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Teaching and Our Writing Community

Brenda's new book, YOUR LIFE IS A BOOK: HOW TO CRAFT AND PUBLISH YOUR MEMOIR, co-authored with her literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann, is receiving wonderful reviews. Check this page and my blog for a teaching series from the new book with podcasts and You Tube talks. Stay tuned to this page and YOUR LIFE IS A BOOK page for the continuing series on how to write you own life story.

LISTEN to our Sound Cloud podcast with Writing Tips on:

* Keeping Field Notes on Your Life

*Writing One Scene That Explains Your Whole Life

* What Each Scene Must Accomplish

* How Writing Your Life Story Makes You Happier and Healthier


WATCH on You Tube


Booklust interview with Nancy Pearl on You Tube:

  Our Salish Sea Writers' emeritus author, Mary Matsuda Gruenwald's memoir,

LOOKING LIKE THE ENEMY has again made national news. In June, 2017,

The Seattle Times, NPR, and an in-depth interview in The Christian Science Monitor

chronicle Mary's moving story of her World War II imprisonment in

Japanese-American internment camps. Finally Mary-san was given her honorary

high school diploma this spring, which she missed receiving as a teen because

of being interned in U.S. prison camps. Watch Mary on YouTube describe

her experience and wisdom. At 92, Mary is still telling her story and changing the world.

   Salish Sea Writing Community, Seattle, Washington

 Celebrating a new memoir, Hazard: A Sister's Flight from Family and a Broken Boy, by Salish Sea author and former NPR reporter, Margaret Combs. Listen in to discussion between Brenda and Margaret on how to make a memoir, create a character of the Self, and craft a life story from real life. This was recorded at the Elliot Bay Books event March 29th, 2017.


The Salish Sea Writers, a collective of Northwest writers will be reading and talking about the mentoring, encouragement, and abiding support they found as they came together to write and publish their individual stories in the anthology, Secret Histories:  Stories of Courage, Risk, and Revelation.

And read the wonderfully thoughtful reviews of Margaret's new memoir on The Huffington Post:

 Long-time Salish Sea Writers author, Dori Jones Yang, has a new YA book out,

Forbidden Temptation of Baseball. Dori is the author of many books, incuding 

 several YA novels on Marco Polo, and award-winning children's books. She

was a foreign correspondent for Business Week, covering China and is at work

on a memoir. Welcome her new book! 



 Salish Sea Wrters community. 


 Anthropologist and sustainable farmer, Elizabeth van Deventer's story of sibling love and art—and a little magic.


Memoirist and farmer, Catherine Johnson talks about raising animals we love for the food we need to survive. Listen to her story, "Violet," about a pig you'll never forget.


Memoirist and leadership facilitator, John Runyan, tells the story of a turning point at Harvard during the turbulent 1960s Vietnam protests.

Laura Foreman, co-editor of SECRET HISTORIES moderates the writers' panel at Third Place books event. Listen to her explore how to uncover family secrets of race, sexuality, gender, and power in both fiction and life story. "Calling Forth" is an excerpt from her novel, set in 1850s North Carolina.



Editor and publisher, Marlene Blessing, at the first SECRET HISTORIES book event talks about new trends in indie and traditional poublishing. For more see this link: 


 Margaret Combs, former NPR host and reporter and SECRET HISTORIES author, talks about how to use the "omniscient eye" and create a character of yourself in a story. Her story in this collection, "Cracker Jacks" is about growing up with an autistic brother before autism was understood by medicine and society. 

SECRET HISTORIES author, anthropologist, and farmer, Elizabeth van Deventer, author of "First to Let Go," talks about the pleasures of finding a community of writers. This story is about her bond with her older brother, who died of AIDS.

Professor of International Public Health, Mary Anne Mercer, talks about transforming her science writing into travel writing and memoir. Her story, "Alone, Not Lonely," is set in Nepal.

 International business writer, Susan Bloch, talks about the learning curve and journey of writing memoir and dealing with "flashbackitis." Her story is about growing up in South Africa under apartheid.


More video clips to come! And a very informative Huffington Post by Secret Histories author, Lindsay Pyfer, "Self-Publishing: It Takes a Village."

Self-Publishing: It Takes a Village

Posted: 01/07/2014 7:22 pm


Are you or your group thinking about self-publishing a book? If so, there are some things you'll want to know before you get started to create a high-quality book that everyone will want to read.

Perhaps you, like many writers, find self-publishing attractive because it will let you circumvent the traditional gatekeepers: agents and publishing houses. Thanks to the digital and online tools available today, quality writing that might never have had a chance is out in the world. Writers -- even established authors --a re increasingly choosing this route because today's publishers do very little to support them. Authors must often hire their own editors and pay for their own publicity. And the royalties when self-publishing are often significantly higher than with traditional publishing, as much 70 percent.

When you're planning to self-publish a book -- as an individual author or a group -- you need to consider your resources and publicity team. Self-publishing can cost as much as $20,000, but it doesn't have to. You can save money by doing some or much of the work that was traditionally performed by publishers.

When the Salish Sea Writers, the Seattle writing community to which I belong, decided to self-publish an anthology of mostly memoir, we had a shared vision and lots of enthusiasm. All 25 contributors are published authors, but none of us really understood how many different tasks would need to be completed before our book, Secret Histories: Stories of Courage, Risk, and Revelation, was ready to release.

(Please continue reading on Huffington Post:

And you can listen to these writers read podcasts from the book at Sound Cloud here:

 Buy the book here:

Visit our new website for more here:

 What is the secret you've always wanted to write?


 SECRET HISTORIAN writers at first reading: (left to right) Kathy Opie, Marlene Blessing, Lizbeth Adams, Laura Foreman. (missing from photo, Donna James)

See you at the next big SECRET HISTORIES events!




Brenda and her literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann, teaching their sold-out Life Story Seminar on writing memoir, May, 2012, Seattle.

For more information on taking one of our popular  Life Story Seminars: Writing and Publishing Your Memoir, contact:


As the Writer-In-Residence at Arizona State University and then teaching Creative Writing through the University of Washington in Seattle, I began my own writing workshops, which I've successfully taught since 1990. Drawing from the mentoring and apprenticeship style that taught me so much during my years at The New Yorker magazine, I wanted to work with writers and see them through creation to publication—something not allowed most writing teachers in universities. The depth and dialogue one can have over the years of creating a book is so fulfilling for both students and teacher. Added to that continued development of craft is the longtime support and nourishment of a community of writers. I am so fortunate to work with authors over years and through many books.

 Most of my writers are published, some have several books workshopped in our classes and published by major houses. Here are a few of the authors whom it was and still is my pleasure to mentor. This holiday season, we celebrated some of the books published from writers in our community. 




by Sensei Kimberly Richardson  and photos Adam Crowley




by Clare Deiderer


by Susan Little 



by Donna Kelleher, D.V.M.



By Mary Matsuda Gruenwald



Seattle Times review

By Leslie Helm


DAUGHTER OF XANADU, A YA novel of Marco Polo and Emmajin, Mongolian Warrior Princess

By Dori Jones Yang


I COULD NOT KEEP SILENT, children's biography of Rachel Carson

by Clare Meeker

Please visit this page where I will be offering writing tips and insights into publishing. It is never too late or too early to begin your book and the joys of a creative life. Here's a link to my Huffington Post on the new and very popular trends in indie or self-publising.


Occupy the Book: Is It Author Spring?

In the 1970s, when I was an editorial assistant at The New Yorker magazine -- and getting many rejections -- I used to fanaticize about being my own publisher. "Give yourself ten years to finish a book," one of the reveredNew Yorker editors advised me. "Think of it as an author's apprenticeship."

After five years, I left the magazine to publish my first novel, River of Light with Knopf. To support my writing, I took a lowly job as a typesetter, so I could complete my working knowledge of books -- from creation to production. My second novel, Becoming the Enemy, was even set at a fictional publishing house. I worked for decades as an editor and taught writing.

After publishing 16 books with traditional houses -- from Norton to HarperCollins to Penguin -- I believed I was finally ready to become my own publisher. But there was still a stigma against the "vanity press" of self-publishing, no distribution, and little consumer demand.

I would have to wait until the 21st century when digital technology, direct distribution channels like Amazon, iBooks, and Nook, plus the popularity of inexpensive e-readers have finally made it possible for authors to become publishers. My first task was to bring my backlist into print as e-books. The journey into self-publishing is like discovering a new territory with evolving rules and a swiftly tilting culture. This is one of the most exciting and innovative times to be an author. Everything is in flux.

(please continue reading on The Huffington Post)