The Writers Circle Speaker Series #6
Writing & Selling Your Memoir
With Paula Balzer
March 4, 2012
Sages Pages, Madison, NJ
"There is much more to writing a memoir than telling your life story," Paula Balzer explained in her workshop, Writing & Selling Your Memoir, on Sunday afternoon, March 4, at Sages Pages in Madison, NJ. "I'm sorry, but no one wants to read your journal."
Ms. Balzer has plenty of experience recognizing what makes a memoir work. She is a literary agent and the author of Writing & Selling Your Memoir (Writers Digest Books/July 2011). Among her clients are New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins (Pledged, Quarterlife Crisis, Secrets of the Tomb), Oscar-Award winning writer of “Juno” Diablo Cody (Candy Girl), American Idol judge Randy Jackson (What’s Up Dawg?) and Bobby Henderson (Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster).
After listening to participants' plans and reasons for writing their memoirs, Paula focused on writing craft. Her in-depth presentation featured Nine Things You Need to Know to Write a Successful Memoir. "If your memoir isn't working," Paula told the fifteen aspiring writers who attended, "it can undoubtedly be addressed by paying attention to one of these nine components."
Paula highlighted the importance of plot even in a memoir, the difference between a hook and a theme, how the author's voice can become a personal fingerprint, and the power of reflection. "Be careful that you don't present yourself as a 'bitter Betty' -- bitterness does not equal passion," she explained.
Finally, Paula discussed the challenge of finding a place in the competitive publishing world. "Why should someone pick up your memoir instead of one of these hundreds of others?" she said, gesturing to the stacked bookshelves that surrounded the writers at Sages Pages. "Unless you are a celebrity, you have to find a hook, a voice, or some way to present your ordinary life that's unique and new."
Participants were thrilled with Paula's candor, breadth of knowledge and her engaging presentation style. For those who want more, Ms. Balzer teaches regularly on Wednesday evenings at The Writers Circle in South Orange. Ms. Balzer will also be offering weekly morning workshops starting in Spring.
Ms. Balzer's workshop was the sixth in The Writers Circle's 2011-2012 Speaker Series, bringing authors, poets, cartoonists, Broadway actresses and other creative professionals to talk about their craft in workshops in Madison, Maplewood, West Orange and South Orange, NJ.