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    #WomensHistoryMonth: Writing Your Memoir

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: Sandra Gail Lambert, author of A Certain Loneliness: A Memoir, and Tina Alexis Allen, author of Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, are featured in this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times. I asked them to discuss crafting a memoir, including how difficult it can be to relive your experiences and to choose from the overwhelming details of your life.

    Sandra Gail Lambert: The process of writing a memoir is fraught with uncertainty. I took having polio as a baby, using braces and crutches and then wheelchairs to get around, coming out in the 70s into the lesbian-feminist and women-in-print movements, growing up a military brat and so moving every few years, and the transformative power of the natural world and threaded the whole thing through with the tension between loneliness, independence and desire.

    Immersing myself in the past could have me spread-eagled across the bed and held still by the weight of memories, but other times I’d be giggling along as I wrote about the absurdities of couple dynamics.  

    However, there were plenty of moments when I’d fall into a despair about how boring it was and why would anyone want to read about my life. It would help to remind myself that I’d thought that about everything I’d ever written, ever. So, I kept on with it.

    It also helped to reread memoirs that still resonated with me—memoirs that had affirmed my own life or had changed the way I thought about the world. As I read this time, I’d pay attention to the evocation of setting in one, the power of specific details in another, and the breathtaking imagination of metaphors in another. The best I could, I learned the lessons these books offered.

    Sandra Gail Lambert is the author of the memoir “A Certain Loneliness” and a novel “The River’s Memory.” She is the co-editor of the anthology “Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival.”

    Tina Alexis Allen: I came of age at lightning speed as the youngest of 13 children. People who hear my story—specifically, my coming of age—are generally floored that I’m functioning so well. Most are shocked by all the secrets and lies I was carrying, as well as my ability to forgive.

    But actually, forgiveness is a selfish act and I have done it mostly for my own healing. There were certainly a few bumpy emotional days while writing my memoir, but I have been processing my past for decades. Hiding Out is a culmination of all that processing, creating and sharing of my story as an actress and writer.

    I wrote Hiding Out because my story feels bigger than me, bigger than my family. It’s for anyone who has or is keeping secrets; anyone hiding their authentic self. We all hide parts of ourselves, but I wanted to risk writing a book that exposed the truth, shamelessly. I do believe if you don’t own your story, it will own you.  

    Truth telling is the antidote to my shame, so Hiding Out is just one more step towards freedom. And I must say, recording my audiobook was the ultimate ownership of my story, the ultimate freedom. Speaking those words out loud, “playing” all the characters, giving voice to the drama and bringing it fully alive have made me feel so much lighter about all of it.

    Tina Alexis Allen is a GLAAD Award-nominated actress, producer, scriptwriter and playwright. Allen was most recently a cast member of the TV series “Outsiders” and co-starred in the feature films “Moving Mountains,” “Tom’s Dilemma,” as well as the web series “Looking for Kathleen.” Allen is also the co- founder of Gina Raphaela Jewelry’s mission-driven No More Violence collection.

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQI community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 31 years of successful book campaigns.