“As I create and listen, I will be led.” ~Julia Cameron
I am very pleased to introduce you to memoirist Betty Hafner who will share how writing her memoir Not Exactly Love helped her find the heart of her story and readers who would be inspired by her message. Betty and I met online.
Connecting with My Readers
A slip of paper periodically unearths itself on my desk. It has only one scribbled sentence on it. It holds words I didn’t want to forget; they made me look at my writing in a new way. It reads,
“At different points in history and culture, stories were prescribed for people who were sick at heart.”
That message stayed with me throughout the five years I worked on Not Exactly Love, a memoir about my abusive marriage in the ‘70s. I had never expected to write about that five-year period of my life. Who would want to tell the world about such a dark time? But one day, I needed inspiration for a piece to workshop with my non-fiction writing group. I dug through my favorite writing books and spotted a prompt that grabbed me by the heart. “If only…” it said. Those two words propelled me to write about the misgivings that overwhelmed me, on my wedding day, about my husband-to-be. The scene almost wrote itself.
“More,” my group demanded as they read my piece. “Keep going. You’re onto something.” THAT? I thought. They want me to write more about THAT? “Long forgotten,” I told them. “Years of therapy.” “Second husband for thirty years.”
Yet, the door had opened a crack, and the memories started flowing. Vivid scenes from those distant years came to me, and I got them down, in no particular order. Laughing together on our boat. A call to the police. A sex therapy session. It was becoming simply a collection of stories with no shape, not the kind of memoir I’d like to read.
The decision to turn these stories into a book was a gradual one, but once I determined to do that, my readers began to collect themselves in front of my eyes, and they told me what they wanted to hear. I imagined some readers lived with difficult men—abusers, possibly, emotionally and/or physically. Other readers had a daughter or sister or friend whom they guessed was being hurt and wanted to understand her silence. Still others wanted to know or to be reminded how different the life of a woman was in those years.
It could no longer be just a book just about my marriage. It would have to be a story about me. I would need to show readers who I was in my twenties. What did I think I wanted? What did I really want? How did I grow to understand the difference? The path I thought I should be on was Marriage (with a capital M) and the whole package of a hubby, home and kids. There was another path, though, that became clearer to me. That was the desire to grow into myself. To become the creative, independent person I was as my story ended and I have continued to be. But there was an obstacle, and that was feeling trapped in a marriage I had chosen.
The concept of needing to find myself helped me form the spine of my story. It directed me to look deeper to understand how I grew during those years from a programmed girl of the 1950s and ‘60s to a self-actualized, strong woman. I felt if I’m able to show myself as honestly as I can, as I move through that process, I might be able to give hope and inspiration to others. We all have challenges along that journey, and mine was marrying a young husband who was troubled by the abusive home he grew up, in but was frightening and dangerous to live with.
Reflection. That became my priority. Speaking from my wiser adult voice. Showing my thoughts and actions as honestly and openly as I could. Admitting to actions and feelings that may be familiar to readers, but adding my hard-gained understanding. Looking back at my younger self with compassion and kindness, and giving hope and inspiration to my readers.
There is nothing more satisfying to me than hearing my readers say, “your story helped me understand.”
Thank you, Betty, for sharing your memoir writer’s journey with us. It is evident that being clear on your purpose for writing your story has helped you find readers. Your words validate the power sharing our stories has for ourselves and others.
Not Exactly Love: A Memoir Synopsis:
It was 1969, and all the rules were changing, when Betty, a woefully single French teacher on Long Island, met the handsome but edgy new teacher at her school, a hippie just back from Woodstock. His vitality opened up a new world to her―but when they married, his rages turned against her, and often ended with physical violence.
Reader’s Choice Book Award, Relationships
Indie Publisher’s Book Award, Sexuality, Relationshps
Next Generation Indie Book Award, Relationships
Independence Press Award, Memoir
International Book Award
Author Bio and Contact Information:
Betty Hafner lives outside Washington, DC and writes a popular monthly book column in The Town Courier newspapers in Montgomery County, MD. With a M. S. in counseling she was a teacher and counselor in high schools and colleges for twenty-five years. She continues to lead workshops, give talks and facilitate groups. She wrote two practical career-change books that stemmed from her workshops―Where Do I Go From Here? (Lippincott) and The Nurse’s Guide to Starting a Small Business (Pilot Books). She loves telling stories through her drawings, photographs, and writing.
How about you? For writers, what has inspired you to turn your life stories into a memoir? How do you find your readers? For readers, what inspires you to read memoir?
We’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
January 2018 Newsletter: Monthly Updates, Memoir Musings and Max Moments
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