Integral Life Coaching

What Does My Story Offer My Readers?

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(1076 words – 8 min read)

Did I already say writing a memoir is a very interesting journey for me? I think I have repeated this in almost every blog post so far. The miserable feeling of reading what you wrote and hating it and then trying to figure out why you hate it and what is missing is confusing.  if you are lucky it takes you to another “aha moment” or it makes you feel even more confused. I welcome the confusion and let it lead me to my next step. It is a messy constructive process. I love it.

I am not ready to send a letter to an agent yet but I want to give myself a better approach towards an agent’s expectations and to see if it fits my work. Maybe self-publishing is a better route for me to take. I have started searching and learning about the structure of a good query letter for an agent. There is no question in how intimidating it was to read the requirements. It got worse when I learned the whole letter needs to be about 300 words. I curiously read some samples and started playing around on my letter.

I started by writing the second paragraph of the letter first, because the second paragraph introduces my book. It’s an interesting practice. Writing about the synopsis in almost 200 words made me think what is my story really about?  The whole draft is 120,000 words and yet I am not sure about the theme. So, with a broken heart, I welcomed confusion to this phase of my journey.

I have been reading other books about Iran written by skilled authors,  Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Republic of Imagination, Things I’ve been silent about, Honeymoon in Tehran. These books cover so many great dimensions of the Persian culture. Azar Nafisi is one of my favorite authors so coming across Fatemeh Keshavarz’s book “Jasmine and Stars; Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran” criticizing Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was surprising to me. I made a decision to read it without judging it.

The richness of all of these books is impressive but for a new writer like me, I have to say, it was unnerving. I critically thought to myself, what is my story about? First, I thought I am adding too many dimensions to the story. Then I felt I am not covering enough aspects of my life in the story.  I was ready to cry feeling what is the happy middle for this process?  A memoir is not an autobiography. It has facts, analysis, reflections, expressed feelings, and opinions, but it can cover only so many aspects of one’s life in a limited time-frame. What do I want to offer to my readers?

Despite my doubts, I continued to write my 200 words. I thought I need to start from a bad draft and then improve it. If I don’t start, I will get nowhere and I am the only one who’s going to see that messy draft. I won’t even show it to Mike!

What did I learn from the messy draft? (Here’s a secret: It is actually about 400 words now.)

I learned that my journey has had so many parallel dimensions that were complementary at the same time. Dealing with loving yet opinionated parents who were very different from each other, fighting to break out of the authoritative cultural structure, and escaping from tyranny to democracy all created my unique path that is also similar to a lot of others who have similar dreams as me. The dream of being Independent, having options in life, and reaching self-love and inner peace.

Iran and the Persian culture is a complicated subject to write about. Politics and personal life have been intertwined for decades or even centuries. I am not a political person and I have no intention of getting to politics in my book, however, I am certainly expressing my opinion about tyranny and dictatorship the way it impacted my personal life. Centuries of dictatorship has influenced the Persian culture in different ways but it has never stopped people from longing for human freedom. People have expressed this longing in so many different ways such as different forms of art where  freedom has only become a beautiful imagination.

It is so confusing to see how a culture that is rich in history, literature, cuisine, and art – including dance and music, can be so authoritative and inflexible. We are the people who have lived with the legend of “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds” but lost its practice as time has gone by. It is complicated to constructively criticize a legendary culture that has been weakened by theocratic ideologies over the centuries. It is so delicate to explain how people’s dreams are not realized and they cannot articulately explain that feeling of loss. The feeling of loss comes across as confusion and frustration. What tyranny has done to my motherland is not an easy story.

On the other side, I have the privilege of sharing my life experience as an immigrant. I lived my life under tyranny imagining freedom and then came to democracy land. I have experienced and observed how wonderful it is to have choices in life. I can share how my assimilating process has helped me choose aspects from my old culture and my new culture and how to merge them together to make a better life. This life experience has enabled me to share how I have developed the respect for different cultures rather than a black and white judgmental look.

There is no black and white. There is only us, and every one of us matters. Every one of us, regardless of the color of our skin, the language we speak, and our personal beliefs has an amazing story to share our unique but universal experiences. Reading each other’s stories helps us understand each other better and brings our hearts closer.

I am still thinking and processing my offer to my readers. Meanwhile, I have made the decision that my story about Iran, immigration, and America is from my point of view. I will write it with my heart and from a place of love and I will try to do my best to share my experience authentically. I am hoping I can create an image that shows the beauty of life with all its dotes and antidotes as well as the necessity of human freedom.

Celebrate life!


Editing Credit: P.Emami

Picture Credit:

Author: Shabnam

Shabnam Curtis was born and raised in Tehran, experiencing the Iranian Revolution of 1979 firsthand. In 2004 she immigrated to the United States, where she now works as a passionate life coach and a writer. Shabnam is a certified Integral Coach with New Ventures West and International Coaching Federation. She offers one-on-one coaching sessions as well as workshops for groups. Since September of 2021, she also has been the life coach in residence for Dimension Science Bridges Non-profit organization.

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