Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Blog: Lorraine Ash on Starting a Memoir

Thanks to Lorraine Ash, author of Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healingfor this year’s first guest blog post. I think you’ll benefit from her thoughtful encouragement.

Lorraine Ash, MA, is a journalist, author, essayist, and playwright who teaches memoir writing in New Jersey and other venues nationwide. Her next workshop - The Inner Spring: Writing Memoir Using Love as the Narrative Thread - is scheduled for June 8-10, 2012 at Carmel Retreat, a 30-acre country estate in Mahwah, New Jersey. For more information, visit


Are you contemplating writing a memoir? A good place to start is with a question about yourself, a belief you hold, or an experience you’ve had.

Let this be a rich question asked from deep in the heart of your experience so that the reader, convinced you know the terrain well, accepts you as a trustworthy guide into your world.

If the question is vital to your self-understanding and personal peace, the reader will sense and share the urgency and follow you. Anywhere. Personal stories are universal ones, too, because all human beings struggle with the same issues of identity and meaning.

In my memoir Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing, I ask: How do I reconcile my inherited, and heretofore untested, belief that a good person with faith in a just god can experience such a cruel fate? And what kind of god lets a beautiful, innocent baby die, anyway?

To answer the question I had to challenge myself. The memoir is the story of the inner changes I navigated. Each chapter represents a shift in consciousness until, finally, I emerge at the end a person with a new cosmology. My faith is intact, but it is a faith in the order of things as they are.

That new faith includes the reality of a god force, a creative spark, that lives within me and evolves as I do. For me, that spark ignites, and that inner force is activated, through writing. A Native American writer once told me he considered the act of writing memoir sheer sorcery because of its ability to transform the writer and the reader. Perhaps he is right.

The power of asking a seminal question, and having the courage to write your way to the answer, is nothing less than the power to renew your spirit for more living. It also is the power to connect with other people because memoirs, by their very existence, insist every corner of the human experience deserves witnessing.  Each and every one beckons: You are not alone, and here is how it was for me.

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