May 27, 2020

Manifesting Your Idea into a Memoir

I had the privilege of seeing Elizabeth Gilbert’s keynote address at the Wake-Up Festival this August 2014. Although Liz is most famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, she told the audience that her true and original love was fiction. Dani Shapiro wrote this month in the New Yorker that she is an accidental memoirist, and although Liz didn’t frame it exactly this way, it’s clear that she is too. It’s not uncommon for writers to be visited, or haunted, by a story that will not let them go. … [Read more...]

Your Scene-writing Toolkit

It happens in each of our long courses that I hit a point where I realize how much writers really shoulder when it comes to writing a memoir. There are so many things to hold in addition to the memories, messages from our saboteurs, and bouts of self-doubt. Most writers who are working on a memoir are learning a new craft while also dealing with the wellspring of emotion that comes from tapping into experiences that can oftentimes feel like stirring a hornet’s nest. Sometimes it’s hard to keep … [Read more...]

How to Craft the Beginning of Your Story

    As readers, we all have the experience of trying to find our bearings as we begin a story. To get “inside” the story that’s beginning, we readers are curious about who the main characters are, and we’re eager to learn about them—to learn why we are being told this story about these people. Early in a story, we’re getting grounded in where we are—literally—on the planet, in the world, and in the geography of place.  We need to know the time frame for the story, too. That’s the who, … [Read more...]

15 Tips for Mining Your Memories

  Memoirs are woven from memories, but many memoirists I talk to wonder if they have enough memories, or if their memories are “correct.” The important thing is to understand that memories can't be measured or proven correct. What you remember is your raw material for creating your memoir--and there are a lot of ways to enhance your memories. It can be helpful to do "research"-- to gather with others and share memories around the table, to pore over family photo albums, reminiscing and … [Read more...]

The PTT of Memoir—Positioning, Theme, and Takeaway

The PTT of memoir will help you think about three things you want to keep in your awareness as you write your memoir. A memoir has to be able to be positioned (if not by you then by your future marketing team—so you might as well do this heavy-lifting before you start shopping your work) in order to sell. Its themes and takeaways need to be clear for an editor and his or her Editorial Board to be sold on the idea that it will hold value and meaning for a reader. These three points are equally … [Read more...]

What’s Your Memoir Worth?

Over the years I’ve had quite a few clients who’ve expressed their frustration, sadness, and sometimes shame that their writing wasn’t bringing in any money. It’s a real concern for a lot of writers who carve out time, shell out lots of money for support (coaches, classes, conferences), and who may end up self-publishing and paying even more for their work to get published and out into the world. Despite these niggling feelings of guilt many writers get from time to time (or maybe they plague … [Read more...]

Top 10 Things All Memoir Writers Need To Pay Attention To

As Linda Joy Myers and I gear up to host some new fall classes and prepare for our next six-month course, I've been fully immersed in memoir land---one of my favorite places to be. If you can hold this list in your mind as you write your memoir, you'll have a leg up at least, and maybe even experience what we call "memoir magic." 1. Scope Knowing the scope of your story means knowing where it starts and where it ends. You don’t have to have a perfect sense of what comes in between, as long as … [Read more...]

Balancing Craft and Vulnerability when Writing a Memoir

How often I've said jokingly, "Writing a memoir is like taking your clothes off in public." True, but it doesn't go far enough. It's like taking your clothes off and reading your journal in public. You're vulnerable all the time, you feel overwhelmed—there are so many stories! Where to start? Which to choose? There's an endless chatter that many beginning writers find hard to deal with. You can't just silence it—the questions posed are important. They're the questions you need to answer, such … [Read more...]

What You’re Writing—Memoir vs. Autobiography

Three months after I published by book, What’s Your Book?, I went to lunch with an old friend who’s been in the publishing industry forever. When I asked him what he thought of my book, he responded that he liked it, it was good, but that he was puzzled about why I hadn’t included a definition of memoir. Good point. The truth was that I hadn’t considered it, in part because I never ask my clients to consider whether they’re writing memoir. If someone comes to me saying they’re writing a memoir, … [Read more...]

Dumping

A couple weeks ago I had an experience that prompted raw personal writing. It came out strong and visceral and angry and true. It scared me a little in its potency. It stared me in the face with its hard truths. It was 2500 words of intense, gritty, substantive stuff that poured out of me like molten lava. As a writer, this felt powerful and fierce and really good. I wanted to pat myself on the back. It was one of the best “pieces” I’d ever written. And I wrote it in a single session with … [Read more...]