Clarbojahn Presents! Memoir Partner, Teresa Sullivan!

Thanks, Judith. Credit goes to you. :)

Thanks, Judith. Credit goes to you. 🙂

Hi Friends!

Today we have a guest on my blog, Teresa Sullivan, from my memoir class. Remember how I told you we had partners?  Teresa Sullivan is my partner and when I asked her if she wanted to answer some questions about her memoir and the process she said she would be happy to do so. Here is the result. It is more like an interview really so that is why I named it what I did, “Clarbojahn Presents! Memoir Partner, Teresa Sullivan.”

Hi Teresa!

I just love how we are partners in this memoir class. How did you learn about this class?

TS: Hi Clara, I’m really glad that you are my partner. I appreciate the way you support me in the process of writing rather than critiquing specific pieces. You have helped me stay on track without whip cracking or judgment. I learned about the class through a link sent to me by a previous memoir teacher, Amy Friedman, from UCLA.

CBJ: 2- You say you had written a bunch before starting this class. What is your memoir about and tell us a little about how much you had written and how it has helped or hurt you

TS: My memoir is about how my sister’s disability affected my family and me. It explores how she gave us purpose and held us together and how the family fractured when she was institutionalized. It illustrates the winding road I then took, descending into darkness and danger and, finally, my survival.   I would summarize it as: The Miracle Worker without the miracle meets Permanent Midnight.  I was concerned that I would have to scrap much of the 15+ thousand words I had already written   I didn’t want to face the prospect of starting all over but it hasn’t been a problem and I have received helpful feedback from my mentor.

CBJ: 3—I feel a lot of stress in reliving my life while writing about it. Are you?

TS: Over the years, I have been able to tell this story from a very detached place.  In the course of writing it, I have had to return to it in a very visceral way.  There have been one or two scenes that I had to put on the back burner – too painful.  When I finally wrote a draft of them, it was just as painful as I anticipated but I feel that I can now move forward.

CBJ: 4—How are you handling this stress?

TS: Good question.  There has been an intrinsic reward in getting through the tough stuff. Sometimes I take a few days off but that is more because I get lazy.  Unfortunately, I have not found my friends particularly supportive and no longer share my writing with them. I have you!  I also have a therapist of many years who has been very supportive.

CBJ: 5—are you being kind to your self when you have a hard time?

TS: Yes, usually.  I feel compassion for my family (including myself) when I visit the past.

CBJ: 6—how are you rewarding your self when you make a goal?

TS: Mostly, just a pat on the back.  It feels good to know that I have completed about 25% of the memoir but I can undermine myself when I remember how long it has taken.

CBJ: 7- Do you have a tool for daily measurements? For daily word counts or such? Weekly word counts and monthly word counts?

TS: I don’t have time-driven word count goals other than the 60k goal for the end of the class. Actually, I would like to have closer to 75K. I have a fluid chapter summary for each part of the memoir.  It helps me keep on track.  My goal is to connect the chapters in a coherent way and to include the scenes and themes I feel are most important.

CBJ: 8—How are you keeping tract of word counts?

TS: I note the word count for each chapter.  Some are very short (less than 1000 words) and may just be a brief draft of an event. Some are long and more developed.  I imagine that, when I go back to revise, I will integrate and consolidate.

Thank you so much for asking me to participate in your blog!

CBJ: Like most of my guests you completing the questions has been rewarding for me. I just loved reading the answers and getting to know you better.

Thanks so much!

And for you dear readers, I give you hugs and kisses.


See you here Friday for PPBF. 🙂


About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
This entry was posted in Clara Bowman-Jahn, Clarike Bowman-Jahn, interview, memoir and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Clarbojahn Presents! Memoir Partner, Teresa Sullivan!

  1. Enjoyed the interview. It sounds like your pairing was perfect. I would think that writing a memoir would be cathartic and a way of letting go of the past. Used to write extensive journals, and I always found them a release. I enjoy reading memoirs and Teresa’s sounds very interesting because of the topic. Lovely post.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Patricia!

      I have written journals also and am finally fulfilling my dream of making that private journal writing public in a story form. I am using my journals to spark memories and feelings I had in the past that I am writing about. And you are right about it being healing. I am having many insights into myself as I go back and write about myself. Sometimes it is painful and Teresa has been a big help to me during those times. 🙂


  2. Margot Finke says:

    Wonderfully interesting interview Clar and Teresa. You two sound like peas in a pod! I am sure both your memoirs will benefit from your collaboration and growing friendship. All writers need mentors, and you are doing this for each other. I was sneakier than both of you. I slipped some of my childhood memories into the letters Grandma Rose (in Down Under Calling) wrote to her grandson in Oregon. Not exactly a memoir, but a way of honoring my mom – her sense of humor, her wisdom, and her basic honesty.

    I pinned this to my Writing Help etc on Pinterest.

    Books for Kids – Skype Author Visits


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Margot!

      I loved the way you shared your memories in memoir form in letters to the character grandson in “Down Under Calling.” I can’t wait till I do a review on my blog about it. It is terrific.

      Thanks so much for pinning this. 🙂


  3. It sounds like each of two have found the perfect partner.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Rosi.

      I know I am really benefiting from having such good support from Teresa. I hope she does the same from me. It’s a great idea from our teachers. 🙂


  4. jannatwrites says:

    It sounds like you are excellent partners. Pairing up seems like a good way to keep each other on track, with continual support as you go through the process.


    • clarbojahn says:

      That is exactly right, Jana. We give each other support and keep each other on track. She is on the alternative week than I am with our classes but takes the same class I do in “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” We should have some 60,000 words at the end of six months. 🙂


  5. Your writing partner sounds very nice! 🙂 And, out of curiosity – what is the difference between memoirs and autobiographies (besides that memoir sounds better)?


    • clarbojahn says:

      This is a good question, Erik. Thanks so much. Biographies are books written by someone else on someone else. Autobiographies are biographies written by yourself about your whole life, from birth to death. and memoirs are slices of your life written by yourself as well. The difference between autobiographies and memoirs are the scope of the project. A memoir is just part of your life while the autobiography includes as much of your life as you can write starting with Birth. 🙂

      Does this help? 🙂


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