I’ve been wanting to write a memoir for over two decades, ever since my mother started working on her own memoir about growing up in the Philippines during World War II, Birthdays in the Cemetery. I was a timid child, painfully shy and afraid of everything from heights to people. How did I become a death-defying daredevil and aerobatic pilot? And what did it mean that I yearned to take such risks?
But ironically, writing a memoir scared me more than pointing my single-seat experimental plane at the ground and opening up the throttle until I was roaring earthward at 250 mph. Opening up my inmost secrets? Baring my life to anybody who might want to peer in?
Growing up in a small town in Indiana, the daughter of immigrants, I often felt like an outsider. It seemed that letting anyone know who I really was inside could be dangerous.
But in the end, the urge to communicate won out. After I learned to fly and eventually represented the United States at the World Championships, I was invited to give talks about my journey from fearful child to champion pilot. Hundreds of people gave me enthusiastic feedback about my story, and told me it inspired and encouraged them. They finally gave me the courage to set aside my fears of exposure, and to set out upon a journey of another kind.
Writing a memoir is, among other things, a journey of self-discovery. Every time I sat down to write, I discovered a new and painful truth, or felt myself plunge into the terror that I remembered from my days of aerobatic flight. Learning to fly is a metaphor for other personal journeys. Because the process I taught myself to overcome my fears could be applied to other life goals, I was able to use it once again to write.
And with the help of Theo Nestor and my classmates in the memoir writing certificate program at the University of Washington, I was able to complete a 99,000-word first draft of my memoir in May 2017. My goal is to revise it this summer and seek publication.
EDIT (October 2017): My memoir (Flying Free, 90,000 words) has been revised and professionally edited, and I’ve also completed a marketing proposal and synopsis. I’m now seeking agent representation.
EDIT (December 2018): I signed with a fantastic agent, Lane Heymont of the Tobias Literary Agency, in October 2018. The manuscript received four offers from publishers and was ultimately bought in a pre-empt by Vikki Warner of Blackstone Publishing in December 2018. Look for the memoir in bookstores everywhere in 2020!