Dorit Sasson is an award-winning memoirist, writing coach, SEO specialist, and editor. I first met her on Instagram and was blown away by her platform--and I told Todd immediately that we had to talk to her. Thank you Dorit for interviewing with us!!!
You're releasing your next book Sand and Steel: The Spiritual Journey Home this fall. How has it been going?
Actually, it's due for early summer of 2019, but in any case, the writing process has been eye-opening in terms of the themes of finding and writing about home. Discovering the home inside of you seems to be the over-arching theme and deeper insights about what it means to reinvent oneself after so many years in Israel. I wake up early each morning to reconnect with the Israel inside and discover how to bring that part out in the actual writing.
Who designed your covers?
The winning design came from 99 design. I am really happy with the way it came out. The designer really "got" Sand and Steel.
While reviewing your work, reviews, and articles--I'm getting recurring messages of courage and voice. How did you find yours, and do they connect for you?
As a writer, I've been known to carry a lot of shame, self-doubt and fear thinking people wouldn't take me seriously when all I needed to do was to learn how to advocate for myself. I could never write for example about serving in the Israel Defense Forces, my first award-winning memoir, in Israel because no-one frankly would care. Everyone, men and women included, does the army over there, so it's no big deal. In America, I and my story about my IDF service is a novelty. So at the time of writing, I had a choice: I could either let the voices of shame poke fun at me or I could hustle about my business. Every day is an exercise in learning to dig deeper, listening to the voice of intuition and getting past the struggle. It takes a lot of courage to stay present and listen to the nudges - the story whispers that are calling us.
Many writers I've met worry about writing honestly about the roles their families, friends, loves, and the like have played in their story. Have you had this? Any advice you could offer to fellow writers?
To get your reader to care about your story, you need to write it for yourself first. We need to protect ourselves as writers and particularly as memoirists which is why I coach writers focus on telling the truth. In most cases, they discover that their truth does not cross paths with someone else and that the story is benign. We build up the drama and tension in our heads to justify that our stories aren't worth reading. Many writers I've coached have suffered from the silent syndrome it's only when they are able to get past the voices of fear and doubt, are they able to experience a real breakthrough.
In your opinion, is it better to be objective, subjective, or somewhere in between in memoir?
I am a big fan of truth telling. Our truth will always be myopic or in your words, "subjective" - for storytelling in memoir is based on our unique and personal experiences. With that said however, in order to embrace the full integrity of truth, one needs to strategically focus on turning points that are the building blocks for scenes. From this point, we objectively look at a scene as if we're watching a movie - the short and long zoom in camera lens and the unfiltered memories is the closest to being objective. When we unpack our takeaways, that's when we speak to our subjective truths which should also touch the reader's heart.
Someone once advised me that when writing about yourself, your life, and memories, you have to let the story "stew" for a while before you can write about it. Is this sound advice?
Yes, I like the action of "stewing" like writing in crock pot mode. But sometimes, this can be used as an excuse not to get the writing done. We live in an increasingly fast pace digital world saturated with celebrity writers and it's easy for writers to think they don't have something worthy to say and they freeze in their tracks. At the same time, perfection paralysis can stump a writer from never starting a book, a story, an essay. My recommendation would be to pre-write and journal about it. One such coaching exercise I have writers do is journal turning points or even whispers of nudges. This takes them out of their heads and unto the page. I think it's important to cultivate a writing practice and you've got to start somewhere.
Kind of going off of the last question here--how much distance do you put between yourself and your subject when writing?
Distance helps us with telling our truth. If we're too invested in justifying the memory, then we can't be creative. Only recently was I able to write about my mother's death which happened in 2013 for my current memoir Sand and Steel. Distance means time and space and learning to put emotions aside. The truth of then is not the same of writing about it as a character in "now" time and without distance, we can't get to know ourselves as characters (particularly for memoir) and characters run the show. Sand and Steel, the memoir I'm writing now is about leaving Israel to come to Pittsburgh and because I no longer live in Israel, it's much easier to view my journey through the lens of longing.
How would you describe your book coaching style?
I intuit a person's story before s/he even knows it. I listen deep for the threads of human emotion. People come to me often nervous, scared and overwhelmed. They feel awkward telling their story or they are so focused on the story but get distracted by what they think is the core truth. I hold the space for them without judgement. I listen deeply and compassionately. I give each writer the marketing and developmental/coaching ears and eyes s/he needs. We get clear on goals. We get clear on their timelines, scenes, structure and then worry about publishing. Some have never taken a memoir writing class before so my job is to teach them craft essentials and best practices. I see my job as unleashing the published writer within whether they are re writing pure non-fiction or prescriptive or literary memoir.
Do you have any snippets of wisdom, quotes, that motivate you as a writer?
The quotes I use to motivate me are the ones that lend themselves to the actual scenes in my writing. Since my memoir is a hybrid of story
and prescriptive content, I rely on quotes to build on takeaways and
connect themes. I have found some amazing quotes on forgiveness,
self-belonging and connection, surrendering - in essence, life
coaching tips and advice that are also relevant to myself as a writer.
With that said, there are quotes that I live by daily. Like the famous
Steve Jobs quote: "Remembering that you are going to die is the best
way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
To me, that spells urgency right there.
What's one thing you wish you knew when you first started building
1. Not to get overwhelmed too quickly. Platform building is a
marathon, not a sprint.
2. To recognize that a platform building effort can be as small as an
email and not necessarily writing oriented. Think of it as personal
3. To realize that people really do *connect* to the work you put out
there as a writer and not give up so quickly if you don't see traction
4. To not always be obsessed with aiming high. Local is even better.
You don't have to run down perfect strangers to get noticed.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
Cultivating a writing practice takes time. There's no one way to go
about it. But giving up puts you at ground zero.
I like to think of writing with a sense of urgency. If I were to die
tomorrow, would I have said everything I could say until that point?
Follow Dorit Sasson on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Find her memoir here. Check out what she's up to here!