Hello, everyone! I hope you are making good use of this pause between winter storms. Coming out to spend some time with us at the coffee shop is the perfect opportunity for you to meet a friend of mine, Mary DeMuth. Mary writes both fiction and nonfiction. This month – today, in fact - her memoir, Thin Places is debuting.
I’ve learned that a good book needs both a premise and a story. The premise of Mary’s book comes from a Celtic belief. To quote Mary’s introduction: “The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. This describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum; where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal – not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond.” Mary laces her story into this backdrop.
This is a busy season for Mary, but she generously offered to tell us a few things about memoir writing. In this first installment, Mary talks about the way she tells her story.
“When I started my writing journey toward publication, I thought I’d always be a novelist. My agent at the time suggested I write parenting books, something I balked at for quite some time. I was a storyteller after all. And because of my upbringing, I suffered from deep wells of insecurity in my parenting. And yet, I sold three parenting books. I wrote them from a position of weakness, and I prayed other parents with struggles similar to mine would be encouraged that they’re not alone. One facet strung its way through all my books: story.
I can’t help but tell stories, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. As I brainstormed with my next agent and my editor about who I wanted to be when I grew up, we all came back to story. I am a storyteller. We decided it would be best for me to place my primary focus on novel writing, but keep the storytelling alive in nonfiction.
Two years ago, I sensed the need, urge, and desire to write a memoir. I’d come a long way in my healing journey, enough that I could write it without bitterness, with a view toward God’s intervention. Thankfully, my vision for a memoir fit well within the story idea, and Zondervan took a risk and bought the book.
I wrote the book much like I’d write a novel, with an inciting incident, some flashbacks, a rising action and a late climax. Of course, as memoirs go, I had more freedom to explore and meander through the story, but I kept the book mostly in scenes, written in first person present tense to create intimacy and immediacy with the reader.
It was difficult to create me as the main character, to place the potential reader into my own head, to play it out in a way that would woo the reader to turn the page. In doing that, I learned even more about myself, how I viewed the world (sometimes in a warped way!), and what possible impact my journey might have on fellow strugglers.
Though I knew well the landscape, setting, and characters of my life, it proved difficult to give myself permission to truly delve in deeper, to re-feel my pain, angst, joy, frustration, anticipation, and worry. Once I let myself go there, the memoir progressed. And my editor helped me shape the book more chronologically, something for which I’m deeply thankful.
The end result is story: mine. It’s the story of a little girl who faced sexual abuse, neglect, drug-using parents, fear, death of a parent, and a host of other malevolence. And yet it’s a hope-filled story, where the bright light of God’s climactic redemption outshines the dark places. It’s a story of God’s nearness when I thought I’d nearly lose my mind and will to live. How grateful I am for the beautiful love of Jesus, how dearly He chose frail me to shame the wise. It’s really His story after all.”
Mary DeMuth not only writes, she helps other writers. Check out her blog So You Wanna Be Published .
One member of our community will be chosen in a drawing on February 28th to get a copy of Mary DeMuth’s new book, Thin Places. (Note: Be sure to become a follower of our blog to be eligible for the drawing.)