…with a little help from my friends….

I’m a memorist who explores how personal history shapes our choices and how learning to accept and forgive failed choices leads to a more fulfilling life.


I’m a memorist who’s spent her life learning how to love and how to forgive herself and to keep a sense of humor as I mentor others in those skills.


For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with a book, Be The Gateway, by Dan Blank. A great book on marketing…(oh the dreaded word marketing).

His writing is easy to read and his challenges to look at the way we present out work are, well, challenging. For example, in writing a bio, which I’ve done and revised and done and revised over the years, beginning, of course, with my name and Janet Sunderland is a….and all that, Dan says not to. An eye-opening sentence: “Nine months after someone reads your book, what do you want them to think quietly in their heads about the world you have opened for them?”

I finally arrived at self-forgiveness.

That was in the Craft a Mission Statement chapter on page 39. That ten page chapter has taken me ten days to complete. After writing my bio, which took a long time, the above statements are what I crafted as my mission statement.

The thing is, it’s not just my life I write about. I write about my mother, family, land, and other people, so it seems the first is perhaps more effective overall. Maybe I need to add keeping a sense of humor to the first one?

Here’s where a little help from my friends comes in. What do you think of them? What ideas would either give you? And after reading the below bio, which I will insert into a query letter to agents, what do you think of it? I could really use some feedback and those of you who know my writing after all these years of reading it (thank you all so much), probably have a better handle than anyone.

So here ’tis…the bio. Please comment, give feedback, say whatever you think might help me, including “this confused me…” (I’ve heard that a lot with my various and varied pieces, so feel free.) One of the things Dan Blank wrote for an opening statement: “something that your ideal reader would read and say “YES! This!”


Most of us struggle, at some level, in outgrowing childhood. We were too tall or too short, too loud or too quiet, too fat or too skinny, too argumentative or too passive, and sometimes abused physically, emotionally, or sexually. Sometimes parents divorced, or a parent or grandparent died, leaving us stunned and fearful. We call it trauma, but it’s a wound that’s won’t heal.

Written on the Reverse is a memoir to explore how childhood trauma led me on a journey of transformation to heal and learn who I am is enough. The journey taught me forgiveness for myself, my father, and my grandfather. I also learned how difficult it is to trust love and how rewarding.

My journey from Mexico to Washington D.C., to a healing community in Hawaii, to Georgia for family tasks, and finally to Santa Fe recounts how my destination was always written on the reverse of a crossroad sign in ink destined to remain invisible for an unspecified span of years. All I had was trust in the journey to connect my dreams to reality. Throughout my journey, beginning in Washington D.C., I dreamed of this man as I named him, who, in dreams, came to me when I was struggling, or just to check in, and whom I met in Santa Fe.

In short, the memoir offers hope. For over twenty years, I’ve helped others learn to trust their journey, practice forgiveness, see themselves as valuable, and heal leftover wounds. While I’ve changed the world one person at a time with one-on-one mentoring and in college public speaking and writing classes, this memoir will guide a wider audience.

I’ve earned a BFA and two graduate degrees, but I’ve written all my life, or rather from age eight in my first diary. My mother was a writer and my grandmother a poet. My childhood in Kansas filled itself with words and books. My first published poem was in a college literary magazine. Since then, I’ve published essays and poetry in many journals, and a collection of poetry, Written on the Reverse, by Finishing Line Press. As a memoirist, the most life-changing books were Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (I began keeping a journal), Natalie Goldberg (most of hers), and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I no longer teach in college but I do lead writing workshops. My husband and I live in Kansas City in a 1924 built house. A Romare Bearden quote is taped to the window in front of my writing desk: Artists are like mice. They need old houses where they can roam around and nobody bothers them. I tend to wander around.


Thanking you all, again, in advance. In many ways, you have been my gateway for years.



11 thoughts on “…with a little help from my friends….

  1. Janet,
    I’m not a fan of memoirs, or autobiographies, so what I have to recommend should be taken with a boulder of salt.
    I’m not sure how to present this. Your post has got me to thinking about my own memoir. How would I write it? Here we go:

    My grandfather, Roy Emery, was a farmer a half mile from the Canadian border in North Dakota. He was one tough sum ‘bich, as was his daughter, my mother.

    Janet, I could go on, and I would, if I was writing my own memoir. It would show alot about my grandfather, my mother, my other grandfather, my friend in a bunker in Vietnam. You would know me by my relatives and friends and places. My conclusions would come from their stories, not mine.

    Others, not me.
    Show, don’t tell.
    Write a new bio.

    There you go, Janet. Invoice for services will follow.

  2. You may consider adding a line about how the experience of place shaped your journey.
    I would also add a line about the work you do as a spiritualist/ minister, because it’s interesting, and demonstrates the unique perspective you offer as a writer.
    Does his book recommend stating who your wider audience is in the letter, or your target market?

    1. Great suggestions, Jen. I like them a lot.
      I haven’t gone any farther in the book as it’s been a busy week, but I know there’s a section on exactly your question re: who is your market. So thanks all around for your comments.

    2. Jen, your words :You may consider adding a line about how the experience of place shaped your journey.
      I would also add a line about the work you do as a spiritualist/ minister…” helped me ENORMOUSLY and sent me on a self-quest. I’ve now added how place is as much a character in the memoir as are the people. And today, a blog post by another spiritual writer hit me full in the face, and I found another category I’d missed on Amazon in all my searching: self-help>spiritual. I guess I’d been hiding that part as “ministry” has so many connotations, but thanks to what you wrote, I’ve been pondering and looking and finally found a way to state the obvious!! Lol. Thank you Wise Woman.

  3. I like B “I’m a memorist who’s spent her life learning how to love and how to forgive herself and to keep a sense of humor as I mentor others in those skills.” I like it because it includes you as a mentor I think that’s an important addition.

  4. I like your Bio enormously. I have been reading your posts for less than three years and your bio made me want to read more of your writings and know you better. Good work!

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