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June 15, 2022

Memoirs-Stories That Need to be Told

Photo by Ahmed akacha on Pexels.

“Remember what it was to be me: That is always the point.”

Joan Didion

I love hearing all the juicy details of a well-lived life. Does that mean I take pleasure in hurtful gossip or questionable tales of someone’s dirty laundry? No, absolutely not! With the exception of the Kardashians maybe….but I digress….

What I do enjoy is a well written memoir that allows me to celebrate another’s accomplishments and gain life lessons through someone else’s painful experiences while feeling connected, helping me to feel that I am not alone. Lucky for me memoirs are trending and there are lots of them to choose from. Everyone from the uber famous to the relatively unknown has a story to tell.

Here are a list of some of my favorites:

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Untamed – Glennon Doyle

Educated – Tara Westover

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

Night – Elie Wiesel

The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yukavitch

On Being Human, a memoir of waking up, living real, and listening hard – Jennifer Pastiloff

I could go on and on with this list. If you have a favorite please share it with me in the comments and I will check it out!

My love for this genre started me thinking about what it would be like to write my own memoir. Why not? Everyone else is doing it, right? But how does one even begin?

What is a memoir?  A memoir is a collection of stories, usually written in the first person, with the intent of making an intimate connection by revealing struggles and the unique journey conquering those struggles.

What are some of the requirements of a good memoir? Tell the truth. Create an emotional connection. Choose a specific focus. Include personal obstacles and actions taken to resolve them. Be relatable.

Where do I start? As with any good story, one needs to grab the reader right from the beginning with an attention grabbing opening line.. Some examples:

“I didn’t realize I was black until the 3rd grade.” – Becoming Kareem: Growing up On and Off the Court

“I repent of my diets, the delicious dishes rejected by my vanity, as opportunities for making love that I let go by because of pressing tasks or puritanical virtue.” – Aphrodite-A Memoir of the Senses

“For forty years my act consisted of one joke. And then she died.” – Gracie: A Love Story

You get the idea.

What goes in the middle? The best approach is to think like a writer of fiction. Describe the setting; reveal the source of conflict; invite the reader in with personal recollection; build tension.

An example:

“My face got hot and the top of my head itched and all the others in the room looked like writers with special MFA badges while I felt like a human match. Like I might burst into a puny orange flame. While everyone was laughing about the tootsie remark he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I know what happened to you. Death’s a motherfucker.”

The Chronology of Water

Makes you want to keep reading, right?

How should it end? You should know your ending before you write the beginning. The moral of your story should make sense and evoke emotion. The ending should resolve the storyline.

An example:

“Here it is. Thirty-five years after I said my final words of I hate you to my father and then asked my first What have I done? Here it is. The answer: At the end of my life when I ask What have I done? one final time, I want to answer: I have done love. So, I ask you, now what?”

On Being Human, A memoir of waking up, living real, and listening hard

She helped us, through her story, know that we can all survive, through the magic of love. Who doesn’t love a happy ending!

Our personal journey’s are worth sharing. There is someone out there that needs to hear yours – and mine. Will I see your name on the cover of the next best selling memoir? Or maybe your story is just meant to be shared with your grandkids. Either way, our stories need to be told.

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