even though that requires sacrificing one’s cherished personality.
The freedom acquired is a freedom of maturity, not the instant and eternal happiness our infantile culture proscribes, but acceptance of the paradox of life lived with death. Hickman’s memoir rings with moments of such freedom. In the end her writing describes the Depth that rises to meet those who must let go.

It is a Depth of timeless grace, including sorrow and joy, embracing paradox. In the end Hickman succeeds in describing her own beginning and in it the ever-present spirit of her beloved son Matthew. The book is a meditation guide. Get it. Read it. Slowly. 
Grief, Suicide, Death, Death of Son, Addiction, Memoir,

Author Darcy Leech writes of Genetic Illness and Healing Through Inheritance in her very emotional work From My Mother. 

genetic inheritance, myotonic dystrophy, genes, healing, family, death, Darcy Leech spares no bones about her personal struggle within a family stricken with a congenital terminal disease. While many families would fold under the pressures of one child born with myotonic dystrophy, the strength it takes to endure the loss of that child, and one of the parents to the same disease pushes strength to new meaning. Ms. Leech's candid reconstruction of the last days of her mother's life ring so clearly for so many of us who have walked with a loved one to the doors of death.
Yet it is the unflagging spirit, inherited from her mother, that stays with the reader. Darcy Leech's ability to continue with grace, and love of God, surpasses all her tribulations, making her life a true tribute to the mother she loved so well. From My Mother speaks to her true inheritance: a life lived in fullness, with courage and dignity despite marked obstacles. Both Darcy and her mother achieve this.

Moving Tender Guest Post of Grief by author of In the Context of Love  Linda K Sienkeiwicz

This moving  guest post dips into the heart of loss, its profound echo of emptiness and the step by step approach back into life. Read more here!

Thank you Dana Goodman for offering vulnerability and wisdom.

watch for My Impossible Life: Memoir by Charlene Jones 

     I stand in the red and white kitchen my mother painted. The cupboards have glass doors and my mother has pasted small decals of flowers —orange, yellow, white— on the bottom edge of each.  She will slam those doors against their frame, screaming and slamming until the glass flies in all directions, the scattered shards of dark angels.

      Not yet. Now she stands by the kitchen sink, her back to me, over the white porcelain. She talks to her budgie bird, “Pretty boy! Say it. Say “Pretty Boy.” Tell me, come on now, who’s a pretty boy?” She chirps like a bird, her voice sing song and the fowl, enchanted by my mother’s sounds, encouraged by her sweet face, charmed by her warmth lands on her shoulder. It shoves its beak into its feathers, then hops on etch-a-sketch bird legs back and forth across her shoulder, dipping its head in rhythm to its own skinny sound, “Pretty boy, who’s a pretty boy, achhhh.”

     I stand on a chair, just tall enough for my arms to reach up to the top of the round, white fridge. That’s where the dirty yellow radio sits, its dials smiling at me. I am not allowed to touch.

     In spite of this my fingers reach out. Without turning, my mother snaps her voice, “Don’t touch that.”

     “I was just…”

     “Don’t. Leave it where it is.”

      Maybe it’s Connie Francis telling me Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, or Bobby Darin yearning for his Dream Lover, or the Platters, Only You. My small body rocks with the music I love. Sometimes when the Platters come crooning through, my mother sings, her voice pitch perfect and I feel her velvet.  That’s on the other days, when she may be making cookies, or peeling vegetables, her face smiling, her kind black- brown eyes suffused with love as she calls me, “honey.” That is the heaven of my short life.

      Not now. No softness now. Her voice bites the air and I hear the warning. Her voice is the first. The leather belt hangs at the top of the basement stairs to her right. That is hell.

      Did my mother know? Did she ever see my brother’s feral eyes peering at me, gloating with triumph after? Did she ever hear in his boy words the imperious humiliation he leveled at me, stripping me of emotional worth after he had invaded my body. For all her visionary ability I believe she was blind and deaf to him, her shining light. Birthed from a line of Scottish visionaries my mother’s mother, Gram, had been born with the caul on her face. Gram told me how her own visions began when she caught her waist length carrot red hair on the tracks of one of the first street cars, what she called a trolley, in Toronto. Outside the door of their convenience store my grandmother’s screams pierced the air where the conductor slammed the brakes on, the smell of electricity acrid in his nostrils, relieved to see as he jumped down only the shining tresses of my grandmother’s precious hair wound ever more tightly into his wheel, which had attempted and failed to pull my grandmother’s head toward its demise and Mama, her one good eye trained on her only daughter, running with the scissors,  clipped her daughter free.

      My Great Grandmother, that Mama, stands behind her two small children in the picture from 1905. Taken when they first landed in the great New World, my Great Grandmother’s one good eye stared down the present, peered through its veils into a future she found more tolerable the more she consumed the alcohol that fueled her blood.

      Did he pluck the eye from her, that man, my biological Great Grandfather? His shadow seeps across the dock in Edinburgh where, toddlers in hand, surrounded by crates of silver cutlery, crystal vases, bowls, glasses, china the detritus of a marriage gone wrong, my Great Grandmother scans across the dangerous voyage before her to a land of safety.

      Her Sight, and love of alcohol, ran true in my grandmother’s blood, sang in her sleep all the nights of her life, whispering to her cells secrets of the future. I believe this because my mother had the Sight. I believe this because that knowing dances in my blood too.

     Visions in dreams: as a child a single dream of horror returned three times: a green valley of slime. I want out! The first two times I scramble up the sides, driven by instinct to the top of the sides where I hoist myself up. Through broken concrete I look back and see the bloodied stumps of what remains of my legs.

      The third time I have the dream I refuse that thrust and walk, terrified to the end of the valley. The dream tucked itself away in an inside pocket I didn’t know I had.

      It returned in the middle of the three days I was held hostage by two criminals, Al and Gary, who splayed a man’s flesh to shreds with a sawed off shot gun, the smell of that blood fingering through my nostrils, flying back out through my mouth in bile and gorge.

      “We’re going out that door. You can run. The highway is 12 miles in that direction,” Al’s sneer twists his face, his finger points. “But we’ll come after you.”

     “And shoot me dead.”

     “No,” triumph in his voice, “No, we won’t shoot you. We’ll shoot the legs out from under you and leave you for the animals to eat.” The dream springs out of hiding, green slime splashing across my inner vision.

My Impossible Life - Teaser 2!

My Impossible Life - Teaser 3!

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