February 26, 2020

How an Ex-Mardi Gras Queen Wrote a Memoir

By Marilee Eaves

After filling dozens of notebooks with stories and memories, I enrolled in writing classes in New Orleans and later in Seattle where I lived for 13 years. By this time, I had amassed a good bit of material and welcomed instruction, hungry to organize material into a real story. Have a crisp opening sentence! Make your nuthatch clear! Be sure that each scene you create moves the story forward. And think like Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining: show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Inspiration for my Memoir
My memoir was triggered by a grieving son’s response to a condolence letter I wrote about his mother. I described the ways I perceived and admired his mother, whom I knew from my grandparents’ poolside in Biloxi. Her son wrote back, praised my writing and encouraged me to continue writing about Biloxi summers where we had all spent time.

His letter, encouragement from my 5th and 7th grade teachers, inspiration from a young screenwriter, and subsequent publishing of a couple of articles firmed up my desire to write with focus and intention. I wanted to write about the people in my life who made a difference—and I did. I have files filled with stories or pieces of stories that didn’t make It into the book.  I liked searching for the best words to use, learning to give form to memories of scenes using sight, taste, sound, touch, and smell.

I asked myself what I wanted the book to be—and honed in on my intention. My memoir was an emotional journey--with Mardi Gras culture always at my back--to tell the story of learning to stand on my own two feet, to be my authentic self and writer.

Help with Writing my Memoir
I started working with a life coach in 2007, and one of her best pieces of advice was to hire a writing coach.  The writing coach, with her excellent sense of humor, and editing background, saw me through my first draft. Oh! What fun we had. Then I engaged an editor for several years, and with hard work and deep pleasure, the book started coming alive.

What did I derive from working with these professionals? Positive support and encouragement, a listening ear, humor, discernment as to what was good and what was not, a narrative arc. I Iearned to create a crisp opening to the book, found balance between Show and Tell, developed memorable characters, and discovered where to use dialogue.

Eventually, I became comfortable writing scenes. I thought about how my story connects with larger life, how to go deeper into a scene or a character. Sending the manuscript to my publisher, I felt both apprehensive and excited. It was time to let it out in the world.
Marilee Eaves is an author, social worker, Reiki practitioner, labyrinth facilitator, mental health advocate and native New Orleanian. Visit Marilee at


  1. Marilee,

    Congratulations on getting your book, Singing Out Loud. Your endorsement from Cokie Roberts is impressive and well-done. Keep working at the part where you tell people about your book--the continual challenge for every author.

    Get a FREE copy of the 11th Publishing Myth

    1. Thanks Terry - Cokie was a friend and fellow New Orleans debutante way back. I am working on that challenge of telling people about my book.

  2. Congratulations and Thank you for sharing this great article.

    1. Thanks for your congratulations and for your help in telling others about my book!

  3. Speaking candidly as one southern writer to another, we DO have reams of material to share with the world, don't we, be it in memoir or novel or nonfiction format? Well done, I say. Bellamy Gayle

  4. Great article! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Marilee.

  5. According to Stanford Medical, It's indeed the SINGLE reason this country's women get to live 10 years longer and weigh on average 42 pounds lighter than we do.

    (And actually, it is not about genetics or some secret diet and absolutely EVERYTHING about "HOW" they are eating.)

    BTW, What I said is "HOW", and not "what"...

    Click on this link to reveal if this easy questionnaire can help you discover your real weight loss potential