Memories of Momma ‘Still Bring Tears to My Eyes’: A Q&A with Michelle May O’Neil


It’s been a month and a half since my book was published, and in that time I’ve noticed that a few recurring questions arise when I discuss my writing journey with friends, family and fellow readers. Here’s a rundown of the most common inquiries about the experience, answered from the heart, just like Momma taught me.

What do you think your Momma would say if she knew there was a book about her uniquely Texan brand of wisdom?

Momma and me I think she would be very proud, and happy to help others. We often discussed doing a book about her wisdom, and I’m sad we didn’t get this done while she was still alive – if only because I’m sure she would think of more stories to go with each lesson. I’m only scratching the surface.

A lot of your heart went into this book, and such personal moments aren’t always easy. Was there a particular chapter or story you struggled with? How did you get through it?

The whole book felt a little vulnerable, especially when it first came out. The “God’s Promise” chapter was the hardest for me because I talk about memories of when she passed away. Those memories are very meaningful for me, but they are also very personal. Even now, 9 years after she passed, they still bring tears to my eyes. But, I want people to know how strong her faith was, even facing death. That was very important to her.

Conversely, was there an anecdote that stood out as especially easy to write?

Don’t be cattle was the easiest chapter to write. I was amazed by her ability to, on the one hand, fly off the handle about something and, on the other, use the experience to teach me a lesson. It was a special gift she had. And it was very important to her that I not “go along to get along.”
Momma and Me at the table

In your book, you recall how Texas culture shaped you and your family and helped inform your Momma’s life lessons. Do you think her wisdom can be applied across the U.S., or does it have a greater significance regionally?

I think her lessons are universal. But Momma could turn a phrase better than most, and, as you know, it’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it that matters. Plus, Southern charm is admired all over the world.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this book and in the publishing process? What’s your advice for aspiring motivational authors?

Throwback with Momma The biggest challenge is just to find the time, block out the world, and write. As a young person, Momma loved to encourage my creative writing. When I would have a school assignment, she would help me brainstorm ideas, then outline and organize. She loved to write poetry and really encouraged me to be a writer. My “day job” involves much technical writing and over many years I feel like I’ve lost the creative writing side of me. After forcing myself to write, I found that the creative writing comes back gradually. Even so, I have to identify when my lawyer brain takes over and gets too clinical.

So, to anybody who feels like they have a book inside them, I recommend that they find a weekend, book a cabin somewhere with few distractions, and get started. And if you don’t have a whole weekend in you, take an afternoon. And if you don’t have an afternoon, hole yourself up at the library or a Starbucks for an hour. Nobody is going to put your butt in a chair but you, so make it a priority and start writing.

You’ll figure the rest out after that.

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