Matilda Butler, SheWrites Guest Editor and Co-Founder Women's Memoirs
What Does a Writer Do at the End of Her Journey?
We reach the end of the writer’s journey today. This is the concluding segment of Gail Straub’s story of her mythic memoir journey to write and publish Returning to My Mother’s House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine. Of course, there will be future journeys and I hope you will take away new insights from both Gail and Joseph Campbell. If you haven’t been to http://WomensMemoirs.com this week, I invite you to read the blog articles that parallel Gail’s journey as they provide more background about Joseph Campbell’s discussion of the hero’s journey. At the end of each of the blogs, I’ve provided a couple of writing prompts to help you dig more deeply into your own writing journey.
The final phase, the one Straub calls The Ascent, finds the hero back at home, but changed. Every writer next needs to consider what was learned during the journey and what to do with that knowledge, insight and wisdom. While Gail describes her personal enactment of The Ascent, you’ll want to think how you will use the gifts you’ve garnered during your journey.
My Mythic Memoir Journey, Part 5
Gail Straub, author
Returning To My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine
And the Final Phase: The Ascent
During The Ascent the heroine offers what she has learned back to the world.
In this last segment, I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned. One of the great advantages of self-publishing a book is that you have a lot of control over the creative process; the design, the format, the endorsements, and the cover. I had already published three books where I had no say in any of this, so I really enjoyed the creativity of self–publishing. But the disadvantage is that you do not have a publishing house to help you distribute your book. I was very fortunate to have Chelsea Green, a small publisher in Vermont, help distribute my memoir. But most of the work in getting the word out was left to me; book signings, the website, email blasts, social networking, book reviews, and contacting book festivals.
Because I am a lifelong entrepreneur, I enjoyed most of this, but, the plain truth is--it is a lot of work to publish and promote a book. Returning to My Mother’s House went on to receive four awards and lots of critical acclaim. This was especially gratifying because this book’s journey had been so long, and the book herself would never have seen the light of day if I had accepted the publisher’s offer. But most satisfying of all was the response from my readers, many of whom told me reading the book was an emotional five-hankie experience, which often lead to reframing their relationships with their mother and or their daughters.
One of the ways I gave back to the world after publishing my memoir was by creating and teaching a series of retreats on storytelling. The process of writing my life story had been so profoundly healing for me that I wanted others to have that experience, whether they were interested in publishing or not. I call these retreats Life Story: Following the Miraculous Red Threads.
In closing I want to share one of the final passages from Returning to My Mother’s House as it also offers some of what I learned from writing this book. There is reference here to my brother’s death. He died just as I was finishing this book.
Some days after returning home from Jimmy’s funeral I take out my mother’s battered old army green painter’s box, the one she would often bring out for the imaginative adventures of my childhood. Of all my mother’s possessions this is the one I treasure the most. Lifting the lid, there I find her brushes, pens, oil paints, charcoals, and inks. Even then her scent was still mingled with the smell of the paint. I cannot open this box without weeping, without pressing my face into its contents to bring back her memory. I cannot open it without saying to her how sorry I am that she didn’t get to fulfill her creative dreams. I cannot open it without saying, “I have done my best to fulfill my own dreams partly as an antidote to your unfulfillment, and, yes, partly because this is the life I chose.” And now I can also say to her that in writing this story about us, I have found my true voice as a writer. This voice is not just hers and mine, it is also the voice of all those who long to take back the wisdom of the feminine.
I wish all of you well on your personal mythic writing journey.
I want to thank Gail Straub for graciously sharing her writing journey with the readers of SheWrites. I invite you to leave Gail a comment below. I also hope you’ll join me on http://WomensMemoirs where you can read more about Joseph Campbell’s phases taken from his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. At the end of my five blogs that parallel Gail’s mythic journey, I’ve included writing prompts to help you investigate your personal writing journey.
Gail Straub is co-author of the best selling Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want It, and the author of the critically acclaimed The Rhythm of Compassion as well as the award winning feminist memoir Returning To My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine. Considered a leading authority on empowerment, she co-directs the Empowerment Institute a school for transformative leadership. The Institute’s certified graduates from cultures as diverse as Afghanistan, Africa, Russia, and Asia are implementing the empowerment model in education, business, health, hip-hop, women’s empowerment, and social change. Over the past thirty years she has trained thousands of people worldwide in empowerment, engaged spirituality, and the wisdom of the feminine. She can be reached at:
Matilda Butler is the award-winning author of several books including her co-authored memoir Rosie's Daughters: The "First Woman To" Generation Tells Its Story and the just released Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep, both co-written with her business partner, Kendra Bonnett. Butler and Bonnett are the co-founders of Women's Memoirs, a website with tips and advice for writers and free ebooks for women interested in writing their memoirs as well as free videos based on advice from such well-known authors as: Annie Dillard, Ernest Hemingway, William Zinssser, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Mark Twain, Elizabeth Berg, Elmore Leonard, Rita Mae Brown, Natalie Goldberg, David McCullough, and others.