December 3, 2023

The Real Magic of Memoir: Thoughts on Reading and Judging Submissions for The Magic of Memoir

MAGIC-OF-MEMOIR_smThis 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





  1. Dhana Musil says

    I feel truly blessed and honoured to be a part of this project, and that I have both Brooke and Linda Joy in my life. Holding the candle high to all who write from the heart.

    • Bob Finertie says

      JOY filled my heart as I read the news that my entry would be included in The Magic of Memoir. Thank you Brooke and Linda Joy for your passion for the genre. I have been inspired by your enthusiasm, enriched by your classes and encouraged by your comments. Only a writer knows the courage it takes to send in a submission. Only a writer knows the gnawing self-doubt about the worth of his effort. Only a writer can know how it feels to see his words on a page.

  2. So excited to read this. I know it will be amazing and inspiring to hear so many different voices sharing the same love of memoir.

    • Linda Joy Myers says

      Thank you Sue. We find all the essays, and the amazing interviews so inspiring! We excited about the book.

  3. Beautiful and inspiring post, Brooke. Thank you for your dedication to the art and craft of memoir, and for your wise and steady support of countless writers. You help make dreams come true. It’s an honor to be included in this anthology.

  4. I’m thrilled to be included in this diverse and inspirational book by writers, for writers. A speechless, grateful warmth spread through my soul when I got the news. It’s truly an honour, and I already feel embraced by the covers of the book. Looking forward to opening the gifts in everyone else’s piece!

    • Linda Joy Myers says

      Thank you Allison, we’re happy you are represented here. Yes, there are gifts in all the pieces!

  5. Thank you Brooke and Linda Joy for the inspiration and the perspiration it must have taken to sponsor The Magic of Memoir. I’m thrilled that my piece will be included and look forward to reading all the others, and thanks also to those who didn’t make it this time, but who will next time around. Having entered a number of competitions now, I know how subjective the whole thing is, and how little can separate those who make the cut and those who don’t.

  6. Brooke and Linda Joy,
    two greatly accomplished authors/ writers
    and cutting-edge entrepreneurs;
    The Magic of Memoir, a great milestone
    on the tremendously inspiring journey of memoir writing;
    A big step for these awesome writers,
    A giant leap for a-born-unwanted peasant girl like me from China
    How grateful I am.
    Thank you,
    Brooke, Linda Joy,
    with all my heart
    for inspiring me along the years
    and for the honor of including me.

  7. I am so happy and so honored to be included in The Magic of Memoir anthology! Thank you Brooke and Linda Joy for all you do in helping us tell our stories. So important. I am so eager to read the essays written by the other winners. Can November 15th come soon enough?! I just love this whole idea. It really does feel magical. Thank you so much!

  8. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy. I imagine it must have been difficult to make decisions on which submissions to include. That’s a tough job. Thanks for sharing this post.

    As a book editor who specializes in NF and memoir titles, I am working with a budding memoirist who is included in this anthology. Her memoir is set to publish in 2017. What a great compilation that I am glad to be associated with.
    -Jennifer Karchmer
    Owner/Editor, Over the Shoulder Editorial
    advocating for freedom of speech and expression through memoir


  1. […] And a POST on the “Real Magic” of reading and choosing the winners. […]

Speak Your Mind