Brand building through storytelling

Question of the day: was writing your memoir a catharsis?

Catharsis is what therapy is for. There was a time when I needed a dump truck to unload my head, and thank God nobody was publishing the anger and grief that spilled forth in that small beige room.

By the time I sat down to write My Mother’s Daughter, I had a pretty good handle on my own story. I knew it was one spin on an age-old female drama of rebellion and reconciliation. By telling the story without shame or pity, I could finally make it my own.

I wasn’t out to settle any scores. But I realized early that if I told the truth about what happened in my family, readers might turn against my mother. If they wrote her off as destructive, then I would have failed. I wanted to portray her in all her magnificent complexity, as an endearing, life-loving, deeply gifted woman who did some damage while trying to do the best she could. (Don’t we all!) And to pull that off, I had to get inside her head. I thought I knew her when I started this book. We’re a lot closer now. 

Rona Bruser, Young WomanMy mother was caught up in her own mother/daughter drama, which led to another challenge. I saw my long-dead grandmother through a child’s eyes, as a controlling, tiresome old woman with a bottomless craving for attention. To make Grandma live on the page, I had to understand how she got that way.

Toward the end of the writing process, I discovered that my mother had made a tape of Grandma as she lay dying. The tape was at the University of Manitoba, in my mother’s archive. What I heard there stunned me to the point of tears. It revealed my grandmother as a woman of rare grit who suffered an early, devastating wound from which she never recovered. When I rewrote my portrayal of her, I fell in love with the character—her drive, her spunk, her hard-won talent for creating her own reality. I had no idea this would happen, but I’m grateful that it did.

Posted by Rona

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