March 30, 2017

Why the Literary Elite Love to Hate Memoir

I teach memoir, read memoir, and publish memoir. I love memoir, and I'm not alone. It's a popular genre, the genre of the people. It's also the most reviled genre--perhaps exactly for this reason. Every few months some literary elitist comes out with a memoir-bashing article, so replete in its criticism and condemnation that it reminds us just how hated memoir is by some. This month's reminder came from William Giraldi, a contributing editor to The New Republic. His article, "The Unforgivable … [Read more...]

Mary Karr’s Truth

In September I had the great honor of interviewing Mary Karr, whose claim to fame is this little feat of having penned three best-selling memoirs(!). Karr’s new book is The Art of Memoir, and reading it is like having a front row seat to one of her exclusive graduate seminars, which you’ll never get into in real life because they’re so darn competitive. To start, I highly recommend this book to any student of memoir, anyone who’s trying to write a memoir, and anyone who’s ever written a … [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...]

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...]

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...]

From Starting your Memoir Journey to the Muddy Middle–And Onward!

  What a joy it has been this month teaching people how to get started writing their memoir! There's nothing like over a dozen people with stories they want to capture and publish to create an amazing vortex of energy. We feel that teaching gives us great gifts as well. Each story and person needs focused answers for their specific problems. We learn about the stumbling blocks that get in the way--from overwhelm to worries about family reactions.  We learn about people with stories that go back … [Read more...]

Three Stages of Memoir Writing

    When you write a memoir, the journey will change you. There is no way that we can encounter art, the imagination, and our inner psyches without being changed by the experience. And just like any journey, it shifts our perspective on life and on ourselves. You will not be the same person who began the journey.   As poet T. S. Eliot wrote in his wonderful poem “Four Quartets” You are not the same people who left that station Or who will arrive at any terminus. … [Read more...]

Memoir Writing Tips | Your Journey to MemoirLand

  Memoir is a very popular genre right now, one that draws people from all ages and all levels of experience. It's truly a grass roots movement about the passion to tell and share our stories. When we write a memoir, we embark upon a journey—to the land of memory, to the heart of who we are and were, to the past, and to discovery--of aspects of ourselves, of new insights into our family and the times. We honor those we loved, and we name things that were never named. The memoir becomes an … [Read more...]

The Value of Fast Writing

Fast writing, as it turns out, is a bit of a controversial topic for some creatives. I’ve talked to a lot of writers lately who believe the creative process should not be rushed, and that doing so means sacrificing value—for the writer and the reader. I want to take on this topic today to offer a different perspective on fast writing, and to talk about what it can do for you and why it’s a good practice. When I’m talking about fast writing I’m talking about diving into your content. I’m talking … [Read more...]

Write Your Book | Beginnings and Freewriting

Writers often tell me: “My book has been whispering in my ear for a long time. I finally decided to listen to it.” That’s what our stories do—they invite us in and invite us to listen. As we listen to that small voice, a yearning comes over us to write down our memories. After all, they are special to us, they have formed who we are. We ARE stories, we contain within us worlds of amazing adventures and soul stirring moments along with moments of heartbreak and soaring happiness. We have … [Read more...]