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Aloha. I have been writing my autobiography and am getting close to completion of my first draft but I have a huge concern. My short 54 years on earth has been quite lively. My 22 year relationship ended in divorce in 1997. During a court proceeding, I was given a verbal gag order. I am currently seeking a copy of my divorce records to see if the gag order is part of the filed documents. It is my understanding if it is not, then I am free to write an autobiography. If it is, I must switch to a novel. This is disturbing to me because it's my life and I feel I will have my rights taken away. I survived many stones in the road. I survived suicidal ideation. I survived my freaky former husband!

Do you know if my understanding is correct? And if it is, are there any loopholes toward achieving the right to own my life in paper? Can gag orders be over turned or would I serve myself best if I just switched to a novel.......and have tons of revisions to do...  ;-(


Thanks for your questions, Kari.

Your divorce lawyer is your best resource for how the laws in the state of Hawaii affect your plans.

Changing names and locations is common in memoirs to protect the privacy of real persons. Changes should be stated up front. In Ira Wagler's memoir, Growing Up Amish, he lists pseudonyms on the copyright page. Mary Karr, in her biography The Liars' Club, states in her introduction that in her book she changed the name of her Texas hometown.

I know several writers who prefer to turn their life experiences into novels. They say it gives them more freedom to express their feelings. If the book is a novel, then a statement that names have been changed is not necessary since everything is made up.

Ask your librarian for the names and contact information of writers' groups in your area. Groups usually have regular meetings with guest speakers. Some have critique sessions where members bring samples of their work for testing ideas. You could suggest a topic for a guest speaker to be on issues you are interested in.

Free online writers' forums are great for discussing all kinds of topics. I'm a member of and thoroughly enjoy it. Members are not required to participate; they may choose to lurk and learn.

Best wishes for lots of success.

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Wayne Groner


I can answer questions on all aspects of writing memoirs, biographies, family histories, and corporate histories including handling sensitive issues, interviewing, editing, self-publishing, and setting up a business as a memoir writer.


I have more than twenty-five years of experience as a radio and television news reporter, author, freelance writer, and workshop presenter. I present classes to nonprofits and professional groups, "How to Write Your Memoir or Life Story." I'm author of four nonfiction books. My latest book is A Guide to Writing Your Memoir or Life Story: Tools, Tips, Methods and Examples, available in paperback and eBook at Amazon. I'm past president of Springfield Writers' Guild (Missouri). My articles and book reviews on a variety of topics have been published in national magazines and on the Web. I was a senior-level college administrator for twenty-seven years, including nine years as a vice president, during which I wrote newsletters, brochures, magazine articles, and published and edited an alumni magazine.

Missouri Center for the Book, Springfield Writers' Guild, Greene County Historical Society, Christian County Historical Society.

Books: Witnesses of Hope, Faith, Love and Healing; Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance; The Pastor's Guide to Fund-raising Success; Levell-Drew Family History. National magazines including CASE Currents, Congregations, Ozarks Mountaineer, Your Community Hospice, Power and Light series of Sunday-school curriculum for adult learners.

Graceland College

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