The Magic of Memoir 2016
Written by
Dhana Musil
November 2016
Written by
Dhana Musil
November 2016

The Magic of Memoir 2016

When I first saw the announcement about the 2016 Magic of Memoir Conference hosted by Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers, I had an immediate two-fold reaction. I want to go to this/I can’t possibly go to this.

I made note of the early-bird registration date and let the idea simmer. I’d wait to see how things at home unfolded and where the energy settled.

I wanted to meet the women who played such an integral part in the birthing process of my memoir. I’d taken their Write Your Memoir in Six Months course a few years previously, Brooke is my writing coach, so I felt I knew them, in a sense, but I wanted to meet the women behind the phone calls face to face. I wanted to give them each a hug and thank them for their wisdom and guidance.

When I found out that my essay was chosen to be a part of the Magic of Memoir publication, my desire to attend the conference intensified.

I discussed it with my family. My husband told me to register. He booked my room and my flight to San Francisco. I began to count down the weeks.

Once I landed in San Francisco, everything unfolded perfectly. I had no problem navigating BART (which had been a secret worry) my room at the Marriot was spacious and had a spectacular view.  Upon arrival at the registration table on the 21st floor, I knew I was in the right place. The two women running check-in and handing out swag bags, Krista Lyons and Bella Mahaya Carter were warm, welcoming souls. Perfect gate-keepers to the magical new world I was about to become a part of.

I signed up for the open mic that was happening that night, and found myself a seat at the front of the room. I wanted to soak up as much as much information as I could. At 8.30am that Saturday morning, when Brooke and Linda Joy took to the stage and introduced themselves, I looked around the room at the more than one hundred memoirists gathered together. The youngest was thirteen, the oldest eighty-six. We were all on the same path, just on different parts of it. I felt that hot sting of tears I get when I know I am energetically plugged in to something greater than myself. When I feel, I am in the right place at the right time. From the get-go, it was magical.

That first day was an immersion into the craft of memoir. We learnt the 5 Key Elements of a Successful Memoir, and how to map our memoirs.

The power point presentation was accessible and educational. I took notes, but we were assured that the presentation would be emailed to us after the conference (which it was). This was a huge relief to a lot of the attendees. That they were free to listen and take notes if the spirit moved them, but that everything discussed, would be theirs to keep after the conference was finished.  

Lunch was served buffet style in the seminar room. Brooke and Linda Joy were happy to answer questions and pose for pictures. The Magic of Memoir contributors group had an impromptu gathering, stories and histories were shared, books signed. After lunch, we explored the dark side of memoir writing, excavating our truths, what stands in our way of writing and how to name it. We had a writing and a sharing session at our tables. We had breakthroughs and triumphs. We had Aha! moments and we had tears.

The panel discussion moderated by Linda Joy was about ‘Why We Write Memoir’ and the panelists were published memoirists Faith Adiele, Albert Flynn DeSilver and Meredith Maran. Each one of them offered valuable insights and opinions on the memoir journey. Brooke and Linda Joy kept to the schedule. We finished promptly at 5pm. Some people went for dinner, but I had to have a quick moment of quiet. I lay on the floor in my room, my calves rested on a chair. I’d learnt so much in only a few hours…I’d met so many beautiful people. And it was almost time for the Open Mic. Arm in arm with my new friend Lynette Charity we marched on over to Laurel Bookstore on Broadway for the open mic reading.

A cross-section of stories, memories, tragedies and hopes were shared that night. Every reader had three minutes to weave an engaging narrative, and every reader was fantastic. Brooke and Linda Joy, as exhausted as they must have been by then, were perfect moderators and mentors. Bella took pictures of each one of us at the podium. It was phenomenal. I felt like I’d arrived home.

Day two started with a session titled: Scene Intensive: Mastering the Engine That Drives Your Memoir. Then we had a writing exercise and a session about different types of memoir genres. We learnt about different types of publishing, about agents and queries and social media platforms. It wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t misleading. It was a carefully researched and evenly presented.

When Andy Ross, April Eberhardt and Pooja Menon walked into the conference room that Sunday afternoon, I swear I heard a people take a collective in- breathe. The agents had arrived. The moment we’d been anticipating. They took part in a panel entitled: What Agents Are Looking For: Agents Talk about the Secrets to Getting Published, moderated by Brooke Warner. After their panel discussion was the Pitch-a-Thon. Three minutes to pitch our memoirs.

My pitch wasn’t perfect, but it was good. Nerve wracking as it was, the energy in the room was supportive and nurturing. And that, for me was not only noticeable during the open mic and the Pitch-a-Thon, it was my take-away from the entire weekend.

I arrived at the conference not knowing anyone. I left there with a full heart and a pocket full of new friends. I left feeling inspired and re-energized to finish my memoir. I left knowing there is a whole memoir writing community out there that has my back. And its Brooke and Linda Joy who make it happen. The Magic of Memoir Conference, for me, truly was a magical experience. The magic of which is still with me—a month later.




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