Showing posts with label memoir writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memoir writing. Show all posts

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Writing Memoir - Six Questions that block the process

Some of the questions my students ask reveal the reason they have not begun writing about their lives.

  • Where do I begin?
  • How can I possibly put everything in my long life into a book?
  • How do I write about things that happened before I was born?
  • Can I write unflattering truth about my family?
  • What kinds of things should I write about?
  • Why should I write about myself?
Monteen, my cousin and her brother, Charlie

My cousin, Monteen, was her family's historian. When she was well into her nineties, she wrote about the Charlie Council family that lived in Palmetto, Florida in the book, Profiles and pedigrees: The descendants of Thomas Charles Council (1858-1911)
I published this book in 1998.  Monteen wrote one chapter in the book and enlightened the reader to what life was like in the 1920s and beyond in south Georgia and Florida during the Great Depression. When I suggested she write more about her family and her life, she said she didn't know how to begin and she said there was too much to write. She never did write that memoir.

Memoir is not the same as an autobiography. 
An autobiography tells the entire life of a writer, from birth to the time he publishes his book. Celebrities and political figures write autobiographies.

In memoirs, we write only the memories that add to the theme of our life story. We don't remember every single thing that has happened to us, but we do remember those events that made an impression. Why did those memories stay with us?  
If you want to write about your life, read memoirs and take note of how they are written, where do they begin, how much of the author's life do they write in the book? A person can write a number of memoirs about her life. She might want to write about a certain happening that affected her all during her college life. 

She might want to write about why she cried every day at school when she was in elementary school. Perhaps she doesn't know why, but in writing about those years, she will open her mind to what was happening at home, at school, how she felt then, and why she was unhappy. 

Part of a good memoir is in the facts, but part is also reflections on those facts. In writing, we disclose to our readers how we felt then and how we feel now. Maybe what we learn will be helpful to those who read our stories. How we begin and how we end are as important as what comes between. Read some memoirs and see how they began and how they ended. 

"Make a habit of reading what is being written today and what was written by earlier masters. Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learn by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing that I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it. I write entirely by ear and read everything aloud before letting it go out in the world."     William Zinsser

If you want to write memoirs, read good books.

Best memoirs are character-driven and are written in scenes.

Angela's Ashes - by Frank McCourt is character-driven

The Glass Castle – by Jeannette Wall is character-driven 

Traveling Mercies - by Anne Lamott

Writing Your Life Story by Kelley Notaras

I would love to know your favorite authors and your favorite memoirs. What did you like about the books?


www.riceandbeall.blogspot.com 

Writing Life Stories














Sunday, June 9, 2013

June Peacock and her book is Window in the Wall.

What a nice day I had with my friend Dot who accompanied me to City Lights bookstore in Sylva, NC where a delightful woman spoke and read small parts of her memoir. She is one of those seniors who have had an interesting and good life. She began her memoir when she was 89 years old. Now, this lady is not your ordinary elderly lady. She said her son told her ten years ago that she was in her dotage. Now she says he tells her she is in her post-dotage. She was funny and quite personable. The room was packed and everyone enjoyed this lovely lady. She encouraged all older people to write about their lives for their families. 

Her name is June Peacock and her book is Window in the Wall. June doesn’t type so she recorded or dictated her words for someone else to type.The book was written in response to a request from her daughter who gave her explicit guidelines to go by.
It was to be for her family, and will be treasured by each. However, it reaches beyond simple life experiences to be shared with family into the depths of struggle, reinvention, and joy that speak to the resilience of the human spirit. For all who read this, there is an honesty that will encourage each of us to seek a full and meaningful life, to welcome and accept new challenges of creativity and reflection, to look forward to the future, no matter our age. 

She was the first woman stock broker in Florida and one of only three women brokers in the country. She said she had what they were looking for when she got the job. She was a woman. At that time the feminists had prevailed and their demand for equal rights for women paid off for June. 

She lives in Raleigh in the winter and in her cove in the mountains of western North Carolina in the summer. She is not frail and seems to have all her faculties in good shape. I enjoyed speaking with June and look forward to reading her book. Oh, by the way, she said her 80th birthday was twelve years ago. 

To reserve a copy of her book, please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WRITING CLASS IN MARCH BEGINS MARCH 12

The writing class, Writing Stories for Your Children and Grandchildren, at Tri-County Community College in Murphym, NC will be postponed for one week. 

The classes will begin on Tuesday, March 12, one week later than was originally planned, 3 - 5 p.m. each Tuesday for six weeks. So we will end this course a week later than planned.

We have met our minimum for the class and I am looking forward to meeting new writers and greeting some of my former students.
In spite of the title, this class is for anyone who likes to write true stories. We write narratives about our lives for our family or for publication. 
Back in the fifties friends gathered for a party
My students have run from age 21 to 92. All have had wonderful stories to tell. One young woman is now writing guest posts for a blog, Busted Halo, as well as writing her own story on her blog.
She is being paid for her writing, and had never thought she could do that until she took my class at John C. Campbell.

Another student published her memoir last year. We never know until we try, just what we can do. 
Nadine Justice with her memoir, I'm a Coal Miner's Daughter  But I Cain't Sang