The American Scholar: How to Write a Memoir - …

Watch memoir author Jorgelina Zeoli as she talks with John Ronan on his program The Writer’s Block.

Great Tips on How to Write Your Memoir | Reader's Digest

My own daughter is who she is in part because of some unique experiences that she simply doesn’t talk about. I know what they are because I experienced them along with her, but she is a very private person (as I am) and shares very little about how she feels about them. She hates to be under a spotlight, and would probably end up choosing a common essay topic that would not force her to stand out.

Matilda Butler asks you to take a new look at recycling and your memoir writing.

3 Rules to Write World-Changing Memoir - The Write …

Go to your desk on Monday morning and write about some event that’s still vivid in your memory. What you write doesn’t have to be long—three pages, five pages—but it should have a beginning and an end. Put that episode in a folder and get on with your life. On Tuesday morning, do the same thing. Tuesday’s episode doesn’t have to be related to Monday’s episode. Take whatever memory comes calling; your subconscious mind, having been put to work, will start delivering your past.

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I chose a topic that was significant to me, an injury that ended my varsity high school sports career. When I got to college and starting working with the admissions office, I heard one of the deans suggest that students specifically not write about injuries. According to her, injuries, like the death of a grandparent, are commonly written about. She explained to a group of parents and prospective students, that, by in large, teenagers have many of the same significant life experiences. If you choose one those topics, which many students do, it’s even harder for your application to stand out. I like to think that mine did stand out, but who knows?

Thank you. I’m in the middle of writing the memoirs of my sister for the first time so this piece was a great help.


Writing a Book-length Memoir – Paulette Bates Alden

I mention this because one of the questions often asked by memoir writers is: should I write from the point of view of the child I once was, or of the adult I am now? The strongest memoirs, I think, are those that preserve the unity of a remembered time and place: books like Russell Baker’s Growing Up, or V. S. Pritchett’s A Cab at the Door, or Jill Ker Conway’s The Road from Coorain, which recall what it was like to be a child or an adolescent in a world of adults contending with life’s adversities.

The American Scholar: How to Write a Memoir - William …

This brings me to another question that memoir writers often ask: What about the privacy of the people I write about? Should I leave out things that might offend or hurt my relatives? What will my sister think?

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When you write your own family history, don’t try to be a “writer.” It now occurs to me that my father, who didn’t try to be a writer, was a more natural writer than I am, with my constant fiddling and fussing. Be yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of writing and your readers will jump overboard to get away. Your product is you. The crucial transaction in memoir and personal history is the transaction between you and your remembered experiences and emotions.

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Don’t worry about that problem in advance. Your first job is to get your story down as you remember it—now. Don’t look over your shoulder to see what relatives are perched there. Say what you want to say, freely and honestly, and finish the job. Then take up the privacy issue. If you wrote your family history only for your family, there’s no legal or ethical need to show it to anyone else. But if you have in mind a broader audience— a mailing to friends or a possible book—you may want to show your relatives the pages in which they are mentioned. That’s a basic courtesy; nobody wants to be surprised in print. It also gives them their moment to ask you to take certain passages out—which you may or may not agree to do.

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Writers are the custodians of memory, and that’s what you must become if you want to leave some kind of record of your life and of the family you were born into. That record can take many shapes. It can be a formal memoir—a careful act of literary construction. Or it can be an informal family history, written to tell your children and your grandchildren about the family they were born into. It can be the oral history that you extract by tape recorder from a parent or a grandparent too old or too sick to do any writing. Or it can be anything else you want it to be: some hybrid mixture of history and reminiscence. Whatever it is, it’s an important kind of writing. Too often memories die with their owner, and too often time surprises us by running out.