On Telling Your Story: An Interview with Sue Silverman {Inspiration Café}

inspiration-cafe.jpgWhen I first started blogging over 10 years ago, it was primarily due to the overwhelming feeling that I had about wishing to write and to share my story. Or rather, my stories. I guess, that's why I believe that bloggers are also somewhat memoir writers.

So, for this blog's anniversary, I thought I'd feature memoir author and teacher, Sue Silverman, for our Inspiration Café series. This is part of the wonderful WOW Blog Tours -

In true social web media fashion, can you please give us a brief bio/description in 140 characters or less?

Tweet to my peeps: I’m an incest survivor. Grew up silent. Never told a soul. Through writing, found my true voice.

Fearless Confessions, for web.jpgCongratulations on your book on memoir writing, "Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir". What inspired you to write this book - and who is it for?

Thank you!

I teach at the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and, in many ways, my students inspired me to write it! It’s amazing to watch students grow—for their craft to become more professional—for them to feel more confident. So I thought I’d love to try to encourage even more writers, or would-be writers, to each find their voice.

This book, then, is for anyone who has a story to tell!

How did you get in to memoir writing?

Actually, I began as a fiction writer. Scared to reveal my true story, I kept trying to tell it in a fictional voice. All my unpublished novels are, on some level, about incest or sexual addiction.

But the novels didn’t work. For me, to fictionalize my story (trying to tell the truth—but not), made the voice sound emotionally inauthentic. After about ten or so years of this, I finally, at the urging of my therapist, switched to memoir, or creative nonfiction.

What do your friends/family say when they read your memoirs/writing? Do you encounter any difficulties?

I’ve been lucky. My older sister, on the whole, has been rather supportive—though she hasn’t read either of my memoirs. But she does tell her friends about them! And my parents had both died before I wrote my first book—the one about growing up in an incestuous family.

In terms of my extended family, I initially never even told them about that book. Over time, of course, they found out about it. And, amazingly, I began receiving phone calls and e-mails of support, saying they felt badly that they hadn’t known about the incest. So you sometimes find support even when it’s least expected!

What are the biggest challenges for memoir writers? And, what do you think are the best ways to overcome them?

The fear of telling family secrets! As I mentioned, I was lucky in that my family and friends mainly supported me. But this fear of hurting feelings, or revealing family secrets, is one that prevents many from writing.

If this is true for you, then you might try pretending that you’re writing just for yourself. Ignore, as much as possible, the fact that others might one day read your story.

"In order to be creative and fully engage in the process, writers must give themselves permission to set aside the fear about what the outside world might think. Remember, we own our own stories!"
For me, while writing, I always pretend no one else will ever see my work. And, in any event, it’s my choice whether I’ll ultimately share it with anyone or not.

Focus on the words, themselves, during the creation process. Worry about the outside world later.

In order to be creative and fully engage in the process, writers must give themselves permission to set aside the fear about what the outside world might think. Remember, we own our own stories! Our stories belong to us. As writers, they are ours to write.

How will you encourage/inspire people who wish to write memoirs?

In Fearless Confessions, I encourage writers to believe in their stories, to know that, whatever their background, they do have a story to tell.

I emphasize the redemptive power of memoir, that the best way to understand the past—to come to terms with it—is through writing. Through memoir, we heal both ourselves as well as others.

We discover our own life force. There is only one of you. Your voice is unique. If you don’t express yourself, if you don’t fully explore who you are, that essence of you will be lost.

Do you have any favourite memoir writers/memoirs by other people? Can you please name some examples?

I always find it extremely difficult to suggest just a few memoirs—especially given the wide range of the genre. Therefore, I’d like to invite you to review my creative nonfiction reading list, divided into categories by subject matter. It can be found in the appendix of Fearless Confessions, or, you can also find this reading list on my website, at www.suewilliamsilverman.com.

Apart from writing, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Hobbies? Family? Education? Others?

Oh, I’m such a workaholic that I don’t really have hobbies. Nor do I have kids. I live in Michigan with my partner, the poet Marc Sheehan. And we have two cats, Bijou and Siobahn. But I also love teaching! I love hanging out with other writers.

Anything else that you'd like to share with us?

Your story, your voice, is important. I look forward to reading your memoir one day.


Sue Silverman

Sue William Silverman’s new book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. She is a faculty advisor at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and associate editor of the journal Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. Her first book, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, received the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction. She is also the author of Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction (made into a Lifetime TV movie) and Hieroglyphics in Neon, a poetry collection. She has appeared on such TV shows as The View and Anderson Cooper-360. To watch a video book trailer, please visit http://tinyurl.com/csekan , or go to http://www.suewilliamsilverman.com/ for more information.

About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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