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WRITE IT DOWN. SET IT FREE. Those were the words that AMY HARTL SHERMAN shared with us all in response to the SW "Why I Write" (in six words) prompt, the winner of our "Wear the Shirt" contest, and those were the words that came to mind last night when I stood up and, for the first time ever, read something I had written about my divorce. It was mercifully short -- I actually adhered to the word count requirement of 300-400 words -- and it was absolutely sweet. My friends were there to cheer me on (thank you MARCI, AMY F., DEBBIE, NANCY, CHRISTINA, AMY B., JULIE, CATHERINE, and MONICA), and my whole self showed up without guilt, fear or regret. There was a lot of compassion and honesty in that room -- particularly from fellow She Writers KELLY SIMMONS, STACEY MORRISON, and RAHNA REIKO RIZZUTO.


I wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been for She Writes. You stood with me in your words (some of which will also be featured on the Huffington Post in the coming days), and gave me strength. And yesterday, in one of the most intense, memorable hours I have ever spent on SHE WRITES RADIO, "How Do We Write About Our Families and Friends?", you told me your stories of speaking your truth. Some of you were scarred by writing about the ones you knew, and remain afraid to write again. Some of you were amazed at the grace with which your family members and loved ones supported your work. Some of you are preparing for publication with not a little bit of fear of the unknown. But ALL of you who called in, and of course the inimitable TERI COYNE -- who I think should be the official She Writes therapist for any and all writers feeling locked in the jaws of insecurity -- were honest, brave, and completely generous in sharing your experiences in order that we might all feel a little bit wiser about why, and how, and whether, we publish or write. (We always write, even if we don't publish.) If you ever needed inspiration, or faith, or stories from others to spur you on -- push play on "How Do We Write About Our Families and Friends," and prepare to be drawn in.



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Comment by Emily Lackey on April 11, 2011 at 9:10am

This is such a great conversation. I struggle with this daily. Almost two years ago I wrote about a family member and that family member's loved one on my blog, and that decision set off an argument and rift that is still going on today. It has been a significant loss in my life, and, because of it, I now take the stance that I will not write about anyone unless I have their explicit permission. But, as you can imagine, this has been fairly stifling. I didn't write for an entire year because of it. It's only been recently that I've loosened this rule to include writing about people in a way that keeps them entirely anonymous. I think it's important to be respectful of people's privacy, and I also think it's important to convey the truth. But I think there is a way to get at the truth of a moment or a relationship without necessarily being literal or exploitative. I love this quotation by Tim O'Brien: "A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth."

Comment by Elizabeth Towns on April 8, 2011 at 11:12am

This was great. I got good information in that when I initially write, I just have to write it out. It is a good idea for the first edit to be for content that is damning or unnecessarily revealing to someone you know or have known. I have always thought about this issue in the back of my mind. My family would be hurt if I wrote specifically about them, and then I wonder about the idea of people filing suit about a character in something I published. 


The most important thing I heard was to initially write without constraint so that my true reason for writing can come through. I liked that.

Comment by Dawn Nickel on April 7, 2011 at 11:11am
It was an amazing hour, I encourage everybody to take the hour to listen to the session - it is informative, inspirational, and muchmore. And congrats, Kami - on being able to write and share your truth. You inspire me.


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