Laura Munson does not show up empty handed. Rather, she carries a bag of groceries in her arms, filled with Vine Sweet Mini Peppers, Genoa Salami, Barrel-Aged Greek Feta Cheese and a bottle of German white wine. The last item is in honor of the German version of her New York Times bestselling memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is… arriving in the mail.
She is a bearer of gifts and as she stands in my kitchen, slicing feta and peppers, arranging them artfully on a plate, I realize this is true on more than a simple level. The gift she’s carried and delivered to people all over the world is her story. When her personal essay, “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear” was published in July, 2009 in The Modern Love column of The New York Times, it exploded over the internet and the result was an offer to publish her memoir.
Now, stories of the gift she’s given, stories of healing, come back to her. They thank her for her raw and honest memoir about the summer her husband told her he didn’t love her anymore and her brave and unique response to that moment.
Last Spring, Laura Munson went on her first book tour and as she prepares to embark on her paperback tour in a few weeks, she generously agreed to answer a few questions.
WL – You are going out on your paperback tour. What are you most excited about?
Laura - The first time I went on tour it was all business and it was all new. I’d been holed up in my house in my small Montana town writing for years. Being exposed to the energy inherent to large urban areas activated a different side of me. I had never flexed that muscle before as a writer. Learning the business side of writing, being in the public eye and speaking in front of people (in the Good Morning America studio) was a big change from the country. The writing life is isolated enough, compiled with the solitude of life in Montana, and the plunge into urban areas can be a bit mind-blowing. I’ve had to learn to filter all that energy—sometimes it’s a different city every day. This time I think it will be a bit more natural and even fun because I know that side of myself now.
WL – Is there a particular event on your tour you’re looking forward to?
Laura – I am excited about the whole tour, and because the book is being published in eight different countries, I have had the honor of being asked to do really inspiring things like More Magazine’s Reinvention Convention. I’ll be in Los Angeles and have the opportunity to speak alongside 30 amazing women including Rita Wilson and Christy Turlington Burns.
WL – That sounds incredible. It seems like life has changed a lot since you were published a year ago.
Laura - Suddenly, I have all these new peers. It’s so exciting to get out of Montana and see what other people are up to. It’s good news for people who live in non-urban areas. You can still be part of that cultural conversation.
WL – And how about your family? How has this year been for them?
Laura – My kids are proud that their parents got through a hard time and like hearing stories about how the book has helped others. I received one letter from a blind woman in Tel-Aviv who had downloaded the book. She said it helped her get over the loss of her seeing eye dog to cancer. When you can share a story with responsibility and compassion, it can hit the hearts of those hundreds of miles away. My husband and I will talk about scenes in the book and think – remember how we handled that - so it’s become a reference point for us too. There is a lot of power in making it through what we did. And when we hear from a soldier in Afghanistan who has been touched by the book or a 22 year old Malaysian man whose girlfriend left him, it just begets more abundance in our own lives.
WL – Why do you think memoir is so popular right now?
LM - Memoir is hot because people want truth. It is a high calling though and a humbling experience. People are sharing with me because I’ve shared with them. I would like to publish a novel next and hopefully have room for both memoir and fiction in the future.
WL – How would you describe what your memoir is about?
Laura - Essentially, it is a book about choice. It is about powerfully choosing your emotions, which is the opposite of being a victim. I have done talks in YWCA’s, JCC’s, country clubs, high schools, colleges, retirement communities, bookstores, libraries and many others. The number one thing people want to discuss is the inner critic. I read somewhere that we have something like 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% are negative. We need to tell ourselves a new story: you are enough just the way you are.
WL – Finally, what do you like best about living in Montana?
Laura – Montana has been my very best teacher and it’s my grounding force. On this tour, I’m bringing various feathers I’ve found here, a braid of my horse’s hair in a pouch, and heart shaped rocks found in the Flathead River. They are a reminder of what we have here. Once nature has gotten under your skin, it’s important to bring it with you. Tours can be disorienting and I find that having a bit of Montana in my pocket really helps keep me in balance.
As she answers this last question, we look up and the Montana sky gives her another gift to take along on her tour. Her face lights up and she races for her camera, stepping out in bare feet to a wet deck. A rainbow’s vibrant arc spreads above the frozen lake. She looks at me and says, “That’s what I’m talking about. A rainbow against a background of grey. Relationships matter and nature is what grounds me to them.”
Laura Munson’s paperback comes out in April, 2011 (Amy Einhorn/Putnam). For more information about Laura’s tour dates and destinations, visit her author website- Laura Munson, Author. You may also want to visit her insightful blog These Here Hills.