Laura Davis uncovers the magic of the memoir
Writing can be a powerful, healing tool. Laura Davis knows that to be true. She’s written a handful of popular non-fiction books on just that—finding the ‘courage to heal.’ And for Davis, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the writing process itself was her own healing tool.
Her past, and her future, came into focus around the same time—as a child, and then again as an adult. “I’ve been writing since I was a little girl as a means for self-expression, what I thought, felt, and believed, as a way to educate and inform, and provoke,” says Davis, a longtime Santa Cruz author, who teaches writing classes in town. “Writing has been a critical way I’ve processed with my life and coped with my life.” This has included blogging when she was ill with cancer recently, to writing seven books with topics ranging from sexual abuse to parenting to reconciling relationships.
During the weekend of March 19-21, Davis will be holding a memoir writing workshop at the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel. The weekend is called, “From Memory to Memoir,” and will offer teaching and coaching on how to do exactly that—write your memoir, as well as extensive time dedicated to actual writing.
“Everyone’s life has value and there’s a beauty and mystery, intrigue and drama, in everyone’s life, and even the most daily stories deserve to be told,” Davis says. “… It’s the most difficult things in life that help us grow.”
Interestingly, though, the avid writer has never actually written her own memoir. However, pieces of her life story are told throughout each book she has written.
Her most notable book is, “The Courage to Heal,” which was co-written with another local author, Ellen Bass. Davis met Bass 30 years ago, during her first weekend in town, when she picked up a flier and discovered that Bass was teaching writing classes, which Davis enrolled in. About five years later, Davis approached Bass about co-authoring the aforementioned book. It was timely. This was around the same time that Davis began remembering that her grandfather had molested her when she was a child. “My writing career has very much tracked different periods of my life,” she says. “Sexual abuse, becoming a parent, writing about estrangement, and blogging about cancer; whatever’s at the core of my life.” Altogether, her seven books have sold about 2 million copies.
“The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse,” covers an array of topics that relate to women in this situation, including healing stages, grieving, forgiveness, self-esteem, sexuality, parenting and more. Another book that Bass and Davis wrote together is, “Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Men and Women Who Were Sexually Abused as Children,” which offers just that—a look at abuse, and the beginning steps to recover from it.
Some of Davis’ other works are “I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation,” “Allies in Healing,” and “The Courage to Heal Workbook.”
Nowadays, Davis has become something of a frequent blogger (lauradavis.net/blog). The allure of blogging began when the writer was confronted with breast cancer two-and-a-half years ago. “I wrote my way through cancer,” she says. “All of my responsibilities as a parent, partner, bread winner, worker, were all lifted off my shoulders, so I was able to look at life from a very different perspective. It was a kind of spiritual awakening and I had clarity about what’s important in life.”
She currently teaches several writing classes to writers of all levels (visit lauradavis.net). She also offers a free monthly writing class at Gateways Bookstore. And in addition, she hosts writing retreats, like the upcoming retreat at Land of Medicine Buddha. The cost for this workshop is $500-$630, depending on lodging options. “It will give them (writers) a sense of direction and renew their sense of purpose, as well as give them some tools for how to write about things they may not fully remember,” Davis says. “We also deal with some of the ethical questions of memoir writing, and writing about people who are still alive. … There’s something incredibly powerful about working in a community of writers, rather than sitting home alone writing. When one person in a writing group shares their story, they create space for other people to share theirs.”
And that is exactly what Davis has been doing for the last 25 years—telling her stories, and creating a space for others to tell their stories.
For more information on writing workshops, and retreats including Memory to Memoirs in Santa Cruz, visit lauradavis.net.