AWWG Memoir Prompt for August Meeting

Hail writers of memoir, and other fellow seekers!

I didn’t “assign” a writing prompt at our July meeting, but inspired by our intrepid memoirists, I wanted to post a prompt here that could be fun!

Write your 7-sentence autobiography.

And by the way, sentences a paragraph long are considered cheating! Sentences should be reasonably long, like the sentences you would write if you weren’t panicked by the 7-sentence limit.

After all, really long sentences that go on and on are impossible to read, difficult to understand, and full of potential contradictions; because it takes such skill to write them, after all, we end up producing two or three sentences, with subordinate clauses that should be sentences, and then suddenly you’ve written a stealth 225 sentence memoir, and that makes listeners giggle and cringe, even if they’re being polite, which they often are, to your detriment because you never really find out what they really think because they like you.

See you the second Monday in August, 1:15 – 3:30, at the Accokeek Public Library! Any women writers who want to join us are welcome!

And anyone intrigued by the prompt, but not local or not able to attend for any reason, you can simply put their 7-sentence autobiography as a comment, and we’ll all have a great time!

Carol Burbank is a writing coach, editor and author. You can learn more about her at

Email her now to sign up for her summer special, three 30-minute summer breakthrough sessions to help you jumpstart your writing! (Only $120!)

Help for Memoir Writers: Tips on Publishing and Proposals

So you’re writing a memoir! Brava!

It’s cathartic, challenging, satisfying, and powerful. You’re telling the story you always wanted to tell/never thought you could! And when you’re done with your first draft, you look up from your cluttered desk for inspiration, and you’re immediately thinking, “Where I can I publish this?”

become a writer

Take a deep breath and read this roundtable with memoir agents from Writer’s Digest.

Here’s one agent’s take on key questions you need to ask about your memoir:

” 1.    If the reader doesn’t know you, would they care? Why?
2.    Is there a universal story/theme? What is it? (Is it a transformation story? An inspirational tale? A cautionary tale? Coming of age?)
3.    If you summed up your story in one to two sentences, would my response be, “Wow!”?
4.    How truly different is your story—and is it different enough to warrant publishing yet another book on the topic?”

And there’s a lot more good advice in the article about deciding how to edit your work, writing good queries and proposals for agents and publishers, finding a publisher, and creating a publishing platform.

As far as I’m concerned, the first step is editing, editing, editing! You may call your manuscript a “book,” but if you haven’t gone through at least three edits, you’re still working with a brilliantly messy draft! Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Edit, rethink, revise!

As a writing coach and editor, I’m honored to be an honest, compassionate and practical resource for authors who, unlike Virginia Woolf and others married to the perfect editor, need an outside eye on their manuscript. However you get real input into the blessings and challenges your manuscript presents to the reader, get honest input! The people who love us want us to be happy, not necessarily marketable! Ask someone who will tell you the truth — the truth will help you publish…..

So, congratulations — you’ve done the hardest part! Now comes the rest of the labor of love, that is, if you want to share your remarkable story (and all that hard work of creating a book manuscript!) with the world.

Contact me today for a free 30 minute consultation about your memoir manuscript, your writing process, or steps towards publishing!


A Poem from James Tate


James Tate

Why should you believe in magic,
pretend an interest in astrology
or the tarot? Truth is, you are

free, and what might happen to you
today, nobody knows. And your
personality may undergo a radical

transformation in the next half
hour. So it goes. You are consumed
by your faith in justice, your

hope for a better day, the rightness
of fate, the dreams, the lies,
the taunts. —Nobody gets what he

wants. A dark star passes through
you on your way home from
the grocery: never again are you

the same—an experience which is
impossible to forget, impossible
to share. The longing to be pure

is over. You are the stranger
who gets stranger by the hour.

James Tate, poet and distinguished professor at U. Mass Amherst, died yesterday at age 71. 

Incredible new resource for African American History

According to a story in the Guardian published last Saturday, a huge archive of handwritten records about slaves who were newly freed in the 1860s is now coming available. Not only can you access the records for research purposes but you can also volunteer to help digitize them.

Here’s the article:

African American family records from era of slavery to be available free online

“A major project run by several organisations is beginning to digitise the 1.5 million handwritten records from the Freedmen’s Bureau, which feature more than four million names and are held by various federal bodies, for full online access.

All the records are expected to be online by late 2016, to coincide with the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington.”

And here is a video about the Freedman’s bureau and a link to project, where you can help enter the handwritten records and digitize this incredible archive.

Freedman’s Bureau

AWWG Summer Camp, Coming Soon!!

August 3-7

AWWG Summer Camp will be happening August 3-7, and your Camp Counselors are very excited about the lineup we have for you.

Stay tuned for the full schedule of events coming soon. One or more events planned for every day, Monday through Friday, with a celebration dinner party Friday evening. Workshops, Tele-seminars, work, play, food, fun, special guests and more!


Happy Birthday Allen

Today is Allen Ginsberg‘s birthday.


I must confess, the naive midwesterner I once was once dismissed him as a pervy sensationalist. That was before I read his work. Like this one:


The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
a miracle,
in imagination
till born
in human–
looks out of the heart
burning with purity–
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love–
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
–cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

–must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye–

yes, yes,
that’s what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Allen Ginsberg
San Jose, 1954

Next Meeting Monday June 8

MayaWritingOur next in-person meeting is June 8th, and once again Fearless Leader Carol will be on the road, so you are stuck with me.
I’m looking forward to it! I know you’re busy with your news articles about slices of life, and I’m looking forward to them. Please reach out if you want to discuss what you’re working on, or would like to meet for coffee. You can ping me anytime, or email any of your AWWG sisters for writerly support. That’s why we’re here!
I have a fun assignment in mind for next month, and was even considering using some of our time to work on it in the meeting.

ALSO – it’s time for the AWWG Summer Camp team to meet and plan! I’ll send around a rallying email.

See you there on Monday June 9!

Short Story or Novel?

from the excellent blog Write on, Sisters, I offer you 

Is Your Idea a Short Story or Novel?

This is a question I ponder when plot bunnies come to me, as characters settle in and begin to unfold. Do they have enough ‘something’ in them to go the long haul? How do you know when a story has the potential to grow into something larger?

Author Heather Jackson suggestions it is just ONE of these basic story elements that determines long form potential:

  1. A Protagonist – who leads the story.

  2. A Goal – what the protagonist wants.

  3. A Problem – what prevents the protagonist from achieving the goal.

  4. Objectives – how the protagonist tries to solve the problem.

  5. Obstacles – what/who prevents the protagonist from solving the problem.

  6. Stakes – what disaster will happen if the protagonist fails to solve the problem.

  7. Resolution – how the protagonist overcomes the obstacles to solve the problem and avertdisaster.

Which element? take a guess, make your case, then go read the rest of Heather’s blog. It makes a lot of sense!

PS: also check out this cool post on 6 things every short story should have

Mother’s Day Proclamation


Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910 abolitionist, activist & poet

by Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

“From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Monday’s Meeting

Monday May 11

is our Main Monthly Meeting at the Accokeek Branch Library. We start the meeting at 1:30 sharp, and wrap up at 3:00. Moderator will stay after for help with blogs and other projects.

This Month’s Assignment

Please bring your revised paragraphs to share. We want to hear what you discovered when re-writing!

Summer Plans

Let’s discuss the Wednesday meeting, and what we should do about it. Also, summer plans! Our next meeting will be June, time for a BBQ or a pool party. And, is anyone up for an AWWG Writer’s Camp?  We could plan a week (or more) of writing activities around town that take advantage of our beautiful location, get us together and working, and boost our skills while having fun in the sun! Think about it…

Finally, Some Good Advice

Eight tips on writing from The Invisible College:

Useful quotes from Vonnegut, Hemingway, CS Lewis, Elmore Leonard, Eudora Welty, Henry Miller, Ted Hughes & Ray Bradbury