FREE Teleseminar “Writing Your Way Through Family History”

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Click to get a FREE DOWNLOAD of my March 16 members-only TELESEMINAR with Linda Joy Myers and several participating members of NAMW, available at no charge for Memoir Midwife readers. Here’s what we cover:       Basics and shortcuts for researching … Continue reading


Expressive Writing Heals Wounds…Literally According to a New Study

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The money quote from the study authors: This study extends previous research by showing that expressive writing can improve wound healing in older adults and women. (Credit: NicoElNino Bramwell via Shutterstock) This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard. For anyone still doubting the notion that … Continue reading


Confessional Writing: When is Enough too Much?

A fascinating set of opinion pieces about the worthiness of revealing one’s most embarrassing experiences in print; one from the editor of Gawker and the other a memoirist and memoir teacher Susan Shapiro who’s written about addiction, heartbreak, psychotherapy, her … Continue reading


“Understanding Writers” From Daily Dahlia

Here’s a nice post I found on Twitter from a writer of “YA Romance”. What to tell nonwriters about the writers in their lives — friends, partners, family etc. It’s also got some good stuff to tell ourselves…. Non-writers, we … Continue reading


2012 in review: I’m sharing this WordPress Summary of Memoir Midwife happenings this year

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt: 600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the … Continue reading


A Goodreads review

Oct 13, 2012 Debra rated it I thoroughly enjoyed this book and got a lot out of it. As an amateur genealogist and historian and eager memoirist/family history writer and blogger, I found the chapters helped me to distinguish the … Continue reading

Coming upon a book review you didn’t know about is like finding an old piece of jewelry, thought long gone

…especially when the book you wrote is no longer top of mind, such as my Guide to Memoir Writing, released last year (Dec 2011).  Doubly so when it’s a positive review that you’d somehow missed (Google trackers are not a sure thing I find.) So imagine my delight to find these three 5 star Amazon reviews on the book’s site after not checking it for several months.

[Since I went back to full time work as a Blog and Social Media Editor at PLOS, the Public Library of Science ( I haven't had time for much of anything other than eating, sleeping and working -- though I have to say that editing, recruiting bloggers and managing a blog community is tremendously fun and challenging work.]

I thank the Amazon reviewers for taking the time and care to write down their thoughts and experiences working with the book. I’m also thrilled that I was able to help them write better memoirs!

5.0 out of 5 stars A Guide for Everyone, Regardless of Experience, September 26, 2012
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When I recently began thinking about writing my own life story, I thought certainly it would be a relatively straight forward project. Why not? I had all the credentials and experience to accomplish my mission. I had a solid liberal arts and journalism school education from a good public university and more than 25 years of experience working in the journalism profession during which I have published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles covering a wide range of subjects.

But as I discovered from Victoria Costello’s guide, writing a memoir is a different – and much more complex – process than writing news stories and magazine features. In a news or feature article, you tend to answer the questions: What is this and what about it? When writing a memoir, the writer goes a step further and answers a third question: So what? To answer this third question, and make your writing come alive, Costello explains that a memoirist has to incorporate a host of literary techniques into the narrative, such as voice, plot, character development, dialogue, scenes, and much more.

Costello does an admirable job of explaining these terms and how to incorporate them into your memoir. Her book has helped me make the transition from the short news story to book-length narrative through this very easy-to-follow guide that makes you think about both the big picture and the details. The book not only covers the writing process, but also delves into legal issues and how to get your memoir published. I recommend this book for anyone who is thinking about, or is in the process of, telling his or her own life story through a memoir or similar writing vehicle, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or veteran journalist.

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Guide to Memoir Writing, September 14, 2012
Gary J. Topp (Milwaukee, Wisconsin United States) – See all my reviews
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This book was extremely helpful in guiding me to the completion of my first memoir genre book. The author’s seasoned, realistic approach to writing a memoir is second to none. Highly recommend it!

5.0 out of 5 stars a fabulous technical manual, August 5, 2012
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Costello’s guide to writing a memoir is an extremely well crafted, specific, nuts-and-bolts description of the elements required not only for a memoir but for most kinds of novels as well. It provides practical advice on how to approach such a project, and how to get through it, and how to have it reviewed in manuscript form by one’s peers. And, beyond that, how to get it into print. Most such guides tend to be vague about important steps in the process. This one is comprehensively detailed. Even if you don’t plan to write a memoir, you’ll find it fascinating if you like to write.

If you’d like a guide to help you get started on your memoir, or help you pick up on the writing craft part of the process, I hope you’ll give my book a try. I really enjoyed writing it!

An adoptee’s search for answers

I wanted to share with you all a review of my memoir received on Goodreads by another memoirist and seeker of personal healing, Rhonda Rae. It touches me deeply that my book helps her dig deeper into her own family mysteries and serves as a resource for her writing and healing process. Here is her review…

Rhonda Rae Baker
This is a powerfully researched topic with memoir interlaced for example. Not an easy read, especially if there is body memory that surfaces, which was my case. I learned so much and had to go back and reread sections for greater understanding.I cannot express how important this information is, especially to those with mental illness in their family background. Being an adoptee, I knew nothing of my history…this greatly hindered my own life and damaged my children because I was unable to help them. I was a mess…literally checked out for many years. This realization alone, made Costello’s story extremely difficult to dig through.

Now that I’ve had time to ponder what she is really talking about, I feel ready to tackle my own history in greater ways. I’m still researching my birth family and no one is open to speak with me. So many secrets and so many illnesses…totally dysfunctional and carried on within my own family atmosphere.

Very sad that adoptee’s don’t have access to their medical and mental health histories…consequences can be lethal, is an understatement.

I’ve more research and will continue to use this amazing resource to help me find my way. Bottom line, addressing personal depressions and cycles is my first step. One day at a time…I’m very sad that my children have presented with psychological environmental and genetic tendencies. It’s as if they had no hope…but they do have hope now…mom is learning and will continue to reach out to help them.

There is a way…there are answers…there is help!


An inspiring post by Steve Silberman with fabulous advice from the “hive mind” for aspiring authors…

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors By Steve Silberman Posted: June 2, 2011 on Independent Book Publisher * Steve Silberman reading at the Booksmith in SF. Photo by Heather Champ. *Steve Silberman also has a blog … Continue reading


A Tweet-chat on Memoir Writing

I did this tweetchat with my publisher Alpha Books back in January and after giving it a reread, I think there’s some really useful stuff here for focusing your memoir writing. Makes me think there’s some value in having to … Continue reading


John Updike’s 6 Rules for Constructive Criticism – Maria Popova – Entertainment – The Atlantic

These rules are excellent and should be adopted by any editor or reviewer and especially by writers working together in a critique group. I have personally been in one where they were not followed and as a result the feedback … Continue reading