I love memoir, always have. Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Annie Dillard, even Stephen King. There’s something magical about the ability to transform ordinary circumstances into beautiful scenes that teach a deeper truth.
Twenty years ago, it seemed the only people qualified to write memoir were the incredibly famous and the I’m-so-disgustingly-rich-I’d-better- write-a-book elite. The rest of us had better keep our mouths shut… or turn our life’s story into a novel.
Whether you curl up with memoirs on a frequent basis or pick one up every now and again, you know powerful memoirs have the capacity to take you, as a reader, for an exhilarating ride.
I’m a connoisseur of memoirs. In the past seven years, I might have read three books that weren’t part of the memoir genre. Not only do I devour memoirs, I also have written my own, and I coach memoir writers on turning their memories into manuscripts.
As a child I was intrigued by how exciting my friend Josh’s life was. At every recess, he regaled his huddled audience with a riveting narrative of how he missed the bus and had to hitchhike without his mom finding out, or how his bicycle light failed him on a dark street at night and almost led to his early death.
Then, I realized that his stories were all everyday events that could have happened to anyone. The difference was that he crafted the story well. He set up the scene, introduced conflict, and brought the resolution with remarkable flare, and usually a twist of humor to boot.
A memoir is a way to touch at the heart of emotion and allow it to be shared with others. If they are not written down, the intimate details may soon be forgotten. The memoir validates your experience and gives meaning to your life; after all, your memories are a treasured journey for others to learn from and enjoy. It can be a gift to your children, your parents, your friends, your country, and the world. Only you can tell the story that you''''ve been given, and other people''''s lives will be enriched for it.
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The Ghost of My Father has received some of the best reviews of all six of my books. I’m grateful to all 247 of my kickstarter backers for supporting this ambitious project about family, memory and making sense of myself.
Recently I did a live Q&A about How To Write A Memoir. It was a reward for the book’s backers. This post is a summary of the advice I shared. Thanks to everyone who tuned in and asked questions (and helped me keep the lights on).