“Let It Be” – Advice for Women Memoir Writers Looking for the Opening


Karen-walker Opening Salvos #9 by Matilda Butler


In a recent Women’s Memoir Author Conversation with SCN member Karen Walker, Kendra Bonnett and I were intrigued by a number of her responses to questions from our listeners. We invite you to listen to her entire interview. But right now I'd like to focus on just one response. Near the end of the interview, I got to ask my question about memoir openings. Specifically, I asked Karen to read her first three paragraphs and then tell us how she came up with the idea for her opening and why she chose this way to get her memoir started.

Karen’s memoir, Following the Whispers, started out as a rehash of her journals — more than 700 pages of rehash. “Then I turned my manuscript over to an editor and she told me, ‘You have a story in there somewhere. Just tell it.'” That was the beginning of a long journey for Karen, a journey that included going back to college and taking every creative writing class they offered. During those classes, she began the rewrite of her memoir.

For anyone who has written, we know that meant the rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite of her story. Karen told us that her current opening “was not the beginning of my memoir when I started.” Because Karen originally thought of her story as that of a woman who had lost custody of her young son, she had started the story with that loss. Later, as she rewrote her memoir and eventually worked with another editor, she came to see that her story wasn’t about losing custody. It was a story of ignoring her inner whispers, whispers that gently urged her in the right direction, and finally learning to follow her whispers. 

As Karen neared the completion of her memoir, she still didn’t have a good opening. Her advice to writers is: “Don’t worry. Just let it be. Just allow the right opening to come. It always does.” Karen got her inspiration one evening at a regular folk dance gathering she attends. She saw a friend dancing around the room with his two daughters snuggled in his arms. Karen said, “At that moment, I saw how different my childhood was from these two lucky little girls. I also saw I now had the perfect opening to my memoir.”  

Be sure to listen to all of Karen’s interview. Click Here to go to the blog with her interview. She has many interesting points for memoir writers. You’ll especially like her discussion of the Golden Thread.

Matilda-butler-secret-1 By the way, I’ve spent the past two weeks working on a short video in which I share the first of seven secrets to writing an effective memoir. I too struggled with how to begin that video. In a video you have to grab a viewer even more quickly than you do in a memoir. The video is now posted on YouTube. If you’d like to check it out, Click Here or go to http://www.tinyurl.com/lpnkb9  If you like it, please click on the Subscribe button. We’re working on the second video – Women’s Memoir Writing Secret #2. 

We hope you'll share the video with other life writers. Be sure to let us know what type of information you'd like in these videos and we'll add your suggestions to our list.

6 responses to ““Let It Be” – Advice for Women Memoir Writers Looking for the Opening

  1. Matilda,
    This video is excellent and will benefit any memoirist. How did you do it?
    Looking forward to more in the series.
    Janet Riehl

  2. Could I reblog this on my memoir blog, Following the Crow Song. https://northernlegend.wordpress.com/

  3. Reblogged this on Following the Crow Song and commented:
    I thought my readers would find this article by Matilda Butler both interesting and helpful. Thanks so much for permission to share this.

    You can find Matilda at this blog http://WomensMemoirs.com

    This article also appeared on Telling Her Stories – The Broad View.

  4. Pingback: “Let It Be” – Advice for Women Memoir Writers Looking for the Opening | Following the Crow Song

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