Dave Pelzer (A Child Called “It”) calls Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving, “A riveting memoir that takes readers on a roller coaster ride from the depths of hell to triumphant success.” Vanity Fair declares it, “A beautifully written book … with honesty [and] humor.” It’s author, Michelle Stevens, PhD, joins the SCWC for the first time to discuss the challenges of sharing her remarkable story with searing honesty, often with great hilarity. A now-veteran of the Big 5 auction block, she’ll also be conducting a workshop, “Crafting a Compelling Memoir Proposal.“
Speaking of memoirs, as large a market as there is for them, writing one can prove daunting on many levels. Whether to inspire or inform or merely entertain—or all three at once—the best personal narratives rely heavily on the tools writers of fiction have at their disposal when crafting stories. And be certain, memoir is story, story rooted in one’s life story, not one’s life story itself. (That would be autobiography.)
We’ve had many excellent memoirs come out of the SCWC, including Peggy Vincent’s Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife and Stacey O’Brien’s beloved Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl, among others. Over the past several recent conferences, however, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in such manuscripts coming through. While I won’t go into the specifics of why too many of these efforts fail at being commercially viable, I will cite that not exploiting the fiction writer’s toolbox factors greatly. To remedy this we’re introducing a series of workshops that directly address writing the modern memoir.
“Structure in Memoir: How to Reveal the Universal Story Inside the Personal Narrative,” “Tell Me a Story—Using the Techniques of Fiction to Craft a Compelling Memoir,” and “Time in Memoir—A Chronology of Its Own” will all be conducted by Judy Reeves; “Turning Your Real-life Experiences into a Book” by Maralys Wills; “Nonfiction for Newbies: Is it a Book or Not?” by Marla Miller; as mentioned above, “Crafting a Compelling Memoir Proposal“ by Michelle Stevens; and possibly one more we’re waiting to hear on. Also, don’t forget that Jean Jenkins’ “Best Foot Forward: Polishing to Impress” workshops also provide crucial hands-on attention to memoir. Check out the Workshops and Events page for details.
I suspect these sessions will prove as much value to the novelists in the house as any of the non-fictionalists.
Editor and publisher of Harper Wave, the imprint she founded in 2012, and a senior vice president at HarperCollins Publishers, Karen Rinaldi recently had this to say: “This writing and book business is a conversation, between a writer and herself, between an editor and a writer, and ultimately between the writer and her reader.” I would add that this holds truer to memoir than possibly any other genre. We’re all quite excited about the added focus. We hope you are to.
This Month’s Good “Muse”
We mentioned back in December longtime author/SCWCer Janis Thomas’ 2-book deal with Amazon Publishing imprint Lake Union. Slated for release come November, the jacket for the first title, What Remains True, has just been revealed. The novel’s available for pre-sale now … Before then, author/SCWCer Marlene Wagman-Geller’s Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women drops July 25, 2017 from Mango … And for all those devoted readers of SCWCer Evan Ramspott’s (who writes under the pen name Better Hero Army) zombie-themed saga, Plagued: The Battle Creek Zombie Rectification Experiment has just been released. The picture below is of him at this week’s signing at our favorite independent bookseller, Mysterious Galaxy.
On the awards front, Cherie Kephart won Best Memoir at the San Diego Book Awards for A Few Minor Adjustments; Eric Peterson’s The Dining Car nabbed Contemporary Fiction; Tammy Greenwood’s Where I Lost Her got General Fiction; and George Berger’s well-deserved Four Nails took Historical Fiction.
For the 2017 International Book Awards, Matthew J. Pallamary’s n0thing is a finalist in Science Fiction, and Gregory A. Fournier’s Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked is a finalist in the True Crime: Non-Fiction category.
Good job, all. Congratulations!
Much more to come as we finish knitting September together. Discounted pre-registration for Irvine is now open. Be there or be…ware!
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC