This month we had the privilege of reviewing 185 submissions from memoirists or memorists-in-the-making for our anthology, The Magic of Memoir, coming out this November on She Writes Press.
The experience of reading so many inspiring and heartfelt works from writers from all paths, and various levels of writing and publishing experience, confirmed for us what we already knew to be true: memoir holds magic.
What is this magic? All the writers who submitted to the anthology explored the depths and heights of their memoir writing process, which is unique for each person. For some, the magic is in the self-understanding that comes with staying the course and seeing the journey through, no matter how long that might take. For several submitters, it took more than twenty years for their memoirs to come to fruition as a book. A big part of the magic of memoir is taking risks to expose the truth. We saw this across so many essays—brave writers revealing their lived experience: as immigrants coming to America; as lesbians fully embracing their sexual identities during a time when it was not only difficult, but dangerous to do; as adult children of alcoholics looking back on the chaos of their upbringing and coming to terms with the damage done, finding a new sense of self and strength; as children and parents and spouses who have weathered unbearable losses, and have come through with a special perspective on life; as survivors of sexual abuse, who, when they give voice to what happened, find the healing journey that memoir writing offers; as minorities in this country claiming their own stories in a culture that too often makes them invisible and silenced. There were so many others who contributed their knowledge of this memoir magic, including teachers of memoir who penned expert advice that’s so needed in a genre that requires so much, that sometimes depletes and wears us down even as it inspires us. But in the end, we found that writing a memoir offered everyone something new, something they would never have found any other way.
The result of this contest will be a book called The Magic of Memoir, coming out this November (and already available to preorder). We are thrilled to include 38 writers (see the final list here) who offered new windows into the experience of this challenging genre. The real magic of this contest is that we discovered so many beautifully honed expressions of raw experience. For both of us, busy doing lots of things in the world of memoir and publishing, we were honored to read, absorb, and then discuss these works, many of them from long-time students and clients, and some friends. We had many difficult and challenging choices to make.
Anthologies offer us a place to collect into one volume many voices on a single topic, and we’re blessed that this anthology is also going to include interviews with the following bestselling authors:
Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club
Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object
Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
Raquel Cepeda, author of Bird of Paradise
Daisy Hernandez, author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed
Mark Matousek, author of The Boy He Left Behind
Sue William Silverman, author Love Sick
We are grateful to be teaching memoir during a time when memoir is becoming more legitimate, more beloved, and more appreciated than ever. With the 2015 publication of The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr, memoir received a much-needed canon on the genre. For everyone who says that memoir is dead, there are hundreds of aspiring memoirists who are finding their voice—and by extension expanding the genre—and falling in love with memoir.
We want to thank every single person who submitted to The Magic of Memoir. We hope this book will be another addition to the memoir landscape that celebrates and honors just how important this genre is, and how amazing all the people are who challenge themselves to write such brave and revealing works. It’s an amazing feat to write a memoir, and we hope The Magic of Memoir will be a worthy companion for your writing journey.
—Brooke & Linda Joy