I recently received a newsletter from Lisa Dale Norton. She is a well-known and respected author and editor of memoir and narrative nonfiction. Lisa has been absent for quite a while and I’m glad that she is back. Her absence was due to the death of her brother. As she writes, “He was the only living member of my family. The last one who knew the stories, the settings, the people, the only one who knew exactly what was meant if I said: Sheldon, or the Point, or the Old Barn, or the coons.” Her words are poignant, to say the least.
Lisa was my mentor and editor when I lived in Tucson. I also took excellent classes on writing memoir from her. We worked together (many phone minutes as there wasn’t zoom at that time) on my memoir about the farm life and my relationship with my father. Her guidance and editing helped me beyond measure, and I have many binders full of my book chapters and her encouraging comments written on them.
I bring this up because I have laid my memoir aside for years now, wondering if it just too simple, too generic? I read Lisa’s newsletter and something she said, struck me: “What I know is simple and pressing: If you want to assign the meaning of your experience, you must be the one to write it… because, I assure you, if you do not, other people will. They will be the author of your life, and chances are, it will not be the truth you know in your heart.” Food for thought—action?