Why did I write a memoir?

With the release date of my memoir Two Sisters and a Brain Tumour just over a month away (eeek!), it’s time to ask the burning question: why did I write it?

This question is a loaded one. Behind it lies all sorts of other questions such as:

  • how can you possibly have enough content for a memoir, you’re not even thirty yet!
  • can anything have happened to someone so young that is worth writing a BOOK about? Are you sure you’re not just blowing it out of proportion?
  • do you really have the necessary perspective to write about your own life?
  • even if it was important to you, what makes you think the rest of us want to hear about it?
  • there are so many books published each day, why bother adding yours to the mix?
  • why would anyone be encouraged, inspired or blessed by your few years of life?

Okay, maybe you haven’t asked all these questions. But I have! I ask them whenever I see a memoir or self-help book written by someone under thirty. Perhaps that’s not particularly helpful. It’s not that I’m unwilling to give them the benefit of the doubt, or that I think you automatically become wise when you get old, it’s just… there are a lot of books in the world, and I know for myself that if I’d (somehow, miraculously) published a book as teen-me, I would regret it now!

 Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 5

So rest assured, these questions are ones I have grappled with as I’ve journeyed along the 3 year road to publication. They are questions I (personally) had to find answers to, and because I did, today I can answer the big question: Why did I write a memoir?

I wrote a memoir because of a pledge I made as a teenager

As readers of my website and community Called to Watch know, my mum has been ill all her life. That has, and will continue to, impact me. As a teenager I was often angry (but embarrassed because fury seemed ‘unchristian’) and often upset (but ashamed because tears seemed ‘unbrave’), and I did my fair share of bargaining with God (as my memoir will reveal!). One of the promises I made was this:

‘God, if you heal mum, I will write a book about it. I will travel around, and speak about you, and get everyone to read the book. You will get so much recognition, and so much praise. Everyone will know you do miracles – so please, do one. Heal mum.’

Well, God never healed mum, but years later he healed my little sister, and when he did so, I remembered this prayer – and realised I needed to at least consider asking him if he wanted me to write a book.

I wrote a memoir because I didn’t want to forget the miraculous

Initially, as you can see above, I had many doubts about writing a memoir. It seemed like THE most pretentious, unwise, childish thing I could possible do. But then 2018 came, three years after my sister was healed from her brain tumour. My mum had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I’d just left work to care for her, with the hopes of beginning Bible college after she’d finished chemo. It was a suffocating summer, just like the one in which Jasmine was diagnosed, and it brought with it an epiphany.

I saw the intense suffering of mum post-surgery, and I realised that this new cancer journey I was about to embark on (as a Watcher) would alter my perspective, my frame of reference, forever. Everything else I would ever write or experience afterwards would be tinged by what was about to happen.

I reflected on Jasmine’s tumour, on the everyday miracles, on the extraordinary miracles, and realised I didn’t want to forget them. I realised that as a family, if we were to keep going forward through mum’s cancer, we could not afford to forget the faithfulness of God. I knew that if ever I was going to write down Jasmine’s story – my story – our story – it was now.

So I did. I had a month to do it in and I had an undiagnosed wrist fracture. It wasn’t an ideal situation and I wouldn’t recommend it. But I put off seeing the doctor (afraid he would tell me I wasn’t allowed to type!) and wrote the memoir in 21 days.

Needless to say, I was a wreck afterwards and my wrist took ten weeks to heal. (Take care of yourself, friends!)

Without endorsing graffiti, it was fun to find this (and not just because I’m learning ancient Greek!)

I wrote a memoir because I believe in the power of just one person’s ‘me too’.

Growing up, I felt very isolated because of mum’s suffering. If I knew anyone else with a chronically-ill parent, they didn’t talk about it. I scoured the internet, trying to find C. S. Lewis’ one person, who could say to me, ‘me too.’ I didn’t find them then, so a few years later I began Called to Watch, in the hope that I could be just one other person’s ‘me too’.

In the same way, I wrote Two Sisters and a Brain Tumour, because I thought that maybe, one day, in some way, it could be one other person’s ‘me too’. I believe that God uses each of our stories. I believe in the power of community to banish loneliness. I believe that words on a page can be balm to our souls.

I published a memoir because other people told me to.

So these are the reasons I wrote my memoir. Once it was written I was still uncertain whether it would be something that could bless others, or whether it was the sort of thing which ought to sit in my desk drawer for the rest of my days. Just because a book is written doesn’t mean it ought to be published.

So I sent the manuscript to four (generous) friends. One said she admired my bravery in being so vulnerable. One said it made her cry. Another said she was desperate to get to the ending the whole time she was reading. The last said it reminded her of the Hunger Games.

Ultimately, that final response (although somewhat alarming!) played a large part in convincing me to book an appointment with one editor and two publishers at an upcoming writing conference. The feedback I received there told me I had something which was not only publishable, but could be gift to others.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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