Writing Memoir

After writing a couple of blogs for http://throwingupwords.wordpress.com/ my friend and mentor, Carol Lynch Williams, said she thought I should write a memoir.

I thought she was kidding.

She wasn’t.

I told her I didn’t even know the difference between a memoir and a biography/autobiography. So she told me a memoir is a slice of life or themes from a person’s life, not the entire personal history. She asked if I’d like to join her 30 day mentoring group to learn to write memoir. I jumped at the chance.

I thought, at first, it was a group all writing memoir. It wasn’t. Each participant is writing in the genre of their latest WIP. One of our first assignments was to write a haiku to describe the plot of our book. Here’s mine. (I was quite pleased with it, since I had to look up the rules for haikus).

A tale of cancer,
Survived through faith and miracles—
Hope for life’s winter.

One of the next assignments was to read books in our genre.

Here is a list, in no particular order, if you’re interested in reading memoirs:
Limbo, A. Mannette Ansay
A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel
Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichel
This Boy’s Life, Tobias Wolff
Falling Through the Earth, Danielle Trussoni
More Than Meets the Eye, Joan Brock and Derek L. Gill
A Circle of Quiet, and The Summer of the Great Grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle
Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
A Hole in My Life, Jack Gantos
The Longest Trip Home, John Grogan

I’ll tell you what I learned from these books in my next post.

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2 Responses to Writing Memoir

  1. kjw616 says:

    From what you learned, can a memoir be about someone else’s life, or is it only about the author’s?

  2. Debbie Nance says:

    I suppose there are always exceptions, but a memoir is usually about the author. Having said that, the memoirs I’ve read shared how the author’s life intertwined with other people so they included, for example, biography-type info about their parents and/or grandparents, etc.

    If you’re writing about someone else’s life, I believe it would be defined as a biography. I think you could use many of the same techniques as you would in a memoir to make a biography into creative non-fiction–meaning that you could add dialogue and description so it reads like a story, not just dates and events.

    If you haven’t already, I suggest you read some of the memoirs I listed–or choose others from your library or bookstore– in order to help you decide if you want to write a memoir or biography.

    Either way, best of luck in your writing endeavor!

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