Saturday, January 16, 2010

Writing Your Autobiography or Life Experience - A Word From the Wise

Since so many people desire to write an autobiography about their life experiences, I’ve invited Lori Foroozandeh, author of Lori’s Song to talk about her book and her reasons for writing her story.

Carol Denbow: Greetings Lori! Thank you for being a guest on A Book Inside Blog.

Your book is a recall of your experiences as an American woman being held captive in Iran. I read your book; a very interesting story. Can you please start by telling up a bit about your book?

Lori Foroozandeh: Well thank you Carol for allowing me this opportunity to share with your readers what I think might help or identify with a lot of your audience and most people in general.

First, my book in a short synopsis, deals with my marriage to an Iranian man, with whom I was totally in the dark about his dealings until I arrived in Iran. I thought he was just a very kind guy with a drug habit, one of which I had too, so I forgave and tried to forget. Once in Iran I found out that my loving husband was far from the person I thought him to be. He turned out to be a state sponsored terrorist who was head of the disinherited fund in which they executed Iranian war vets so the govt. wouldn’t have to deal with these people.

It also encompasses some tragedies I endured while living there close to four years. It explains some of the cultural differences and touches a lot on the Muslim religion and how it’s interpreted vs. how it is supposed to be practiced.
The book also deals with my childhood sexual abuse, living with bi-polar, being a victim of domestic violence more than once due to my several marriages. It also deals with my lifelong struggle with drug addiction. I hope this sums it up some for your readers. The book is graphic in it’s depiction of the violent acts that the prisoners and myself endured while in the camp for six weeks.

Carol Denbow: I noticed you focused the first several chapters on your upbringing in the U.S. Can you tell us why you chose to do this and what is the value in doing so?

Lori Foroozandeh: I wanted my audience to get to know the “REAL LORI” not just some victim of circumstance. I’m not saying that anyone regardless of the mistakes they’ve made in their life is due the horrendous acts committed towards myself and others but at the same time I wanted them to understand what got me to that point in the first place. My literary agent, Tina Foster, presented this book to some larger publishers and they had wanted to edit so much out of the book that I could not sit still for it. E.g. they had just wanted me to focus on being a victim in a POW camp in Iran, without the readers getting to know neither my past nor how I arrived at it. I think our whole life experiences are what bring us to any conclusion that we arrive at in our life. There is never just one incident that makes us arrive at a place or a state of mind.

Carol Denbow: Is it important to follow a calendar of events in one’s life story, or should a writer jump in and out of the future to make the story more intriguing (sometimes done in film). If so, do you think this sets the stage, or confuses and frustrates the reader? And how did you go about setting the stage for your readers?

Lori Foroozandeh: I believe the order of events depend on the situation that the writer is trying to focus on or draw light on. I know I did this somewhat in the book but for me it was my calendar of events.

My thoughts that drifted back to memories or incidents in my past that helped me explain or help the reader understand how I arrived to the point of where I am in life. Some people can follow this flow and others can not, I apologize to those that would like to read the book and can’t follow the way I wrote it. I’m also a first time author so please don’t judge me too much.

Carol Denbow: I’ve heard authors of autobiographies say they refused to professionally edit their books because their wording and tone of voice are sometimes dramatically changed. After all, an autobiography is one’s very “personal” story and I do understand the importance of speaking in one’s own voice. I’m also a stickler on proper editing (for easier reading). How did you go about having your book edited and still maintain your own voice in the book?

Lori Foroozandeh: Well in a way I didn’t and did. When I first wrote the book I just sat down and penned it day after day without going back, then when I was told by enough people that I should publish the book I hired a literary agent. Actually she found me. Then after her editing and telling me that if we are going to publish it we will have to edit a lot out of it, I refused, paid her in full and finished the book the way I wanted to. It’s important to maintain “who you are” in life and on paper, especially if your going to be true to yourself and not regret something like writing a book that will follow you for life. I also think that the readers like people in life don’t always speak proper grammar and when they read a book that is full of proper grammar then it just becomes a reading assignment and not a true documentation of life events. People don’t follow rules of proper etiquette in life nor do they speak like an English book. This is just my opinion though.

Carol Denbow: Would you suggest a writer with many interesting life experiences write separate books about each one, or write a sequence of beginning to end, combining all adventures into just one book?

Lori Foroozandeh: I think that choice should be left up to what the individual thinks is best. Not everyone has an innate instinct in life to write. I know I do not think I do, but if you want to share your life, I think doing it in just one book is best and the most efficient. After all what has brought you this far in life and has encompassed you in a series of experiences hasn’t evolved in volumes, everything that you’ve done and experienced in life arrived you at this point. But as I said it’s up to the individual. Obviously, Harry Potter wouldn’t agree with me.

I do believe that the sum is part of the whole and while I believe in God, and not religion (I think man has become too involved and has made it too greedy and judgmental I do believe that God will allow us into heaven even if we aren’t Catholic, or Baptist or Muslim). All religions had good starting blocks but as I said in my opinion man has ruined the true meaning of these and put a PRICE TAG ON IT!

Carol Denbow: Many authors choosing to write an autobiography or life experience (often times traumatic) do so as mental therapy to “heal the wounds” of their life. As you make clear in the book, you are no different. Has writing this book helped you find relief and peace in your life?

Lori Foroozandeh: I started out writing this book since so many people told me it would be a good “catharsis.” So I sat down one day in 2002 and just started writing. I never went back and re-read the book nor did any type of editing. I just wanted to recall the events and get them down on paper. I just sat there each day recalling my life from day to day, when I first wrote the book I didn’t want to do any mudslinging towards my family; so that I kind of glossed over and ignored. But once the book was done I was told you have to get it “ALL OUT OF YOU” so I went ahead and put in the foreword. That is why the rest of the book doesn’t really fit in with some of the chapters, but if you understand the workings of childhood sexual abuse. You will understand my need to not want to delve into the horrors of what I went through then; I just wanted people to think “good” of my family. So I wrote distancing myself of sharing too many stories about them. I didn’t want to mudsling about my adopted brother molesting me starting at the age of 10. Nor did I want to delve into the actions of my adopted sister who had slept with two of my husbands. In a way when you’re hurt in childhood you’re embarrassed to share these things with people so you do quite the opposite (or at least I did) I made everything out to be OK in the family. Nothing wonderful, nothing insane, just normal. I think it’s because that is all you hope for in life is some type of normalcy so any chance you get to just be normal you try hard to do so. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all to your readers, but it’s my take on why I do/did the things I did.

Carol Denbow: Lori, you are a wonderful and informative guest and I thank you for sharing your story with us. Much of your books proceeds go towards helping worthy causes and I know this is important to you. Can you please close by telling us a little about the organizations you support and where a viewer might find you book for purchase?

Lori Foroozandeh: First I’m donating proceeds to Amnesty International (to help out women and men maintain some humane rights in other countries that they either visit or live in.) and to definitely help the women in Iran who want to get out of the conditions that they are forced to live in.
HSUS- My two cats have been my best listeners. Pets truly do help your health, and they are way smarter than we give them credit for and they definitely don’t deserve the cruel acts against them that you hear about daily.

Henry Ford Hospital and Brighton Addiction Hospital, two of the best Hospitals in the world that have helped me finally deal with my trauma and to kick my drug habit that I’ve had ever since age

You can find my book at Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon, and just about anywhere online. I encourage you to ask your local bookstores to carry this, so that I can at least pay back the money I had to use to publish it (self published) then I can truly make a differences with my charities. Please visit my Website at

Thank you so much Carol in allowing me to answer your questions freely and share my story. You are a wonderful lady.


Marie said...

Wow you have actually published a book! Thats amazing to be able to speak to people across the world in such a way. I have wanted to publish my poems into a book but, I am not sure if I am exactly old enough.......maybe someday.

Essay Writer said...

It always exciting to write a book and get it published, I will be doing it one day also.

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Puri Areta said...

Hi author. I am Puri Areta from Jakarta-Indonesia. I like write fiction story and I hope to have a book. I want to be women writer. Can you help me publish my short story? If you interest for publish my book, please invite me at my Gmail

If you have a time, please see my blog at
I hope one day I can to be publisher too. I hope. Well, nice to meet you.

Anonymous said...

Do you have plan to start any kind of workshop regarding the addressed topic. I will be interested in taking a part in that.

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Carol said...

Greetings all,
Thank you for your comments. As I always say, when you're ready to start writing your book, WRITE IT! Finding your moments of inspiration are sometimes rare, you can always go back and edit later.
Anonymous, thank you for being a faithful visitor to my Blog; your comments are always read and appreciated!
I had not previously considered hosting any writing or publishing workshops, but great idea! I will work on finding the time to devote to such a project. Thanks again and warmest regards!
Carol / Author 101

Copirait said...

Hi author. I am Puri Areta from Jakarta-Indonesia. I like write fiction story and I hope to have a book. I want to be women writer. Can you help me publish my short story? If you interest for publish my book, please invite me at my Gmail

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Quite informative i must say and also it was presented very well.

portraits from photos said...

Yes, having the inspiration and time.
What about, if you have a job, and you have to decide to earn your income or take full risk and write your book instead of working?

Alan said...

I was very pleased to find this site. This is an intelligent and well written article, you must have put a fair amount of research into writing this. Thank you


Online Degrees said...

Great tips on how to publish a book; it is definitely on my list of "To Do Things" before I die.

James Thomas said...

A very informative post, I am very glad that I find your regular post here. Which seems to be very important and it made good time pass for me. I will always give a nice thrust look in to you from my bookmark feed. I don't actually comment and don't like to spend time in typing the comment. But here I have to do this because this one deserves a good like, Thanks.

Scott Hall said...

looks like a good autobiography. I wish my life was interesting enough to make an autobiography on!

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