Notes from PNWA 2011 Conference: Part 4

Finding Your Thread in Memoir

(Notes from the seminar presented by Janna Cawrse Esarey, author of The Motion of the Ocean: One Small Boat, Two Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife. )

What particular time or aspect of your life would you write about?

Why do you want to write about it?

What makes it an interesting or valuable topic for you as a writer?

What’s your personal goal in writing about it?

Why will someone want to read about this aspect/time of your life?

What will the gain? Inspiration, knowledge, a good laugh?


  1. Topic
  2. Theme
  3. Plot events
  4. Story arc
  5. Dialogue and scene
  6. Perspective

A memoir is not your life. It’s art. An impression.

Don’t confuse topic with theme. Your theme gives you an angle, a focus that will drive your story forward and help it hang together.

Choose one dominant thread.

Everything in your book should relate directly or indirectly to the thread.

“Life is messy. Your story line is not.”

Hook a reader by writing the things they think but would never say out loud. Memoir is not for the faint of heart. Candid and honest is the way other people can relate.

“You have something to tell. Just tell the damn story.”

Clean up the loose ends and fix it up later.

Memoir should be between 70,000 and 90,000 words.


How to Set Up an Author Blog Tour

(Notes from Kathryn Trueblood, author of The Sperm Donor’s Daughter and Other Tales of Modern Family and The Baby Lottery.)

Blog tours extend the life of your book by quite a bit.

Create a web release and go through the blog rolls of similar blogs to help create a list of where to send the release.

Send the web release a month before the book is released.

Create a “Media” page for your blog and include a downloadable press kit. The press kit should include your press release, high resolution images of the cover of your book, your author bio (long and short versions), and your author photo.

Memorable quote about Kathryn’s decision to not use Facebook and the way writers may waste their time on some social media:

“I may be losing out on sales, but I’m not losing out on writing time.”


The New Emerging Indie Publishers

(Notes from the PNWA 2011 roundtable discussion featuring April Eberhardt, Nathan Everett, Bob Mayer, and Katherine Sears about independent publishers, self-publishing, and traditional publishers.)


You have to have something to say and be a good writer; the bar is higher in self-publishing than in traditional publishing.

You’ll need an editor if you self-publish.

The front cover matters; yes, people do still judge a book by its cover.

Build and research your readership.

Blog tours and Facebook ads are ways to market your book.

There’s a very moderate distinction between indie (independent) publishing and self-publishing.

If you enjoy marketing, you may not need an independent publisher. They may not be able to do any more for you than you can.

In traditional publishing, you’ll get more help with promotion once you cross a particular threshold of sales.

One of the best things you can do for promotion is go to other people’s blogs and leave comments. However, people can tell when you’re only self-promoting or trying to create links back by leaving your comment.

New York (the “big six”) is in their own world and they’re still wedded to the old publishing world.

Light a lot of little fires because you never know which one will ignite and take off.

Promote for other people and pay it forward.

Publishers are leery more now than ever of taking on authors or books they don’t know for sure will sell.

You really have to decide where you want to be in five years as a writer.

The first sentence of your back cover description is the most critical sentence you’ll ever write. You have one shot to make that first impression. Make that entire description as great as you can.

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