• Matilda Butler

Welcome to Writing Wednesday: Find Joy and Inspiration for Your Own Life from a Memoir

Updated: Apr 21


WELCOME TO WRITING YOUR OWN INSPIRATION ON ROSIECENTRAL...

...where every Wednesday is Writing Wednesday -- a day when we help you find your own inspiration for being an amazing woman through writing. Some days we provide writing tips or writing prompts. Other Wednesdays we share interviews with authors -- those marvelously "ordinary" women who have written about their extraordinary lives. These amazing women share pieces of their past, pieces that can help us better reflect on our own lives.

MATILDA BUTLER: Today, I’m pleased to introduce Jo Giese to our RosieCentral community. Jo, welcome. Will you tell us a little about your memoir, Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother?

JO GIESE: Thanks Matilda for inviting me to talk about my memoir. At a turbulent time in America, when personal connections are fleeting and shared values are rare, I’m so pleased to be able to offer uplifting lessons in old-fashioned civility in my book. My mother, known as Babe, was no goody two-shoes: she drank, danced, and stayed up very late. She favored colorful clothes, liked giving parties, adored her husband, and told me, “Never sit if you can dance.” Hence the name of my memoir.

As I have had the opportunity to share this joyful book with readers and audiences, it’s exciting to see that the lessons from my mother are serving as a jump-starter for important mother-daughter conversations.


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MATILDA BUTLER: Jo, although many people want to write about their life, deciding to commit to actually writing a memoir can be a difficult decision. It takes time and determination. It means going outside one’s comfort level. What made you decide to write your memoir at this point in your life?

JO GIESE: Thanks for asking. For me the decision was fairly easy. My mother, Babe, had died, and I kept remembering and savoring all the fun, good, goofy things we’d done together. I wanted to capture and share them before they evaporated.

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MATILDA BUTLER: Looking back on your experiences writing, what is the one piece of advice you’d give to a woman struggling with finding inspiration from writing about her life story? JO GIESE: In my writing classes I’ve found time and time again that students struggle with the thought “But what will Thelma, my grandmother, think about what I’ve written about her.”


This fear about what family and close friends might think can paralyze new writers to the point that they never write even for their own benefit and certainly never publish anything.

Early in my career I was writing about my seven years with infertility and it was awkward writing about such an intimate, personal story. It must have showed because my writing teacher said, “Keep your mother away from your typewriter!” I’d advise women to bravely forge ahead and write their story in their voice. After they have their story down, only then they can revisit the material for family suitability.

MATILDA BUTLER: Jo, thanks for that advice. I think all writers will appreciate the line “Keep your mother away from you typewriter.” (or computer in an updated version). It is easier to listen to the don’t-do-that-don’t-say-that voice than to develop one’s own voice and perspective.

More About the Author Jo Giese is an award-winning radio journalist, author, former TV & radio reporter. As a special correspondent, she was part of the Peabody Award–winning team at Marketplace, the most popular business program in America. At Marketplace she won an EMMA for Exceptional Radio Story from the National Women’s Political Caucus and a GRACIE from the Foundation of American Women in Radio.


She has contributed to Ira Glass’s This American Life and is the author of Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother (She Writes Press), A Woman’s Path (St. Martin’s Press) and The Good Food Compendium (Doubleday). Giese has written for scores of publications, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, LA Weekly, European Travel & Life, and The Malibu Times. She lives in Southern California and Bozeman, Montana, with her husband, Ed Warren. For more information on Jo and her books, visit her website: jogiese.com.


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