By Jennifer S. Wilkov, host of the “Your Book Is Your Hook!” Show on WomensRadio
As authors and writers, we’re always learning about resources and industry tools that we can use to improve our book project performance and the enjoyment of our writing and marketing experiences. Today let’s talk about putting your memoir to good use.
During our lives, we either read about or in some cases experience a natural disaster, catastrophe or other real life situation that is of interest nationally or globally. We find ourselves in unimaginable circumstances that are often outside of our control. Earthquakes, mine collapses, terrorist attacks and other accidents that we witness become stories of interest to others who want to know how each individual survived the sudden onslaught of something so frightening and how they managed to move forward from the rubble.
Oftentimes, these stories occupy the news media for a week or so and then fade out as other news occurs and pushes the old news out of the spotlight. But the wake of the natural disaster continues and so does the human experience.
It is the books from those who are willing to share what they saw, heard and did that then memorialize and inspire us to do more to help the victims of the tragedy and make a difference in our world.
Whether it’s the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans where they are still rebuilding, or the terrorist attack on 9/11 that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, or the “Miracle on the Hudson” when a U.S. Airways flight crashed into the Hudson River in New York City in 2009 nearly 2 years ago this past weekend after both engines blew, there are usually plenty of stories that can be collected from the survivors about the real human experience of each incident.
Books have been written about these unlikely situations including Miracle on the Hudson: The Extraordinary Real-Life Story Behind Flight 1549, by the Survivors by The Survivors of Flight 1549, William Prochnau, and Laura Parker, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas G. Brinkley.
It’s important to note that these books can’t be produced right away. Care and encouragement goes into collecting the stories from the survivors and then crafting the book and sending it off for publication and distribution. The “aftermath” goes on for awhile after the initial crisis situation hits. In fact, the book about 9/11/2001 wasn’t published until 2003; the book about Katrina wasn’t published until nearly 2 years after the hurricane hit New Orleans, and the book about the Miracle on the Hudson wasn’t published until the end of last year, nearly 2 years after the incident.
After the books have been published and the media interviews are completed, the books often fade in the consciousness of society, much like the crisis itself does in the media.
But memoirs like these don’t have to fade at all and can become a force for something good.
Susan Magnuson Walsh was present when the earthquake hit Haiti with force last year, just 1 year ago, on January 12, 2010. She is a pediatric nurse practitioner and a clinical instructor of graduate nursing at the University of Illinois in Chicago by day. She separately started a non-profit organization with her husband Brian called Little By Little which ministers to those who need improved health and well-being, specifically in Haiti, following the loss of her own son to a motor vehicle accident. Beginning in 2006, she and her team started traveling to Haiti on medical missions to make a difference in the health and lives of the Haitian people. Never could she have imagined that 4 years later, she would be right at the epicenter of the earthquake that devastated the very lives she was doing everything she could to support.
When Sue and her team returned from Haiti, recovered and then continued their efforts to support the Haitian people they cared so deeply for, she and her team set about writing down their experiences. It takes more than a moment to capture the essence of a literally earth-shattering experience like Sue’s.
One year later, her book entitled Walking In Broken Shoes: A Nurse’s Story about Haiti and the Earthquake shares what she and her team saw, heard and did in the wake of this intense natural disaster. Because she created Little By Little prior to this devastating occurrence, the book now helps to demonstrate even more why what Sue does makes a difference in the lives of so many who wouldn’t otherwise have access to medical care.
Sue’s book IS her hook to share her story with the world about what it’s really like to find yourself at the center of the storm with no means to anticipate it or fight it… but rather to survive it and make a contribution to the planet and its people in the wake of the devastation created.
Too often I hear people say, “Oh, a memoir is just all about the author and I only want to read about somebody famous.” Not every agent wants to work with this genre either.
But Susan Magnuson Walsh’s book, Walking in Broken Shoes, is more than a memoir or a story about her experience. It is a message and demonstration of what can be done beyond the book and the crisis itself to shed light on a part of the planet that really does need greater attention and support.
Together with Sue, her book is her hook to so much more for humanity.
So when you write your memoir, keep in mind that although the story may be about you and your experiences, there is a whole lot more that can shine through your story and inspire the human race to do and be more for each other.
Jennifer’s show can be heard every week on Tuesday mornings at 9am when it is broadcast on WomensRadio.com and syndicated on Google News and Live365.com. Each show is archived for replay listeners in different time zones and countries.
For more information on this Education Corner topic and others, please refer to www.YourBookIsYourHook.com/blog for more articles and resources to help you with your books.