Where Readers & Writers Connect
How long have you been writing?
I have been intrigued with writing, story telling and presentations as far back as my memories will transport me. My fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mr. Don Myers, always encouraged creativity in his students, and I believe that during that time, a seed was planted that would grow my desire to entertain and educate. For many years, I wrote poetry for friends and family. One sunny, cloudless day, sitting on the beach in Cape May, NJ with a group of my friends who vacation together every 4th of July week at that same location, I began writing my first novel, Eyelash. From writing that initial book of Christian fiction, I found out how exciting it is to create and develop characters, put words directly into their mouths with dialogue, and I actually get to allow my imagination to run wild and conjure up the twists and turns in their lives. What a learning experience it turned out to be! That first publication was in 2006, and early in 2012, I published another novel, Never Say Perfect, and a nonfiction work, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!
What genre do you usually write?
I bounce back and forth between contemporary inspirational fiction and nonfiction on the topic of memoir writing. While I love writing fiction for the reasons mentioned above, I have a passion for influencing people and helping them write their life stories to pass along to future generations. If we don’t capture and preserve the stories of our grandparents and parents, as well as our own, these bits of history are forever lost.
Why do you have such a passion for the topic of memoir writing?
My husband and I were touring Pearl Harbor a few years ago, and it was like a lightning bolt struck me in the head. I remembered that my own dad was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during the bombing and had survived. I tried to recall anything that he had ever told me about that day, but there were no details that came to mind. It was too late to ask him, as he had passed away about five years before my Hawaiian visit.
I was so upset with myself for never having taken the time and effort to obtain his stories while it was possible. It ignited a fire in my heart to inspire others to preserve their stories and to capture the memories of their loved ones before it is too late. Now I drive my mom crazy by trying to acquire any details about her life and family that she can recall.
How did you prepare for teaching memoir writing?
My formal education was actually in accounting, paralegal studies and employee benefits. After the Pearl Harbor tour, I researched memoirs and personal history and found Denis Ledoux at the Soleil Lifestory Network (www.turningmemories.com) in Maine. Although I was already overcommitted between work, family and volunteering, I couldn’t wait to begin the program to certify as a lifewriting instructor.
This involved tele-conference classes with other students from all over the country plus a five day intensive writing class at his Maine location. Mr. Ledoux has been teaching memoir writing since 1988, so he really knows what works and what doesn’t. This was an excellent training program and a great experience, and Mr. Ledoux’s book, Turning Memories Into Memoirs, is a valuable resource.
What prompted you to write a book about capturing memories?
Through teaching my own memoir writing workshops, I could see a serious need to present the topic in an uncomplicated manner. I felt that the important goal was to simplify the process into easy steps for people to realize that preserving their stories does not have to be overwhelming. Using the step-by-step method in my book might not produce a Pulitzer Prize winning story, but it will get significant life stories and some family history into the hands of loved ones, and that is my primary goal and passion.
How does 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing benefit the reader?
This book is a compact publication containing a powerful toolkit and message. Following the seven steps will guide the reader on a successful journey of memoir writing. It offers additional tips and hints that help to alleviate the overwhelmed feeling inherent in tackling a memoir project. It provides a comprehensive list of questions for interviewing relatives or for formulating your own story, a list of additional resources and select sample stories by my amazing memoir writing workshop students.
The reader will discover that preserving our stories, before they are no longer obtainable, can actually be an enjoyable experience! I always tell people to view the project as an adventure rather than a chore. Children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and future generations will be thankful to have in their possession the stories that we choose to write today!
What is next on your agenda?
I only hope that marketing 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing will help raise awareness about the importance of preserving our stories. It is the only way that loved ones and future family members will know what we would really like for them to know about our history.
I would like to schedule more speaking engagements on the subject, and I am juggling more book projects to release when they are finalized. I have two nonfiction books in process—10 Easy Steps to Writing the Life Story of Your Treasured Pet and 3 Easy Steps to Writing Your Christian Spiritual Journey Story. I am also working on my third novel, Never Say Hopeless, and then Never Say Final will follow.
Believe me, I could work at my computer 24/7, but I have to remind myself to take a break sometimes!
What one piece of advice would you give to a beginning writer?
There are so many critical points that I would like to share, and choosing only one is really difficult. I would say in preparation for your writing, read everything you can get your hands on! Read about the craft of writing. Find out what makes a story interesting and scenarios that will hold the readers captive. You wouldn’t attempt any skilled vocation without training, right?
Subscribe to Writer’s Digest, which covers a huge array of articles on a wide variety of writing topics. Choose the genre in which you are most likely to be writing, and spend considerable time reading books that are similar to what you desire to write. You will be able, as an objective reader, to detect what works and also instinctively determine what does not. Above all, (and I hope this doesn’t count as an extra piece of advice) realize that regardless of how spectacular your work may be, you will never…let me repeat that…never be able to please every reader. That said, doing your homework in advance will put you on the best possible path toward a goal of successful writing.
For more information about Mary, see her Website: http://www.awriterspresence.com or blog Blog: http://www.maryannebenedetto.blogspot.com .If writing a memoir is of interest to you, check out her book. It’s only $2.99 for Kindle.