“My wish is that my writings will inspire you to seek new vistas, live beyond the obvious, and encounter the sacred.”~ Melissa Burch
We are all on a spiritual journey called “life”. Whether and how we seek to know more about our journey to find a deeper meaning in our lives is an individual choice.
I’m thrilled to feature Memoir Author, Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker Melissa Burch in this guest post interview about her newly released memoir, My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker and the subsequent spiritual growth she experienced.
Encountering the Sacred in Memoir
KP: Your memoir, My Journey Through War and Peace, takes us on your external and internal journey through war-torn Afghanistan and into the heart of a young woman struggling to find her way in the world. How and when did you decide to write your story as a memoir?
MB: I never thought I would write a memoir. I began simply by writing down memories in my journal… I was turning 50 and examining my past. It soon became clear to me that I needed to write all of my stories from my time in Afghanistan, and the idea for a memoir was born. My friend was also going through a similar exercise, so we agreed to wake each other up at 6:00 AM every morning to write. With each other’s support, we completed our first memoirs in six months.
KP: Your characters were well-developed and believable. How were you able to capture the details from your past so vividly? Did you journal along the way? Did being a filmmaker help you?
MB: I did journal while I was aboard, but my entries were much more about the facts and names then the actual emotional experience. I discovered that, as I started to remember (30 years later), I found myself inhabiting the memories via my remembered sensations of the time. It was like one memory led to another, then another. I am a visual person and could see the past stretching out before me. Sometimes my recollections didn’t seem to make sense–like I could see roses in Peshawar yet I also remembered how dry the climate was there. Only when I googled roses plus Peshawar did I understand how accurate my memory had been. The British had planted many rose bushes in Pakistan–and there are many poems and songs about the roses of Peshawar.
KP: Most memoir writers find self-discovery and surprises in writing their stories. How did writing your memoir help you “encounter the sacred”?
MB: I became more aware of the overarching connections between my experiences, milestones and lessons learned. Before writing the memoir, I had seen them as separate and distinct from each other… not as the evolving, inner transformation and wisdom that led me to the next stage in my life. I saw the theme of that time in my life emerge —adventure, courage, anxiety, discovery, intuition, sexuality, relationships, etc.
KP: Anyone writing a memoir knows that writing our truths can be risky. Did you fear any repercussions from the intimate details you revealed about the Afghan culture, the people and your mother? If so, how did you handle this?
MB: So far, I’ve received a lot of support and also heard some concerns over the telling my story. My sister confirmed a lot of the family memories I had of when we were little, which was very helpful. I had some pushback from one of the main characters and we agreed I would change her name. I had expected more support from some, but I understand not everyone wants to be in a memoir.
KP: What is the main takeaway you want to convey through your story?
MB: I want people to go beyond their comfort zone, to discover the courage to go on an adventure, to challenge themselves... Their journey can be as simple as taking a new route home from work. It’s more about paying attention, following their intuition, and discovering what matters to them. I did an interview with author , educator, psychotherapist Maureen Murdock who wrote “The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness,” and she shared her belief that women need to be okay with disappointing others. To me, that means that others may not be supportive as we take off on new adventures but we have to do it anyway.
KP: Do you have any memoir writing tips to share?
MB: I’m a big fan of journal writing as a starting place. Write in your journal until you feel called to fill in more of the details. Turn your memories into stepping stones for a bigger message. Where are these stories leading you? Keep writing!
Thank you, Melissa for sharing your adventures and your journey to memoir with us. I am intrigued that you worked with a partner in completing your memoirs in six months. It sounds like you had a lot of the ground work already done through your journals. Your story clearly shows what stepping out of your comfort zone looks and feels like–an adventure that led to your spiritual growth. Best wishes on your book tour!
About Journey Through War and Peace:
My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker is an adventurous spiritual memoir about a woman in her twenties who seeks self-discovery and connection to something greater in the midst of danger in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
My Journey Through War and Peace, the first memoir of Melissa Burch’s Pathfinder Trilogy, will be published by Mosaic Press on March 1st, 2016.
About the Author:
Melissa Burch has worked as a writer, filmmaker, producer and former war journalist for the BBC, CBS, and other networks. Her team was one of the first documentary crews in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and a story about her in Afghanistan was featured in The New York Times. She was just in her twenties when she traveled with the mujahedeen, filmed an attack on a Soviet convoy, slept with an Afghan commander, and climbed 14,000 foot mountains in the Hindu Kush. These experiences and many more are featured in her forthcoming adventurous spiritual memoir, My Journey Through War and Peace.
Burch was the executive producer of “Women in Limbo Presents,” a national public television series about women’s lives, and she served as president of the New York Film/Video Council. Her book, The Four Methods of Journal Writing: Finding Yourself Through Memoir, was a #1 Amazon bestseller and is still in the top 10 in its category. She is also a homeopath. She co-founded the Catalyst School of Homeopathy, and produced and hosted one of the first successful radio shows on Voice America on homeopathy. When she’s not cooking dinner for friends and family, she enjoys writing and speaking about her books, travels and spiritual practice.
Adventurous Spiritual Memoir Book Trailer: My Journey Through War and Peace:
Author’s Contact Information:
How about you? Have you experienced a spiritual transformation in writing or reading memoir?
Melissa has graciously offered to give away a copy of her memoir to a commenter whose name will be selected in a random drawing.
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
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