Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Why is Everyone Writing a Memoir?

Okay, not everyone, but a lot of people.
We tend to think of memoirs as the work of older people, but anyone can have something to say. Some people have incredible life experiences to share. Others have overcome tremendous adversity and their story proves it can be done. Still others have had more ordinary lives but want to be sure family and friends have a record of them. 
    Why not just type an essay about your life and put it out there? You can, of course, but memoir readers have expectations, just as science fiction or romance fans do.
    Your piece has to convey a story, or perhaps a series of stories tied together and concluded in some way. This usually doesn’t happen without a lot of work.
Don’t be discouraged, just be willing to learn how to present your story in an interesting way.


    When my nieces and nephews were younger, I wrote a series of humorous essays from an aunt’s perspective. Since I value relationships with them as adults, I would never consider publishing the essays – not even showing them to someone outside the family. But they were rewarding and fun to write.
Don’t avoid writing essays just because you don’t intend to publish them. Like all writing, the effort will hone skills you will need when you do write to publish.
If you want to write essays or a memoir for yourself or your family, you can prepare a paperback (using Create Space) and order (quickly) a bunch of copies for your family and then take the book off sale. The only problem with that is that the book will show up forever on Amazon, even if it isn’t available.
You can also make a dozen copies using a three-hole punch and a binder. What is most important is sharing your story or essays. The extent of the audience is up to you.
Too informal? Check out sites such as or 
     Always, always, always read the fine print. These firms are not trying to take advantage of you, but they know their lingo and you don't.


    The American Scholar published an article on memoir by William Zinsser, and republished it at the time of Zinsser’s death in May 2015.
My favorite quote from the Zinsser article is, “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.”
In a simpler form, Reader’s Digest has an article on the topic. Wise advice in this article is, “The challenge is getting started, coaxing the story out. (Indeed, there are those who say beginning is half done.) Since there is inherent worth to the endeavor beyond public acclaim, you don’t have to be a professional writer or someone with connections in publishing to succeed. You can write it for yourself.”
There is no one way to approach a memoir, but it can’t be a rambling series of life stories. The first draft can be, because what’s important is that you get the ideas on paper without worry about what people will think or whether something is written well. After you’ve worked for a while, you can polish and add or subtract.
Classes are everywhere now, in part because baby boomers have the time to write their stories and the computers to do it.
There could be a regional arts group near you that offers memoir courses or workshops, or the community college may do so. Search for online classes -- no need to find the most expensive course.
    Once you start looking, you’ll find other writers trying to balance living life with writing about it.
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