Saturday 16 July 2011

The Liberating Effects of Writing a Memoir. Please welcome Karen Walker, author of Following the Whispers!

Please welcome Karen Walker today to talk about the liberating effects of writing a memoir in celebration of her memoir, Following The Whispers, being released as an e-book!

Karen Walker is a writer who has published essays in newspapers and magazines, as well as an anthology series. After a 30+ year career in marketing and public relations, she went back to college to complete a Bachelor's degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2005 from the University of New Mexico's University Studies program with a major emphasis in Creative Writing. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, Gary, and their dog, Buddy. When she’s not writing, you can find her doing international folk dancing, singing at retirement communities with her trio, Sugartime, hiking, reading, or hanging out with friends.

Take it away Karen!

I wouldn’t have chosen to write a memoir if I felt I had a choice. Well, we always have choice. But I was compelled to write mine. I unexpectedly lost custody of my then 3 1/2 year-old son in 1978. It catapulted me into a deep depression; I was filled with self-hatred and despair. To save my sanity, I began keeping a journal. As a child, I’d fantasized about being a writer, like Jo in Little Women, but that’s all it was--a fantasy.

Keeping journals helped me process what was happening, sort through the complexity of emotions and feelings, and somehow make sense of my life. A seed was planted that someday I’d write about a nice, middle-class Jewish woman who wasn’t a prostitute or a drug addict but who somehow lost her child.

I had to wait until 1999, when my current wonderful husband offered me the opportunity to write full-time to begin that process. Probably the most difficult part of the writing was pouring through hundreds of journals, highlighting parts I thought were important, then typing them into the computer. There were times when I collapsed, sobbing on the floor, unable to continue as I relived my pain. It proved, however, to be extremely cathartic.

The memoir began as a story about losing custody, but after several drafts, I realized it was more about having grown up in a dysfunctional family, been sexually abused at seven years old, and how those kinds of events shaped the person who ended up divorced and without her child at 28.

Writing memoir is not for the weak. It takes courage to face your past--to look deeply at your life and the choices and decisions you made that may have hurt others and probably hurt you. And it takes even more courage to put those out for the world to see.

But memoir serves an important purpose--it shines a light on a life in a way that helps us look at our own lives and perhaps learn lessons we need to learn. That is why I was compelled to write my story. I knew there were others who suffered the same kind of pain for similar reasons. Mine is a journey towards healing and I am content now--something I didn’t think possible. And I think that writing my memoir played a key part in that happening.

Thank you so much for coming today, Karen. It's been an absolute pleasure!

You can find Following The Whispers here:


  1. Thanks Jessica for having Karen as a guest.
    It sounds like compelling reading, I have been following her tour this week and it's been great.

    Take care.

  2. I have read Karen's book and it is amazing. Highly recommended.

  3. Writing is somewhat painful at the best of times but to have written this memoir is extrememly courageous. The pain must have been intense.

  4. Jessica, thank you for hosting Karen.

    Karen, I read your book last week and left a comment on Memoir's must purge to the very depths but once it's out there, peace will reign and that is what you have now.

  5. I think memoirs also serve as a "I did this, you don't have to" sort of book as well. Karen I'll leave you a comment over at your place.

    Jessica, thanks for having Karen. Stop lurking. :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  6. Memoir is one of my favorite genre's to read. But I don't think I have the courage to write one. I have to fictionalize everything to make it acceptable to my subconscience.

  7. It takes a weird sort of bravery to write a memoir, with compulsion overtaking fear.

    I love memoirs, but I can't imagine writing one.

  8. Glad writing it helped you, Karen.

  9. Congratulations on telling your truth, and doing it in such a clear, compelling style.

  10. This has been a great tour Karen and I look forward to reading your book! Hi Jessica, hope you have a great vacation and it is nice to "meet" you.

  11. What a powerful and inspiring post, Karen. My admiration for you grows with each stop of the tour, and I'm so glad, Jessica, your blog was one of the stops. It is books like this one that are the true classics.


  12. Karen, your memoir is one of the most honest books I've read. I think it's amazing that you kept so many journals. I wish I had done that. I wrote fiction in my youth, but I didn't even keep those.

  13. All I can say is, "Wow!" I hope many people are helped by your book and I'm sure they will be.

  14. Karen- Courage is the key word here. Thanks. Heading over to your blog now...


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris