Memoir 101: Writing the Stories of YOur Life starts Tuesday, January 26th, at 10 AM EDT

In every Memoir class I teach, I am astonished by what individuals can do when invited to unleash the power of their voice in writing. I witness over and over what sharing our stories does to create confidence, healing and transformation.

I invite you to join the next cohort of writers starting tomorrow, Tuesday, January 26th at 10 AM EDT for this live five-week online class. Partial scholarships available.

“This class has changed my life. I have the confidence and inspiration I need to see this project through to the end.”

Live Reading Sunday, january 10th at 8 pM

https://www.facebook.com/groups/stonehousereaders

I will be reading from my memoir Now You See the Sky (Akashic Books, 2018) at the Stone House Readers’ Series Sunday, January 10th at 8:00 PM.

Stonecoast MFA alumni BRADY KAMPHENKEL (poetry) and JOHN CHRISTOPHER NELSON (fiction) will also read. The event is free and will be streamed live on the Stone House Readers’ Series Facebook page. I plan to spend some time after I read answering questions about the process of memoir writing.

If you would like to attend but don’t have facebook, send me an email at writingwithcatharine@gmail.com, and I will set you up with a zoom link, so you can watch from there.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/stonehousereaders

WRITE YOUR STORIES…

I hear it all the time. “Do my stories really matter? Does anyone want to read what I have to say?” My answer is a resounding YES. But only if you tell your stories well, only if you write with passion, vulnerability and honesty. And that is something you can learn to do with instruction, practice and encouragement. If you write from your heart, your stories will move people. They will help others to make sense of their own past by reading about yours.

When you start writing your stories in this way, you may be surprised to discover more than you expected. Not only will you access memories you thought you’d forgotten, but also by reaching back into your past and bringing into the light memories you have been ignoring, you can move forward in your life with more clarity, power and awareness. By writing about events of your life, you are able to witness them from the perspective of your older wiser self as you make space to process, reflect on and release them.

This can be a powerful act. As Richard Blanco said to Melanie Brooks, author of Writing Hard Stories, “It’s either writing a memoir or therapy. But even therapy can’t compare to writing a memoir. Writing one memoir is worth ten about ten years of therapy!”

So when you find yourself discouraged by the hard work of writing, keep going. Keep writing from your heart. Keep looking back and writing your way forward.

Catharine H. Murrray

Author, Now You See the Sky, Akashic Books, 2018

Join me for Memoir 101: Writing the Stories of Your Life.

This 5-week live online course, will begin on Tuesday, January 26, 2020 at 10 AM. Click here for more information and to register. Enrollment is limited, reserve your spot early.

Saying Goodbye

I am sharing with you a link for a radio show I hope you will listen to.

As 2020 draws to a close and we find ourselves in that place between the holidays and the New Year, we may be in a kind of no-man’s land of emotion. This year the pandemic and the emergence of deep social and political divisions brought losses and feelings of grief, anger, confusion and dismay. As we move through these final days of the year, we may find ourselves even more emotionally depleted and disoriented than usual.

Saying Goodbye, currently airing around the country on NPR stations, is a show about how to be with our loved ones as they are dying. And yet I think this show speaks to all of us, addressing that tender place of grief that surfaces from time to time, whether from old losses or new.

As an author of a memoir about grief, I was interviewed by host Anne Hallward about saying goodbye to my son. That 7-minute interview and a reading of one of my poems occur near the end of this hour-long show.

I hope you will take some time for yourself to listen to the whole show and be moved and inspired by the stories in it as they strengthen your sense of connection to our one human family.

Save the Date…

Memoir 101: Writing the Stories of Your Life, the 5-week live online course, will begin on Tuesday, January 26, 2020 at 10 AM. Click here for more information and to register. Look for a message from me with more about this next week.

Time to Speak

We are living in a time when uncertainty is at the forefront of our emotional landscape. We don’t know what will happen in the next few weeks and months as our country goes to the polls to voice our values and decide our direction. We don’t know how those in power will respond if the choice the voters make does not support them. What most of us thought was a stable foundation of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power, is under threat.

One thing, however, has become certain throughout all of this. We can no longer remain silent.

And yet, we may wonder, how can I speak? I am not powerful. I don’t know how to put my voice into the call for justice. What do I know about ending any of this insanity?

Those of us who are able, give financial support to the organizations we think will help. We post on social media the words of those who speak eloquently. We march and raise our small voices into the chants of the multitudes. We vote.

What else can we do? we may ask ourselves. There must be more.

I suggest that we bring the tool of writing to this question. The practice of writing connects the potential power of the unconscious mind with the practical power of the conscious mind. When we ask ourselves what we can do in the midst of all this and write the thoughts that arise, we may be surprised to find a pattern to our responses. If we stay with this practice with persistence, we may tap into forgotten passions that can fuel our actions.

So I encourage you to make time to sit still and listen to yourself. I encourage you to wake up fifteen minutes earlier three days each week for the next month. Before you get out of bed, pick up your pen and notebook or laptop, sit up and ask yourself, What do I need to say in the midst of all of this? What am I afraid of? What am I hopeful about? How can I help?” And then you write honestly whatever comes. You write without stopping for fifteen minutes. This way the inner-critic doesn’t have time to get a foothold. You simply keep writing no matter what comes out. What comes out may be something you’d rather not face. You might rather not know that part of you thinks I’ve worked hard to have the life I do. I don’t have time to help other people figure this out or It’s all hopeless. Why bother? Or This isn’t my problem or I can barely manage my own life. How am I supposed to help manage all this overwhelming stuff?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like your responses, write them anyway. Writing them out is releasing them. Maybe after you’ve written enough of them, they will recede, and a voice that feels more like the part you would like to cultivate will emerge. But you won’t know this if you don’t give the less likable parts room to speak. Listen to them, engage them, thank them. And keep writing.

Through the simple act of showing up to the blank page and writing what you hear, you will learn, day by day, line by line, to honor your own voice. And as you do, your deepest, most authentic voice will get stronger. You will know yourself better. You will have more confidence in your own power, and you may surprise yourself by speaking up where before you were silent.

This is an exploration. The nature of that means you don’t know where it will take you. But if you keep at it, the exploration will empower you. By taking time to sit with yourself, by listening patiently for what is waiting to be heard, you may learn what your role can be in healing our country’s wounds. You may help save our world. You may find a kind of superpower within that you can summon when the time comes. And that time has certainly come.

Catharine H. Murray is the author of Now You See the Sky, published by Akashic Books, 2018

To find support for your writing practice, join Catharine’s live online class Memoir 101: Writing the Stories of Your Life starting November 12, 2020.