Your Life Matters!: Learn to Write Your Memoir in 8 Easy Steps by Junie Swadron can be purchased here.
I must give many thanks to Junie Swadron. Junie, you taught me so much more about writing than I ever thought I knew. You taught me a deeper, more spiritual side of the craft, for which I am eternally grateful. We worked together on this book for a month, which doesn’t feel accurate. It felt like an entire lifetime, yet each day was always a heavenly day.
Included in this editing sample, you will find the following:
- A summary of a portion of the high-level edits that were completed before the line editing stage.
- An excerpt of the line edits I returned to the author.
- The final version of the excerpt.
1. Summary of the First Two Rounds of High-Level Edits
When I was first assigned this book on writing, I must admit I had a bit of concern. If someone wrote a book on writing, then they certainly must think they know everything about it. How would this author handle working with an editor – someone who would correct their writing? I was nervous. But then I met Junie Swadron in person and my heart melted. I have never met someone as open-minded, eager, and willing as Junie is. Her aura is so radiant (a shade of blue, if I have to guess), and she gushes with enthusiasm and passion to help others feel fulfilled. She truly is a servant at heart, which made editing her book a joy. She brought to the table one of the highest calibers of writing I have ever had the honor of working with, which meant it would be a challenge to preserve her voice and the integrity of her writing, while trying to level-up her manuscript.
Junie is a writer at heart. When her manuscript arrived on my desk, she already had multiple publications under her belt. So what happens when a writer writes a how-to book about writing? Easy. The writer conflates him or herself with her reader. It can be so easy to, as the author, treat oneself the same as the reader. The fact of the matter is, however, that Junie wrote this book because she spent years becoming a seasoned writer. It was clear, though, that she didn’t see it that way because in the manuscript, she often said things like, “In this chapter, we will learn about…” When in reality, Junie wasn’t learning it at all. She had already learned it! To me, it was integral for Junie to make one slight shift in her verbiage to achieve a massive result. By simply switching the pronoun “we” to “you,” Junie separated herself from her reader. This tiny shift said to the reader, “I am your teacher. You are reading my book. I spent years learning this, so now you must trust me to teach it to you.” Readers don’t buy books because they want a passive author to teach them something. They buy books because they want someone with a firm hand to tell them what it is the author has to say. Junie internalized this advice that I gave her, and her manuscript elevated immeasurably.
I certainly felt a shift within me as an editor while working on Junie’s edits. I felt more emboldened than ever to rearrange Junie’s paragraphs. Her writing is larger-than-life in the greatest possible way. If reincarnation is real, it is clear that Junie has lived a thousand lives to end up the sage individual she is this lifetime. The first draft Junie submitted to me was just that – a first draft. I encouraged her to simply word vomit, in a sense, her wisdom onto a page, which would allow us to play with the words, almost like ceramicists with clay. With this method came quite a bit of play, as the words begged for structure. With Junie’s permission, I sorted through the manuscript during the first two rounds of high-level edits, suggesting major reorganizations. This forced me to keep my memory sharp, to recognize that a particular paragraph would be better suited following the paragraph that came several pages ago. I found myself jotting down notes on every piece of scrap paper I could find, sculpting Junie’s fabulous words into a manuscript that followed a clear and linear style. Thanks to Junie allowing me to become this intimate with her manuscript has allowed me to become as intimate with every piece of writing I touch, and I’m beyond grateful.
With multiple publications under her belt when I began work on her manuscript, I knew working with Junie would require not only her to be open-minded, but for me to be open-minded. This notion alone changed how I interacted with this project. It forced me to think more critically than ever, and to put myself not just in Junie’s shoes, but in her reader’s shoes as well. Working on Junie’s manuscript taught me that a good editor simply doesn’t just grow because he or she edits frequently. An editor grows by adapting to his or her writer, by adjusting edits based on the style of writing, the attitude of the author, the personality of the writer, and the content of which he or she edits. Junie’s project forced me to scrutinize my work to ensure I provided Junie’s exuberant style with the highest quality of edits. I had to break out of my comfort zone.
2. Excerpt from the Line Edits
3. Final Version of the Excerpt
Chapter 1: This Is Your Life
Hello, beautiful reader. My heart welcomes you here, ready and excited to teach you what I have come to know about how to write life stories – to be the scribe, the author of the adventures you have lived. You will look back in time with the eyes of a compassionate witness to all you have experienced in your life. As well as living your life fully in the moment, you will look back in time with a curious and compassionate heart, opening to what you remember, observing from a place of spaciousness, and from the loves and losses of your life.
It is a stunning experience to step back, breathe, and take a good look at this living masterpiece – your life, from the age you are today – and notice whom you have become and notice, too, the myriad of ways you became who you are.
This is you, honouring the magnificent life you have lived. You may feel trepidation, but my guess is that there is also exaltation because my words resonate with the truth of where you are right now. And because you are ready to write your memoir, even if you don’t know how to go about it or where to begin. You may be scared of the entire process or have thoughts that say, “Who am I to write a book? Who would read it and, if they did, what would they think of me then?” You may even have specific people in mind – people close to you –whose opinions still matter the most, and you cringe at the thought of being judged.
I once received a fortune cookie that said, “Look for the dream that keeps coming back. It’s your destiny.” I kept it on my vision board for a long time, and then I wrote my first book because it was a dream that kept coming back.
If you have a dream to write your memoir and it keeps coming back to you, it is not an accident. It is your destiny, and I know that you know in your heart the truth of this. Dreams of the heart are God’s first indication pointing you towards an open door where the manifestation of your dream awaits you. The door is never locked. In fact, it opens wide once you value yourself more than anyone else ever could. You do this by being caring and compassionate with the parts of you that don’t believe you are bright enough, smart enough, or have anything valuable to say. You must move beyond the voice of your inner-critic who tells you that you might say things that are wrong, that you would appear stupid, or that no one would listen to your words, thoughts, and opinions. By doing this, you will come to remember who you really are and that you are worthy – that you matter – simply because you are here.
And that God, the Universe, wouldn’t give you promptings to write your memoir if there wasn’t substance to it.
You wouldn’t sit up at night fretting over what you will do with your senior years. In fact, it frightens you as you approach the latter years of your life without knowing what you can do that will give it meaning – give you meaning. Who will you be without your career, a place to go to every day that not only gave you a routine but was also your identity?
Does this describe where you are right now? Your job, what you engaged in every day for years, is about to end or has already ended and you are troubled. Do you fall into bed at night feeling stressed because of the uncertainty that lies ahead? Perhaps you are concerned about your aging parents and imminent decisions about their fate or your adult children, praying they will make healthy choices so that their lives aren’t burdened. Yet the biggest worry of all is wondering just what you will do with the rest of your life. Who will you be without your career, without somewhere to go when you wake up in the morning? How will you still contribute and feel needed and valued?
And the truth is, no matter what your age – senior or not –you wouldn’t have an inner beckoning that doesn’t quit telling you to share the incredible stories you have already lived in the form of a book if you weren’t ready to do just that. Our inner promptings are not random. They are personal, a direct memo from the Universe into the inbox of our heart and soul, and they are meant for us to pay attention. Not someday; today.
Do you say things like, “I’ve always been a good writer, or at least, I like to write and words just flow out of me when I journal – and I have dozens of them – or when I write letters, which I still love to do. In fact, when I do write, I forget about everything and everyone else. Time goes by magically, and I’m shocked to see how quickly, in fact. Hours can slip by in minutes because I am fully present.”
You are not alone. I know how that felt for me. Geez, I was fifty years old before I was willing to go naked and tell my story. It was a huge leap, and I was willing to risk everything rather than continue to wear the masks that kept me in hiding. Yup, it was crazy – or was it?
If you are someone who wants to write your memoir and tell your stories because you would like to share what you have learned in order to make it just a wee bit easier for someone else who travels in the same moccasins that you have walked in, you know in your heart that you are meant to be reading these words right now. It’s your calling, and it can be your destiny.
As well, if you want to write your memoir to leave a legacy to your children and grandchildren of what you have lived, what you have come to know for sure, and what has mattered most to you then you are in the right place.
Whatever your reasons, as you look back, write and reflect, you will learn things about yourself that you had not consciously realized before. One cannot look back without finding true hidden gems.
And it is worth every bit of trepidation and fear you might be having at the same time. Everyone I know who has ever written a memoir with me will tell you it is a scary proposition. One client, Doris, said, “I feel like my mouth and my throat are constipated, I am so scared.” This changed as she continued to write fear-ward and forward. It always does.
When my clients move into the rhythm of their heart and stop listening to their harsh inner critic, they declare it was worth every word, every tear, every exhilaration. Why? Because they learn for themselves, through the process of scribing their stories, using my formula, the truth of these words: “The sweet whisperings of your soul meet you on the page and something shifts. You strengthen. You begin to stand taller and one day you notice that your voice on the page has become your voice in the world.”
Hasn’t every large transition in your life, as you stood at the precipice of change, frightened you? You wondered how you would get through it? You had sleepless nights? Yet you did get through it. Perhaps it is because you are stronger than you give yourself credit for.
Retirement doesn’t mean what it meant years ago. You got your gold watch and don’t have much now to look forward to or many years left to live past age sixty-five – the average retirement age. People are living ten, twenty, even thirty years longer these days and have the opportunity to make choices that truly matter to them.
At this stage, you are no longer burdened by what other people think you should do. You get to choose from your deepest truth. And when you do, there is nothing more liberating.
To not follow through on a dream that you secretly hold in your heart, to not stand up and learn to love and value your life when the opportunity knocks – especially when it’s a truth, a desire, a dream that keeps returning to you, again and again – is a travesty.
Seriously, life is not just a place to hang out between birth and death with a whole lot of movement or drama in between. It’s something to be valued, honoured, and cherished. Breath is life and to have life is to have the living, breathing essence of God within our cells. It is a privilege that we must not take for granted. And our gift back to God for giving us this life is to live the best life we can live.
We all are products of our environment; we all are until we become conscious of the choices we make. If you still behave out of beliefs you took on when you were a youngster, then it’s time to ask yourself how well they serve you. If you say, “not well,” then are you willing to become part of the club of awesome folk living life to the fullest?
There are so many things you have learned along life’s journey and if you don’t stop long enough to take stock of what they are, to truly find the courage to love yourself, there’s a good chance you could die with your songs still buried inside you. And until that final breath, you will feel unfulfilled, live in a place of longing and envy, resenting the passing of days and years going by without making your dreams come true.
And unfortunately, there are countless elders – and younger people, too – who feel that way right now. They feel old and used up. If you are of retirement age, are you afraid of being cast aside and becoming invisible to the eyes of the young? Feeling you no longer have anything to contribute? Do you believe society devalues the elderly? Is that true? It’s only true if you believe it because then your life will reflect just that. If you believe you are fabulous, then the world you will experience will see you that way, too.
It’s my aim to show you that you are. That you have a life worth celebrating and honouring and your dream to write your memoir is not simply possible and attainable – it’s also easy. I know it because I’ve written books about writing as well as re-writing your life in order to let go of the painful past. This overlaps with what I’m talking about here.
Your sixties and beyond could be absolutely fabulous. That’s what you can expect as you embrace your magnificence, know what you are capable of, and move into these next chapters of your life with confidence and verve.
It always excites me to show people how to write in such a way that their inner wisdom shows up on the page. You know your life, and you know what you have lived. You don’t need fancy language or anything other than the willingness to tell the truth as you remember it. To show up and allow the writing to come forth effortlessly, which it will, when you align with what it is you wish to say. You will start to have newfound energy that you haven’t seen in years – why? Because you are living your dream. You will put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. You will do it just like you have done so many other things in your life.
Begin to remember all the projects or ways you have chosen to show up in the world, that would advance your life and help others as well. Think about what your friends and family admire about you? Think about your life challenges and how you got through them. What are your resilient tools – the ones you can teach others through what you have learned? Don’t keep these to yourself. Just like the people who have been mentors to you along your life’s journey, you can be that for others by not keeping your secrets buried. Your life stories are a treasure trove for you to explore. You will learn things about yourself you may not even have ever known because writing has a way about it that reveals insights and truths unnoticed by you beforehand.
As humans, the one constant we can rely on is change. Sometimes we sail merrily, merrily, merrily down the stream and life is but a dream, and other times, we don’t know how we will survive the rapids. But dear reader, somehow, you did. And, somehow, I did too. And we meet here at this intersection because we have called each other in. The Universe brought us together so that you would be the answer to my dream – to write a book that melts your fears and doubts about writing your memoir by sharing what I have come to know about writing, about flow, about resistance, and about allowing.
Among the many directives of how to write a memoir, I have inserted some of my own life stories as examples that may inspire you; this book is not just a “how to,” falling into the “no-no” rule in writing that says, “Show, don’t tell.” Instead, I will show you some of my stories – some in their rawest form, because this is memoir and it is written the way I remember it, not glossed over to sound pretty and poetic so that you will like me better.
As you move through the pages of this book, I wish to be your invisible, kind, and loving witness while you revisit and embrace the milestones that have made your life rich with meaning, the challenging and painful times, as well as the exciting and joyful ones. You will bring new clarity and understanding to old circumstances, put closure on unfinished business, laugh and cry at the meanderings of your life, and bring to the present new respect and reverence for the blessings of every day.
If you stand on a precipice right now, but feel frozen, what will it cost you to make the decision to not write your memoir, to not bring you your dream come true?