Writer Wednesday Welcomes: Margaret Norton

Writing Memoir is NOT For Sissies

“You should write a book” my friends said to me after reading my journal. In 2004, eight people I knew died, including my mother-in-law and brother. As 2005 began, I was paralyzed with grief. A counselor suggested I write about my feelings. This was cheaper than therapy, so I agreed. I felt that my story was interesting, as well as inspirational, and so blindly I plunged into writing my first book. What I didn’t know then was that this would be one of the hardest things I ever did.

Once I started transforming my journal notes into a manuscript, I knew that I was in over my head. In my middle fifties, it had been many years since I attended school. I knew very little about writing. This can’t be much harder than doing a church bulletin or Christmas letter. But I was wrong. I immediately signed up for online writing courses and joined a local writers group. Then I started to look for an agent and a publisher.

Rejection took on a whole new meaning.  Having a sales background, I was used to doors slamming in my face. In past jobs when someone told me no, I learned not to take it personal. They just didn’t need my product or service at that time. But now I was selling my story, my life and it was very personal. The best way to deal with this was to keep writing and in time I learned to put everything in perspective.

It was difficult writing about my personal life. I relived the experiences I wrote about. Sometimes this was fun but mostly it was painful. I found myself doing a lot of deep soul searching and self analysis. I had made a lot of mistakes. Why, I wanted to know. As I explored this, I beat myself up. Eventually, I discovered the positives in my story and felt that others could benefit from my experiences.

Even though I was willing to share my life with others, some of the people in my book were not ready to have their actions revealed in such an honest and permanent way. Its one thing to have disputes with your family – everyone does – but it’s potentially explosive when they find out you’re going to immortalize the family. Some family members and friends supported me while others openly expressed their opposition. It was my story but I was sensitive to the feelings of others. I changed the names of everyone in my book, as a courtesy to them. I left out personal, painful details that I felt would not dilute my message.

Writing is good therapy, but telling true life stories isn’t easy. Even when you take the advice of experts and do what you believe is best; nothing prepares you for what happens once the book is published. For me, I don’t think my family thought I’d finish this big project. But I did. Seeing it in print forced them to deal with how they treated me and the reactions varied greatly.

Would you do it again? I am often asked. Yes, I think so. It’s hard to honestly answer that question. I made a lot of mistakes – like picking the wrong publisher and not fighting for the cover I really wanted. I have thousands of hours and dollars invested – sometimes I think maybe I should have lived abroad for a year, instead of writing my memoir. But then I get an email from a stranger telling me how much my story touched them and the changes they are making because of my book. No, it’s not a best seller – yet – but it does touch one person at a time. This makes it all worthwhile.

When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss

Margaret Norton’s When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss chronicles one woman’s struggles through life, encumbered by far more than her fair share of burden, and her eventual triumph. The author provides an excellent guide through the tribulations of life, having survived divorce, abuse, abortion, excommunication, chronic illness, homelessness, death, bankruptcy, sibling rivalry, adultery, single parenthood, drug addiction, low self-esteem, and depression.

Although many of her triumphs are faith-based, her story still has a widespread appeal; having survived extreme hardship and betrayal, her tone is not preachy, rather it is inspirational, teaching us about the transformative power of forgiveness and our abilities to become the masters of our own destinies.  Her rocky history has provided Norton with an excellent foundation both for an inspirational novel and for her career as a life coach, helping others to unlock the patterns of abuse in their lives and heal as she did.  Norton admits to having made many mistakes throughout her life, but has paid for them dearly, proving that mistakes and regrets should not ruin us, merely serve as hurdles for us to overcome and use to strengthen ourselves, our spirits, and our faiths.

Many readers can relate to the traumas and oppressions of Norton’s life, having faced similar situations in their own lives.  Reading the story of someone who not only survived, but mastered and tamed the hardships in their lives to thrive is inspirational and gives hope to many readers.  Even if you have not experienced severe loss, betrayal, or hardship in your own life, Norton’s story is riveting and compelling, and is a testimony to the power of the human spirit.

About Margaret:

Margaret has always pushed the envelope – never totally accepting the status quo. A people person, her greatest joy comes from helping others. Preventing abuse, empowering women and improving health are her passions. As a Personal Life Coach, Margaret founded Life Transitions to help individuals deal with change. In addition, she’s a Stephen Minister and Dale Carnegie Coach. This training, along with her personal life experiences, makes her a caring and compassionate coach. She’s also a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at Long Ridge Writing Academy. Her stories have appeared in A Light along the Way, the Upper Room, various local newspapers, on-line and more stories to appear in 2012.

Margaret currently resides in Greensboro, NC where she spends as much time as possible with her four grandchildren. She has a monthly radio show, volunteers with numerous agencies and is a passionate distributor for It Works educating others on healthy living, anti-aging and weight maintenance.  She believes that all life experiences are valuable and by sharing our stories we learn from each other. In her memoir, When Ties Break, she shares her incredible journey as she attempts to answer gut wrenching questions like why bad things happen to good people.

Find Margaret online:

Personal Life Coach, Writer, Speaker

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