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Sari Botton: On Finding Compassion Through Memoir

Award-winning writer and editor Sari Botton discusses the transformative process of writing her memoir, And You May Find Yourself.

Sari Botton is a writer and editor living in Kingston, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor at Catapult, and the former Essays Editor for Longreads.

She edited the award-winning anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving NY and its New York Times bestselling follow-up, Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for NY. She's the host of "Personal Space: The Memoir Show" on LitHub's Virtual Book Channel.

She teaches creative nonfiction at Wilkes University, Catapult, and Bay Path University. Her memoir-in-essays, And You May Find Yourself... will be published by Heliotrope in June, 2022. She writes the newsletters Oldster Magazine, Memoir Monday, and Adventures in "Journalism." Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sari Botton: On Finding Compassion Through Memoir

Sari Botton

In this post, Sari discusses the transformative process of writing her memoir, And You May Find Yourself, what she hopes readers get out of the experience, and more!

Name: Sari Botton
Literary agent: Melissa Flashman at Janklow & Nesbit
Book title: And You May Find Yourself: Confessions of a Late-Blooming Gen X Weirdo
Publisher: Heliotrope
Release date: June 14, 2022
Genre/category: Memoir
Previous titles: Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving NY and Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for NY
Elevator pitch for the book: This is my memoir of finding myself in my mid-50s after a lifetime of trying to be more like others, in many clumsy attempts to fit in.

Sari Botton: On Finding Compassion Through Memoir

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What prompted you to write this book?

I’m a born memoirist and have been writing essays about my experiences in life since I was a child. I had been wanting to publish a memoir for years, and finally became emboldened in my early 50s.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

The idea for this particular memoir/collection of confessions came to me in 2016. I wrote many versions of the proposal, but it all finally clicked in 2019. The book definitely changed as I was working on it, because I changed, and the world changed. I was working on it in 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic, which altered so much about my life, and my perspectives.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I was pleasantly surprised that my publisher not only let me have a major say in how the cover would look, but also allowed me to contribute artwork to it, and to the book’s section dividers. My crayon drawings appear in a few places.

Sari Botton: On Finding Compassion Through Memoir

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Yes, the more I worked on the book, the more compassionate I grew toward everyone in the book, even my worst monsters. I found myself declawing it more and more with each draft.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope that readers who have felt like outsiders, and different from everyone else in at least some part of their lives will find resonance in the book. The same goes for women who learned to make themselves silent and small, and to do only what has been expected of them. I hope that those women who are still being silent and holding themselves in and making choices that don’t feel true to them will feel empowered by the book to choose differently for themselves.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Set small daily goals for yourself, whether it’s a word count or an amount of time, so that you are more likely to exceed your own expectations than to let yourself down. It’s easier to keep going when you feel good about what you’ve achieved, and every little bit adds up.

Memoir 101

The goal of this course is to teach you how to structure your stories, develop your storytelling skills, and give you the tips, techniques, and knowledge to adapt your own life stories into a chronological memoir. Learn more about the genre through Writing and Selling Your Memoir by Paula Balzer and The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen.

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