Writing Through the Layers

Have you ever wondered what it takes to write a memoir that will not only be accepted by an agent and publisher, but has a chance of making the best-seller list, with all that’s attached to that?

Heather Summerhayes Carriou, the author of Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister’s Memoir, sheds light on that question in the guest blog she wrote for the Women’s Memoirs website. (Hey fellows, don’t let the name deter you. This post will be equally valuable to you.)

In the post she explains that over the course of twenty years, she wrote several drafts of the story. She combined bits and pieces and into larger stories. She wrote at home,
standing in line, on the bus, in the air, everywhere. For months at a time, she didn’t write at all.
Heather had no thought of publishing the story until she was working on her final draft. Through all the preliminary drafts she wrote for herself, to heal her anger and broken heart, to understand and make sense of the life she shared with her sister Pam, who survived over twenty years after being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, or “sixtyfive roses” as it sounded to her preschool ears. Reading the account in Heather's blog post of the process of writing all those drafts to get to her final, polished purpose and product, I’m reminded of a set of Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, with a twist. The smallest doll in the center of this set is neither small (the book fills 436 pages) nor painted. It’s solid gold. To get to the golden doll, Heather had to write through all those layers of painted wooden ones, without even knowing the golden one might be there.

I read Sixtyfive Roses once for the story, and I keep going back to study the structure, how she used detail to move the story along, and other elements that make it so successful at achieving consistent five-star ratings in reviews. I’ve posted my own review on Amazon with more detail, and hope it helps you decide to read the book for your own growth as a writer and a person.

Heather’s post goes beyond the book to address the writing process, and I encourage you to read it. While you’re at the Women’s Memoirs site, you may notice that the blog post was a preview for one of the monthly Author Interviews Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonet conduct via live conference calls. They record these calls so people who are unable to join the call can listen later online. I encourage you to take the time to listen to their interview with Heather. It will be an hour well-spent.

Matilda and Kendra conduct Author Interviews each month, and they are always worth a listen, so I encourage you to join their mailing list and tune in. If you can’t join the call live, they e-mail the link when the call is posted on the website.

Write now: try the writing prompt Heather shared at the end of her post to help as you write through the layers of your experience.


ybonesy said...

It is inspiring to know that she worked on it for so many years, not with publishing the aim but to heal, and then it actually got published. Thanks for the lead. I will definitely read her post.

Ritergal said...

I believe the sincerity of her claim that she wanted the personal story to be as well-crafted as she could possibly make it, and ... as TRUE. Listening to the podcast will add even more value.