We think we know our friends, or the folks we meet through their blogs or their novels. We form comfortable relationships, make assumptions about past lives without really knowing the facts, and enjoy the today man or woman as though they are exactly the same as they’ve always been.
And we’re usually wrong.
I met Mim Neal a few years ago through Northern Colorado Writers. I remember her most from the NCW spring conference where she experienced her first agent or editor pitch session. She was unhappy at the way it turned out, and I was very sympathetic. My first experience a couple of years before (at a RMFW Colorado Gold Conference) was horrid.
We talked a little about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting all over again. (Thanks to Jerome Kerns and Dorothy Fields for giving us this great song).
And then we moved on to do our own thing in our own way. My impression of Mim: she was a gentle soul who may have led a sheltered life and was probably a late bloomer (like me) in the world of writing. I suspected she might have to self-publish because it is so hard to sell memoir to agents and traditional publishers.
Flash forward a few years. Mim’s memoir, Tree Lines, has been published by Green Fuse Press, associated with Green Fuse Poetic Arts. Mim and I end up in the same book marketing class taught by Kerrie Flanagan of Northern Colorado Writers. And we are put together to brainstorm marketing ideas that are a little outside the box. During our discussion, I offer to read and review Mim’s memoir, she happily supplies a copy, and I get introduced to the real Mim Neal.
Mim experienced work responsibilities and contacts I would never have imagined and has traveled to parts of the world I’ve only dreamed of seeing. She struggled with work and family crises and came out stronger and braver than ever. And best of all, she’s a beautiful writer. After I finished the last page of Tree Lines, I went back to the beginning and started over.
Writing memoir is a courageous act when approached with honesty. Going public with a piece of your life exposes your fears and failures as well as your strengths and accomplishments. I find I learn more from the writings of “regular” folks than I’d ever learn from the ramblings contained in celebrity tell-alls.
Mim, for instance, worked and traveled and wrote for Rotary International and the 1999 Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town. She has also been published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Tree Lines explores her spiritual journey as well as her world travels. I feel lighter and more hopeful as I read her work.