Is there a book inside you, longing to get out?
Do you want to share your story, to use it to help others?
Is your story a big part of the work you want to do?
Do you need help to find it, to shape it and to get it on the page?
Do you long for a safe space in which to write, for someone to hold you accountable, for guidance on structure and craft?
Do you want help sorting out what to include and what to leave out?
Would you like to learn how to build scenes, include dialogue, blend past experiences with present insights?
Do you want help finding your blind spots, overcoming resistance to exploring the painful places right at the heart of your story, healing and sharing them?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, read on. I may be able to help.
Our work together
I work in a dual role, as coach and mentor. As a coach, I’ll help you dig deep, heal and find the full scope of the story you want to tell. As a mentor, I’ll help you learn how to tell your story, and I’ll help you develop and maintain the discipline required to keep going all the way to the end.
We start with grounding exercises and a discussion of the project as the you see it, working our way to a clear, shared understanding of the project’s purpose and the themes/topics you want to explore. In each session, we discuss your progress and troubleshoot any struggles, and we discuss a short piece of writing you’ve shared and I’ve read and prepared notes on.
Depending on your experience and the project you are undertaking, we may work on uncovering material that you have forgotten about and reaching a deeper understanding of who you were at different stages of your life. We will likely work on thoughts and feelings that are holding you back from telling parts of your story. This work can be deeply rewarding, as it can bring healing to your life and richness to your writing at the same time.
We also work on craft. Many people need help structuring their story, giving it a compelling shape and paring down content to what really belongs. Some people need to learn how to write scenes, how to figure out what goes in them and what doesn’t and how to transition from scene to scene. Often, we work on point of view, as many writers slip outside themselves and lose the richness and precision of their own viewpoint on what is unfolding on the page.
Along the way, I’ll tuck in some lessons on mechanics/grammar/punctuation, formatting, as needed, so that you come way with the ability to produce a professional manuscript ready for submission to agents or publishers or for self-publishing. This part of our work will show up mostly in notes on the writing you send me, only arising in our sessions when you want further clarification.
I usually work with people in blocks of six sessions. Some meet their goals in that time, usually spread over 3 to 4 months. Others sign up for a second block. Others work on their own for a while after the first block, and come back for a single session or two or for a second block when they have most of their project done, and need help for the final push and for guidance as they begin the tough task of revision in preparation for submission or self-publishing.
Is this the year you write the book that has been languishing inside your head and heart for years? If so, and you’d like a little help, get in touch and we can schedule a complimentary 30-minute chat to see if we would be a good fit for each other.
I am a Martha Beck certified life coach and the author of 10 published books including an award-winning memoir. I worked as an in-house editor for five years, and I now teach in UBC’s creative writing program and coach and mentor people just like you.
What others have said
- Without Maggie’s help I would still have that nagging feeling of time going by while I putter in useless circles, managing to get to the end of every day somehow still without getting to the things that really matter. As it is, I make daily headway in ways that measurably improve my quality of life, and as such the quality of life of the people around me.
Thank you, Maggie!
Lieve Barnett, Ballard, WA
- Maggie’s experience as an author and writing coach has given me the courage to finally write my memoir. Her guidance has helped me see more clearly how to structure my book, stay true to my purpose, and tell a story that will engage the reader. I know I couldn’t do this without her expertise and dedicated commitment to my project. Thank you, Maggie
Jeri Ross, MPH
Licensed Health Educator & Entrepreneur
Jeri Ross, MPH
Are you looking for a speaker?
These two speeches can be adapted to work as keynotes or for breakout sessions.
1. The Red Umbrella: Sex Work, Stigma and the Law
My sister Sarah disappeared from Vancouver’s downtown eastside in 1998. Losing her set me on a challenging and painful course, but one worth sharing. Through Sarah’s writing, the story of my journey, stories and insights from sex workers working today all over the world, and a smattering of facts and figures, I explore the impact of our laws and attitudes on the lives of Canadian sex workers, and draw some conclusions about where we might go from here, and what parts each of us can play. This talk is an expanded version of the TEDxSFU talk I gave on November 1, 2014.
2. Grieving and Growing
My sister was a sex worker and my aunt was a nun. I continue to draw strength and wisdom from both these women, though Sarah died in 1998 and Aunt Minke died in 2013. In this talk, I explore how our greatest losses and our greatest gifts are often bound up together. Each of us has multiple sources of strength and wisdom within easy reach, if we only know where to look.
Note: Both of the above can be adapted to different lengths and for different settings. Each can accommodate Q and A, and form the backbone for a half-day writing or strategizing workshop. I also offer talks and workshops on writing, especially writing from life and healing through writing.
How I Got Into Speaking
I’ve been speaking at conferences and festivals and in schools (from kindergarten through to graduate school) ever since my first book came out in 1991.
A shift happened after my sister disappeared, and I found myself speaking to media and, as time went on, to groups of all kinds, about what I was learning as I searched for her. After my memoir, Missing Sarah, came out, I did still more speaking, often sharing Sarah’s journal writing and poetry, which I had incorporated into my book. My goal throughout was to give my sister a voice, to help undo some of the misinformation and stereotyping that makes women on society’s margins (particularly those who sell sex on the street and who use drugs) so vulnerable to violence.
In December 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s sex-work laws as unconstitutional, and I thought Canada was poised for change. It turns out that I was right, but not in the way I had hoped. In Bill C36, the current government is putting forth a new set of sex-work laws, even more problematic than those they replace. These new laws move us away from the Victorian notion that sex work is immoral and a nuisance; instead, Bill C36 characterizes all sex workers as victims. In response, I am listening to sex workers, and, I am eager to speak out, to be part of this country’s search for a better way.
My Speaking Experience
On various occasions, I have toured British Columbia, up through Prince George to Prince Rupert and up to Fort St. John; I’ve also toured Saskatchewan, southern Ontario and Prince Edward Island, and spoken in parts of the United States. I was Vancouver Public Library’s first writer in residence in 2005 and the University of Northern British Columbia’s first writer in residence in 2012. I have spoken at many writers’ festivals, and spoken and given workshops in prisons and juvenile detention centres.
I’ve addressed these groups, among others:
- Alouette Correctional Centre for Women (BC)
- Alternative Educators (Vancouver)
- Amnesty International (North Vancouver and Ottawa)
- Canadian Federation of University Women (Cambridge)
- Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers Conferences (CANSCAIP) (Toronto and Lumsden, SK)
- Canadian Victim Assistance (CAVA)
- CARP: A New Vision of Aging for Canada (Surrey)
- Chippewa Nation (Bruce Peninsula, Ontario)
- Fraser Valley Institution for Women (BC)
- Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis (ON)
- Orchard Rehabilitation Facility (Bowen Island, BC)
- Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) (Richmond)
- Parliamentary Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws (Ottawa)
- Surrey International Writers’ Conference (BC)
- Vancouver University Women’s Club
- Victims’ Services Volunteers (SK)
- West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) (Vancouver)
- WORD Vancouver
And I’ve spoken at the following events:
- Art against Brutality (Oppenheimer Park, Downtown Eastside, Vancouver)
- Forum to Stop Sexual Exploitation Week, The Justice Institute (Kamloops)
- Grand Mamas: Artists and Activists Talk About their Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, Daughter and Chosen Family (Vancouver)
- Heart of the City Festival, Carnegie Centre (Downtown Eastside, Vancouver)
- Highway of Tears art exhibit opening (Smithers)
- International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Wesley Urban Ministries (Hamilton)
- International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (St. Catherines)
- International Literacy Day, Carnegie Centre (Vancouver)
- International Women’s Week events (Kelowna, Pemberton and Vernon)
- Large high school audiences about Missing Sarah (across Canada)
- Roomful of Missing Women exhibit openings (Prince George and Kamloops)
- SFU Sex Week: Does society’s sexual philosophy play a role in biomedical Harm Reduction
- Women’s Memorial March (Vancouver)
- WomenSpeak Regional Women’s Conference, Douglas College (New Westminster)
- Writing for Children About War and Trauma with Joy Kogawa. Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable, Museum of Anthropology, UBC