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March-ing On

I finished February with plans to read Madeleines in Manhattan by Colette Rossant. And I started but I didn’t finish. I hate giving up on books but when there are just so many great ones to read I feel it is my duty to Put The Book Down And Carry On.

Why didn’t I like it? For me there are three essential ingredients in memoir. I want The What Happened, The Context and The Emotional Impact. This book gave me The What Happened but not enough of the other two, especially emotion.

On that front it started quite well. Colette had a very difficult relationship with her mother who essentially abandoned her when she was young. The two were all but estranged. Then, several chapters in life and the book later she casually mentions how, when she has her own children, her mother becomes an involved grandmother. She doesn’t mention how this came to be or her feelings about it – or at least she hadn’t by the time I gave up. Even if the issues were not resolved but merely brushed under the carpet she could have told us that. She could have said she let sleeping dogs lie for her mother and because she wanted to her children to have a wider family. But she didn’t.

Maybe it was too personal or painful but in that instance as her editor I would have said, “Either go there, or don’t. Don’t tell half the story.” I might have advised her to do a recipe book (the recipes look nice) with a side dish of anecdotes, not a typical linear memoir.

I’ve just read the Amazon reviews which basically say the same thing. I’m glad I didn’t read them first though. I try to never judge a book by its reviews*. Films are different. Ever since I nearly chewed my own arm off watching the excruciatingly terrible Nine, I read the reviews. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 37 per cent.

* If this has made you crave Manhattans AND Madeleines, here’s an article on the best places to buy and eat madeleines in Manhattan.

 

I moved on to a terrific book that was not on the pile. You know that meme that jokes about how you never buy new books until you’ve finished the ones on the pile? Big fat LOL as any booklover knows.

I read about Birds Art Life Death (A Field Guide To The Small And Insignificant) by Kyo MacLear in The Simple Things magazine and the description spoke to me. Kyo is a writer whose father’s illness leaves her feeling “unmoored.” She meets a musician who copes with the stresses of artistic life in a big city by watching and photographing birds and asks him if she can follow him for a year.

I love observing the minutiae of life, how nature exists where humans run amok (see picture of pansy below) so this appealed and I was not disappointed. It’s a quirky book, with sketches and some lines written in swirling patterns. It is also delicately rich with emotion, touching on mental health, family, change and of course, birds.

There are many beautiful passages. Kyo writes of the moment she and the musician met, “The moment of us not knowing each other quickly receded.” Gorgeous! And on a mildly tense conversation with her father: “I wasn’t too concerned. At a certain stage, these matters within families don’t get worked out, they just get half-heartedly poked at or ignored.” This resonated and relaxed me.

I heartily recommend this book, not least for the list of things Kyo feels the musician taught her, which I photocopied for my journal. It really touched my heart.

 
As you’ll know from a previous blog post in February I welcomed my Twitter friend, the memoirist Marta Szabo, to Whitstable from Woodstock, New York. She facilitated one of her Authentic Writing workshops for nine lucky participants myself included.

It was simply magical and I felt as if I wrote from a very deep place. Not only was it a special afternoon but I also picked up some fantastic guidelines on giving and receiving nourishing and genuinely supportive feedback.

I employed these guidelines in a one-month course I was giving in nearby Herne Bay. I had been invited to teach a month of memoir writing to a long-established creative writing group. There I met a fantastic group of women who really embraced their personal stories and wrote and shared fearlessly.

Here is some of their feedback on the course:

  • “All the fear has gone. My original idea has changed almost completely as I’ve been given the freedom to do this in a new way.”
  • “Inspired by what’s come up – the unexpected.”
  • “I’m inspired, really got me thinking, especially about writing something for my grandchildren.”
  • “I feel released, liberated from the formal structure I thought I had to write in.”
  • “I’ll definitely carry on. I’ve been inspired by seeing the different approaches you can take. I want to leave something behind.”

It was enriching to be with them – thank you ladies, hope our paths cross again soon.

 

The next memoirs I will be reading are in preparation for WhitLit, the Whitstable Literary Festival in mid-May. I am interviewing Vanessa Nicholson about her new memoir The Truth Game. I spoke to Vanessa at last year’s festival about her first memoir Have Your Been Good? I am excited to say the least. Vanessa is an incredible memoirist.

The other lady I’m interviewing is the intriguing Emma Slade from Whitstable. Her memoir is called Set Free: A Life-Changing Journey From Banking To Buddhism In Bhutan. What a title!

I cannot wait to get stuck in and I’ll write more after the festival but do come along if you can. It’s a fabulous festival, intimate with fascinating authors and topics, and for the first time this year is taking place in the gorgeous setting of Whitstable Castle.

 

And talking of gorgeous settings, for my next blog (as I’ll still be reading for WhitLit I expect) I’ll be writing more about a memoir writing retreat I’m running in Seasalter this October. If you’ve been on the Your Memoir Facebook page you’ll know about it – two spots of eight already gone – but if you don’t, I’ll just leave this image of where you could be sat writing your life story right here…

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Dear Marnie

Marnie conducted my interview at the Whitstable Book Festival with skill and sensitivity. She was a good listener and took a genuine interest in her subject. We had a capacity audience for what was a very successful afternoon.
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Terry Waite CBE

Once I had decided that I needed to write a memoir, the next question was: where on earth do I start? I am so grateful that it was Marnie’s website that caught my attention first, as from the very moment I spoke to Marnie, I knew I was in good hands.
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Joanne James

I first met Marnie when she interviewed me at Harbour Books, Whitstable about my book Kill The Black One First – a memoir. I found her a very warm and helpful person. She was very well researched and her questions incisive and pertinent. She certainly helped make the event a success.
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Michael Fuller QPM

Throughout the whole editing process I felt both expertly held and simultaneously challenged to push my memoir to rewarding new heights. Marnie instinctively knows how to inspire with insightful suggestions whilst marshalling disparate strains of thought into cohesive order. My project was particularly exposing on a personal level and Marnie handled everything with extraordinary insight…
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Paul Beech

Although I met you when the book was almost finished, you were a breath of fresh air, who helped me dig deep and bring the suppressed memories to the surface in a couple of the most difficult chapters I had to write.
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Hana Ali

I was delighted when Marnie agreed to provide a workshop for the 2018 Kent Festival of Writing. Zuihitzu, the Japanese art of following the pen, proved a very attractive proposition for our delegates and we were oversubscribed. Neither Marnie or I wanted to turn anyone away, so it was a packed event!
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Sue Bassett

Thank you for your help in making this happen, and for putting Neil’s words together so accurately. We were so pleased that the first draft arrived in time for us to read it as a family to Neil. I know he really enjoyed his couple of days with you. Thank you. Sarah Vines, brother of…
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Sarah Vines

In the run-up weekend to our 2018 festival Marnie hosted a very well attended day of memoir-writing events, beginning with a moving, eloquent discussion in which she talked to author Sarah Pullen about her memoir A Mighty Boy. As an interviewer Marnie is a true professional, asking thought-provoking yet sensitive and heartfelt questions, and putting…
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Amanda Dackombe

My darling, I have read the book from cover to cover out loud. It is a wonderful book. My excitement is so great darling, you’re a star. Let’s write another one! Lady Sandra Bates, seventh bunny at the original Playboy Club, London, and author of How To Be A Kept Woman
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Lady Sandra Bates

It was a pleasure working with Marnie on the Writer’s Weekend. She was approachable, professional and communicative in the lead-up to the event and during the weekend she was wonderful. All delegates commented on her kind manner, her knowledge, and her ability to bring out the best writing in them. I can highly recommend collaborating…
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RedDoor Publishing

While reading your feedback yesterday the hairs were literally standing on my arms because I knew you were the right person to make this manuscript the best it can be…
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Tony Barbieri

A couple of weeks after the Memoir Writing Weekend, I am reflecting on what a difference it has made. For a long while I have had a desire to share my story, I did not have a clue how or where to start. All I knew is that there was at least one story there…
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Rose Smith

All I knew was: I wanted to share my story, write my memoirs. I Googled ghostwriter and Marnie was the first person I contacted. Marnie made such a great first impression that I felt no need to look any further.
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Anthea McCarten

This was a brilliant weekend – way above my expectations. Marnie just knows about memoir and her presentations were superbly focussed and paced. It’s rare to find someone who combines a high level of professional knowledge with the relational skills that make it all work. If you are needing support with your writing, hire this…
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Edna Murdoch

I found Marnie to be such an affable person. Not only that, but she gave me the confidence to finish my memoir.
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Martin Davies

I have been lucky enough to work with Marnie on several occasions where she has interviewed, hosted and compèred events I have been managing. Marnie is a joy to watch at work. When the lights dim and she takes the microphone, I feel totally at ease knowing that everything will be safe in her hands.…
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Nancy Clark

Thank you so much for the edit. It was actually perfect. There were places where I knew the words were not quite right but I somehow couldn’t find a way to fix it and it’s exactly where you edited so I’m chuffed about that.
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Anon

Marnie interviewed me about my memoir Have You Been Good? for Whit Lit in 2015. Before we met at the festival, we had a long telephone conversation and I was struck at how quickly she understood my book. Her intelligence, warmth and sensitivity made the interview on the day feel more like a conversation with…
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Vanessa Nicolson

(My life) was a living nightmare. Thanks for listening to it and helping me come to terms with it and enabling me to write this story.
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Anon

Thank you for interviewing me for my event at the London Fashion and Textile Museum in November, 2018. You made me feel so relaxed and I appreciate your unerring and priceless support. You made the talk possible for me and I’m incredibly grateful. Liz Wilson, owner of Eclectica Vintage
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Liz Wilson

A very good service. As well as helping us write our memoirs about our adventures as wartime entertainers, Marnie arranged for us to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4, and organised a wonderful book launch for us at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.
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Mollie and Peggie

I attended the Red Door Memoir Writing Weekend because my daughter was one of the organisers and I wanted to support her and the Red Door publishing house. I was a little interested in memoir writing but now… I’m passionate about it.
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Alastair Burtt

Thank you Marnie for sharing your insightful and inspirational creativeness with me – well, and all of us. I loved the weekend and have come away full of excitement to write write write. Actually perhaps it’s more to organise organise organise! Oh well somehow I am determined to get my ‘stuff’ together. Thank you again.…
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Penny Wadsworth

Absolutely loved every minute of this amazing memoir writing retreat, and the time spent with such lovely people, sharing their deeply touching life experiences. Special thanks to you Marnie for all your encouragement, support and know how. Marnie helped me with my first book and now I am going to write the sequel myself. Feeling…
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Sally Woodmansee

I found the memoir retreat very inspiring. I was touched by Marnie’s professionalism as well as finesse in her comments. A truly enlightening weekend. Thank you so much for all the encouragement. Mona Radwan
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Mona Radwan

Marnie is a truly special person with a wonderful gift. She is sincere and compassionate. I loved working with her. My book was rather complicated.
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Suzannah Ridgway

Marnie helped my father to edit his memoir Once A Sapper Always A Sapper. He really enjoyed working with her and looked forward to her visits.
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Sam

This book that was written with Marnie, has totally opened the door and changed my whole outlook on life.
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Brian

Marnie is a delightful lady and immediately made my Dad feel relaxed and start to chat about his life and wartime experiences.
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Michael

I’d like to say how much I enjoyed reading my aunt’s memoirs that Marnie collated and wrote.
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Diana

I’d just like to say a huge thank you for the dedication and passion you gave while ghostwriting with me.
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Sally Woodmansee

I am amazed at what you’ve done. I’m excited. I think my memoir will be wonderful.
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JK

This is something I have been waiting to do for a long time, but when I lost my sight I thought that was it. And then I found Your Memoir.
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Jan

All the books we ordered have sold and people are asking for further copies. People have been so interested! We’re really happy with everything Marnie did.
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John

Marnie has the superb ability to write as if she is inside your head – and your heart. Marnie gave me new hope when I was struggling to write my own book.
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SB

I came to Marnie for editing and printing of my life story. I could never have hoped to do the excellent job that Marnie did.
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Gerard

Marnie ghosted our memoir of motorbiking around Europe for charity. The whole experience was very relaxed. Marnie was very friendly and accomodating yet professional.
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Jane and Reg

Home From War is a very moving and touching story of love triumphing over all that life dealt this young soldier. A very captivating read, could not put it down. Would recommend this book.
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Amazon

Home From War is a truly inspirational and moving account of how love can conquer even the hardest things.
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Amazon

I received your book. It is absolutely fabulous. I really enjoyed reading the letters from my grandfather to you.
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Lloyd