by Cory Hott February 8, 2024
Writing a memoir was never in the plans for Shana Ross.
She always felt out of place growing up in Hudson, Texas. Adopted as a baby by a traditional white family, she stood out from relatives with her darker complexion and hair. It wasn’t until a classmate, in first grade at Hudson Elementary, asked her if she was Mexican, did the idea of her being anything but white cross her mind.
She posed the question to her mother when she got home, only to receive a “what on earth” from her mother—an East Texas linguistic cue to indicate you’ve stirred something up. Her parents told her all they knew—that she was the daughter of a young Indian woman from the Navajo tribe who was unable to raise her.
Searching for Her Origins
For years, Shana never felt the urge to search for her birth parents, despite trouble with her adoptive parents. It wasn’t until the passing of her mother, nearly three decades later, that she decided it was time to find her origins. Thus began a long trek that led to her being welcomed home on the Navajo reservation—and a memoir to share with anyone else who has ever felt like they didn’t belong.
“Growing up the way I did and feeling so out of place, I knew I had to write a book,” Shana said. “I wanted other people to know that if they’ve ever wondered, if they ever really feel like they were just not in the right place, not at the right time, that no matter what the fear is, you need to really look at it, decide if it’s still worth the search.”
Shana’s search, she says, was ultimately worth it. Her birth mother had welcomed her with open arms and, over many conversations, Shana got to know the woman who gave her life as well as her new aunts, uncles, and cousins from the Navajo tribe. Immersed in her family’s traditions, Shana felt she’d finally found her sense of belonging. She hoped to inspire others by sharing her emotional journey of discovery.
Memoir Writing and Indie Publishing
But when it came time to put pen to paper, Shana realized she didn’t know the first thing about writing a book. She had considered working with a traditional publisher but knew the odds of getting a major book deal were slim to none.
Then she discovered indie publishing, the perfect solution for authors without a platform who still want to share their important stories. Indie publishers like Difference Press handle editing, design, distribution, and marketing so authors can focus on writing.
Shana first learned about Difference Press’s CEO Angela Lauria years earlier at a conference. She was instantly drawn to Angela’s honest yet compassionate approach.
“I don’t think there’s ever been someone who said they didn’t find her interesting,” Shana remarked. “And honest. Honesty was the other big factor. It’s so weird. It seems like there are so many coaches out there who aren’t as honest. Like they’re honest, but they just don’t seem as blunt about it.”
Writing a Memoir with a Servant’s Heart
Shana appreciated Angela’s commitment to telling authors hard truths instead of false flattery. After the conference, Shana knew she wasn’t quite ready to start writing a memoir, but after a few years of swearing she would work with Angela eventually, she applied to publish her memoir with Difference Press.
Initially, Shana worried her deeply personal story wasn’t the right fit for the company’s mission. But Angela, captivated by the powerful narrative, took Shana on as a client. Angela’s insight about choosing an ideal reader—that one person for whom an author should write—proved invaluable. Through the writing process, Shana had to relive parts of her life that were painful, scary, and confusing. During difficult emotional moments, it was the ideal reader that pushed her forward, reminding her that someone out there was struggling with something similar.
“It was that ideal reader. This person needs to hear this. They need to understand that they’re not alone, even though they think they may be,” Shana explained. Whenever the process turned emotionally difficult, visualizing her ideal reader reignited Shana’s motivation, forcing her to forget everything but what she would say to that one person.
After only a few months of perfecting her manuscript, Shana’s memoir Tribeless: Discovering the Truth about Nature vs. Nurture as One Woman Finds Her Birth Mother was published in 2022.
Finally sharing her poignant journey with the world felt cathartic. But the intense process also left Shana feeling drained once the book released. Difference Press prepared her to expect an emotional “crash” after completion.
Rather than rush into promotion, Shana allowed herself time to rest and recharge, strategically planning media appearances around events related to her memoir’s core themes.
One such appearance was an interview with Cowboys & Indians magazine around the time the Supreme Court was hearing a case about the Indian Child Welfare Act. The timely hook underscored her memoir’s message about understanding your origins.
Shana’s unique story provides a window into the universal human longing to understand where you came from. By sharing her memoir through Difference Press, she hopes to inspire other adoptees or anyone separated from their origins.
Her advice for aspiring authors is to invest in a publishing partner rather than go it alone.
“Get help. Know that you can’t be everything to everybody,” she stressed. “If you honestly have a message that’s burning a hole in your soul, then make the investment in yourself to do it. And it is an investment, you know, it’s not cheap. But the bang for the buck is enormous. Bite the bullet and get help.”
Shana believes investing in Difference Press gave her the best chance to share her message and help others.
A Film in the Works?
But Shana’s memoir writing journey isn’t over yet, as Shana is already exploring opportunities to turn her memoir into a movie.
Until then, for adoptees searching for their birth families, Shana’s inspirational memoir delivers hope that it’s never too late to find your way back home.
If you want to learn more about writing a memoir, take our free Create Your Winning Book workshop now.
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