Today’s post features Seasons of Our Lives, an innovative series of anthologies that include writing tips with each story. These anthologies evolved from contests run on WomensMemoirs.com. by co-founders Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonet. Matilda and Kendra are excited to be launching the series today, February 1,, with a limited time special offer you won’t want to miss. Details are at the end of the post.
Matilda Butler introduces the series in the following interview. In keeping with the books’ structure, she includes a short writing tip at the end of each answer.
SL: Matilda, could you explain how the Seasons of Life series came about?
MB: For several years, Kendra and I have run contests on WomensMemoirs.com covering all kinds of topics. Last year we decided to have four contests, each focusing on stories from one season.
We ended up with hundreds of truly wonderful and touching stories. Kendra and I found ourselves laughing sometimes and crying others. Many of the vignettes evoked memories of earlier times and experiences. We realized that collectively these stories spoke about all our lives, not just the lives of the authors. So with that in mind, we set to work to create four ebooks, one for each season, that would be available through Amazon.
TIP: Every year there are a number of contests you can enter. Make sure you understand the topic, the rules concerning length, deadlines, etc. Then do the best that you can...write, read, edit, read again. Read it out loud. You won't win every contest. But don't let that stop you from trying. Details for our contests are at http://womensmemoirs.com/contests/.
SL: Did you have a target audience in mind for the volumes in this series?
MB: We always tell our students that the correct answer to such a question is not: "Oh, everyone." So we thought about your question when we put these four ebooks together. We believe they will appeal to women because these are stories of women's lives, stories that we think will resonate with other women. And although we have some young writers, most of our stories are written by Baby Boomers (plus or minus about five years) so that also puts a general age bracket around our readers.
TIP: No book (or ebook) will appeal to everyone, and the more focused you make it, the more readers will enjoy it. The point of view, the level of language, the types of details you include are all shaped by your intended audience. For example, if your stories are just for your daughter, then saying "Aunt Mary" may be sufficient. But if you want to share them more widely, or if you hope they will be passed on to future generations, then say something like, "Aunt Mary, my father's younger sister, ..." Keep your intended audience in mind when you write.
SL: Each of these stories is a delight in its own right, and you and Kendra have added a fresh and unique feature. At the end of each story you point out specific features and strengths that turn it into a writing lesson. What inspired this innovation?
MB: Because Kendra and I coach women who are writing their memoirs, we thought these stories could provide exemplars for other women who want to (or who can be urged to) write their own lifestories. Across the four volumes, there are 100 stories and 100 short lessons, one tied to each vignette, designed to motivate and inspire.
The mini-lessons cover a wide range of topics valuable in memoir writing such as: creating a memoir title, crafting a powerful opening, linking openings and closings, choosing point of view, incorporating sensory details, adding character descriptions, showing (not telling) emotions, using dialogue effectively, understanding how time and place can be used in tandem or as stand-alone elements, making word choice a priority, discerning the different impacts of present versus past tense on the reader, considering vignette topics to write about, choosing between letting the reader figure out the story behind the story or spelling out all the details, and much more.
TIP: When you read memoirs, make notes on both what you like about the way the story is written and what you don't like. For example, consider the openings of the next three memoirs you read. Do they equally engage you? Which one do you like the most and why? Making notes keeps the ideas fresh even if there is a period of several months between reading memoirs. The notes become a learning course you create for yourself.
SL: Do you plan further series such as this one?
MB: We have a second series already started that combines great personal stories with recipes. We're calling them Memories Sweet and Savory with one each for Breakfasts & Lunches, Dinners and Sides, and Desserts. We have so many yummy dessert stories and recipes (yes, we think a story can be yummy) that we may end up creating two for that category. We think of the memoir vignette as the core of these volumes and the recipes as the bonus.
SPECIAL OFFER DETAILS
As a special introductory offer, today, February 1, beginning at 8 am PDT, all four volumes of the Seasons of Our Lives series are on sale on Amazon's Kindle Store countdown special for just $.99 each for the first 53 hours. The price will go up $1 each 53 hours until it reaches the final price of $3.99 per volume.
Matilda Butler is the award-winning co-author of the collective memoir Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story, Second Edition, Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep and other books. A psychologist, online and in-person memoir coach and writing conference speaker, she writes and teaches in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii.