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To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Sensational Events is offering free consultations to people who have an upcoming event that needs development. Sensational Events can be reached at The company focuses on experience and innovation, not formula and routine. Anything from under the stars to on the links, intimate or grand, the company offers offer the finest personal service. The company designs and coordinates weddings, mitzvahs, parties, corporate and destination weddings and events. As Marc Pachter, leader of the Washington Biography Group, puts it, an autobiography is a complete life—often but not always moving in a line from birth to fame—which may or may not be the author's inward journey.
The writer of a memoir takes us back to a corner of his or her life that was unusually vivid or intense—childhood, for instance—or that was framed by unique events. Indeed, one of the important skills of memoir writing is the selection of the theme or themes that will bind the work together. Said Nasaw, " I did a little bit of research, and we all did, on what was an autobiography. How is this defined? And, it was the opinion of the three of us that an autobiography was distinct from a memoir.
An autobiography is the writing of a life by the person who lived that life. It does not necessarily have to be cradle-to-grave, but it is written to show how influences of place and time, childhood, adolescence, parenthood, affect the coming-to-age, and the activities, character, personality, and achievements of the adult.
It is, in other words, a biography written by the person who is the subject of that biography. There is no corroborating material, there are no additional interviews, there are no newspaper articles, and there is no context provided. A memoir is a work—as the title makes clear—of memory.
Autobiography and biographies are not works of memory. And the Stiles book, which was a biography, was moved out of the category, into History. And the second runner-up was a memoir.
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The following year, this year, there were no autobiographies or biographies. The prize was given to another memoir, and again the runners-up were memoirs. Do read Jamie's piece about the controversial, perhaps inexplicable Pulitzer choices. Finally, David Nasaw concludes, "And again, memoirs are important enough as a genre in the twenty-first century, that they should have their own award. Commenting on that party, Paula Tarnapol Whitacre wrote: "Keeping someone alive across time"--that's the biographer's charge, Marc summed up.
To do that, we should look for the human details, the juice of life. In that way, biographers have something in common with gossips. The autobiography is somewhere between the two. Tiberghien in One Year to the Writing Life. What is your world view? How does your life fit into it? In short, what is the meaning of your life? A memoirist recounts a life experience and tries to make meaning out of it.
In the contemporary world, there is a need to testify, an urgency to share real-life stories and to learn from one another. It is through memoir--writing memoir and reading memoir--that we discovere our connectedness, our oneness with another, our common humanity. Each time you discover meaning in your life, you contribute to the greater meaning of human life.
Less is expected of the reader of a memoir, which focuses on one of the memoirist's "areas of expertise. An early example: the Confessions of St. Memoir is. The autobiographer justifies 'mistakes. The autobiographer focuses on success while the memoirist tries to decipher how or why life events often go wrong. Memoir, therefore, is not a simple narcissistic examination of self—as some critics claim.
By employing many of the same techniques as fiction, poetry, and belle lettres, memoir achieves universality. Whereas autobiography tells the story of 'what happened' based on historical facts, memoir examines why it happened, what the story means. To write a memoir, she writes in a letter quoted in Brevity's In Defense of Memoir , "is not a simple act of regurgitation or spitting out facts to an 'interesting story' along the lines of 'first this happened to me, then this happened, then this next thing happened. What I think really has given torque to the genre, has made universities suddenly make room for this genre has to do with You have to talk about it.
You have to somehow reflect upon it. And in the intersection of these two things is the excitement we feel about this genre. Click here for an extract. Types of autobiographic writing Center for Autobiographic Studies. Broadly, "A Full Autobiography covers an entire life from birth to the present. Guided Autobiography aptly nicknamed GAB is the late James Birrens' brainchild: structured memoir writing, two pages at a time, shared in a small group. In my experience the chief value of the groups is that members have a weekly deadline, an interested audience, helpful writing prompts, and a good leader -- a combination that keeps them writing which, when not meeting with a group or mentor, they are less motivated to keep doing.
Sharing the stories aloud is an essential part of the value of these groups. Listening to each other's stories also helps them hear and strengthen their "voice" or lack thereof -- by hearing the difference between stories with a strong or clear voice and those without -- and develop a sense of what a good story is. But at the same time, they are sharing their lives -- in the process, very often forming friendships. I often think this would be a better way for friends to get to know each other quickly, but in a way it is at first easier for some participants to share their stories with friendly strangers; there is less self-censorship and anxiety.
Great in the sense of literary writing is not what is aimed for. It's more about looking at themes in one's life, and allowing them to elicit stories. Wendy Bancroft teaches an online GAB course. The focus is totally on the story itself, to begin with. Feedback is never about the writing, incorrect grammar, sentence structure, syntax, or how the story is framed; it's about your experience.
The handouts "sensitizing questions" are very popular with my writing students. Garland, New York Times, The Craft of Life Story Writing Much of what you will find useful here is about structuring and storyline. Where do you say words such as "I hated," "I felt so depressed," "I couldn't stand"? The "I" here will become intrusive, a monologue of old grievances. Channel your creative energy, instead, into constructing the scenes, images, and metaphors that will allow readers to have their own reactions.
The effect is both profound and incremental, of stories that stand alone and work together to unveil a life. And unveiling is very much the point: Chee, a gay, half-white, half-Korean author and teacher, has been wrestling with these disparate identities for most of his life. Richard Gilbert on Lessons learned teaching creative nonfiction to non-majors. Here's a writing exercise. Not telling everything makes the reader curious Tell the reader only what they need to know to inform that particular scene You add in backstory by dribbles.
Matilda Butler's final blog on memoir beginnings that will grab the reader. Includes segments from interviews with various memoir writers. Victoria Costello's essay on storytelling approaches to illness narratives Nieman StoryBoard Costello the author of A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness writes about illness narrative as an interactive experience, and about three common plotlines: the restitution narrative, the chaos narrative, and the quest narrative.
Stewart on how death scenes in his biographies helped shed light on his subjects. Her grandson unearthed medical evidence in her letters that helped determine the likely cause of her demise. The basics of preserving our family memories, stories, and mementos. Adam Eshleman, PennState News, Will today's digital documents be readable in the future?
Find useful info on how to make a digital file of an old photograph here: Scanning Basics Wayne Fulton's useful site , which includes such pages as Scanning and Printing Resolution Calculator. Scanning old photos properly is essential in a life story that includes photos don't you love it when there are lots of photos? Fees for licensing rights to use photos from professional sources can add up, and publishers typically expect authors to cover those costs so try to negotiate a budget for them in your contract. You may see that your best ending is somewhere in there, that you were finished before you thought you were.
Michael Lenehan's fascinating conversation with Studs Terkel on when and how much it is okay to cut and paste rearrange material from an interview to make it seem as if that's the way the interview subject said it. An editor would have eliminated bragging, and suggested ways to convey moments of success or triumph without sounding arrogant. But screw conflict. Just work on creating suspense Suspense exists the minute your narrator wants something Noting the first time your subject did various things is one way to organize a life. Fred and I are related by marriage.
Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics, on how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive things differently. Howieson, Cerebrum, The Dana Foundation, How mental health functions react to the normal aging process, including why an aging brain may even form the basis for wisdom. Win some, lose some. West Moss, Timber: A Journal of New Writing, "This allowance of the good and bad of the man allowed the saint to mitigate the sinner, and vice versa.
By a few years after his death, Dad had become just a guy, albeit one who had influenced me more than just about anyone else. I have digested his creativity, as well as his team of warring horses Mighty Hubris and Mammoth Insecurity. He was just a guy, after all, but he was my dad, too, and so his story is my story, or it is the point from which all of my stories commence. But now I am like a reporter with an empty notebook Autobiography is a misnamed genre; memory speaks only some of its lines. Like biography, it enlists letters and the testimony of contemporaries in its novelistic enterprise.
Humans, as intentional, are narrative by nature. We become the stories we tell ourselves then believe as the truth. Such stories create a world that is defended because it upholds our identity. Narrative therapy externalizes these stories so that self-healing resources inherent in the soul can speak to us of its neglected longings and make us whole. Without it, we'd be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are, how we learn and how we navigate the world.
But how does it actually work? This one-hour documentary, a production of WGBH Boston, examines how memories are formed, what encompasses the act of remembering and the new technologies being used to implant, edit and even erase memories -- a process that could DELETE our worst fears and, one day, may help us to re-write our past with the flip of a switch. A process called reconsolidation helps 30 patients lose their spiderphobia testing with a tarantula and even enjoying it -- using a medication to destabilize the memory, block its reconsolidation, and create a new feeling about the tarantula.
Covers misremembering; being confidently wrong; having false memories implanted by family members, police interview tactics, or in therapeutic settings; "memory hacking" generating false memories intentionally.
Her book covers "how social media influences your memory, why secret agents need memory training, and what you can to do avoid memory errors. It is commonly believed that storing a memory is like making a video, but long-term memories are never literal replays. Your choice of people to tell about past memories helps determine whether you remember them accurately—or at all. Sharing stories with listeners who pay attention and are emotionally responsive aids in recall of facts and helps storytellers find meaning in past experiences, according to research And do read the comments!
Maybe also read Kate Erbland's Playlist review of the movie. Instead they exist as fragments of information, stored in different parts of our mind. Over time, as the memories are retrieved, or we see news footage about the event or have conversations with others, the story can change as the mind recombines these bits of information and mistakenly stores them as memories.
This process essentially creates a new version of the event that, to the storyteller, feels like the truth. Memory Championship. With the help of experts, Foer learned how to transform the kinds of memories he forgot into the kind his brain remembered naturally. Madelon Sprengnether, Shapeshifting, Daily Beast, New research shows that memory may be the most unreliable narrator of all.
But what seems like bad news for memoirists may turn out to be their new best friend. I credit the process of memory retrieval—which keeps subtly altering and updating the past in the light of the present—with this surprising and unanticipated result. Oliver Sachs's fascinating long essay in the New York Review of Books on the nature of memory--how we remember, misremember, and construct memories -- and borrow from what we read. Elsewhere, he wrote "We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative — whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives.
It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a 'narrative,' and that this narrative is us, our identities. If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story — his real, inmost story? Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.
Baycrest Health Sciences, Why is it that some people have richly detailed recollection of past experiences episodic memory , while others tend to remember just the facts without details semantic memory? New research shows that the tendency to remember episodic details versus facts is reflected in intrinsic brain patterns.
Those who endorsed richly-detailed autobiographical memories had higher medial temporal lobe connectivity to regions at the back of the brain involved in visual processes, whereas those tending to recall the past in a factual manner minus the rich details showed higher medial temporal lobe connectivity to areas at the front of the brain involved in organization and reasoning. These life-long 'memory traits' are the reason some people have richly detailed recollections episodic memory while others can recall facts but little detail semantic memory.
They see the events of their lives as connected by the central participation of a single, continuing character Some are constantly telling their daily experiences to others in a storying way and with great gusto. They are drifting ever further off the truth. Or are they different chapters? Whenever his grandmother told the story about the man with four dogs, the story changed, depending on the audience. And whenever Delgado gets writer's block, he thinks about that audience, because " it helps to remember that a story exists to connect one person to another, for however briefly.
An interesting series, worth reading. And while those memoirs might undermine the ones we've written, they also might just improve on them. They are the product of what happened originally and everything that has happened since. The accuracy of our memories is not measured in how vivid they are or in how certain you are that they are correct. Memory is constructed and reconstructed. If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory.
There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out. We remember a vivid person, a remark, a sight that was unexpected, an occasion on which we felt something profoundly. The rest falls away.
We become more exalted in our memories than we actually were, or less so. The interior stories we tell about ourselves rarely agree with the truth. People do it all the time: they destroy papers; they leave instructions in their wills for letters to be burned. In the novel So Long, See You Tomorrow , William Maxwell writes, 'Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end.
In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw. Caro on the means and ends of power. The trouble lies with biography itself. It imposes conditions, and those conditions are that it must be based upon fact. I disagree. Facts are simply the medium, as paint is to the painter. Of course, most painters succeed as artisans, not artists, and so do most biographers. To rise above craftsmanship, one must work with abundant, varied and complicated facts. Chernow does that, presenting research that bulks Grant to nearly 1, pages of narrative. It allows him to write a rich and sensitive portrait of the inner Grant — from reluctant West Point cadet to civilian failure to triumphant general.
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And ultimately, to pull it off well, and to paint a picture of a living, breathing character, requires some of the skills of a novelist The point of a biography is an obsession with understanding someone else. But I was totally fine with that. He spread the gospel of biography as the founder of the Penguin Lives book series, a joint venture of Penguin and Lipper Books--pairing "well-known writers and biographical subjects, with the books to be pages or so, short for the genre But Mr.
One of the painful realities of writing about a living person: The person you're writing about could decide to compete. The journals, I had convinced myself, were a deliberate if unacknowledged communion between subject and biographer. Letters—at least the kind that writers write—are journals addressed to someone else.
However self-conscious, however contrived in tone, they are addressed to a recipient—an Other. The monologue becomes a dialogue. As the eavesdropper, I was less confident about my rights. An all-too common pitfall is when a biographer relies too heavily on research, oversaturation with quotes, letters, that hijack the biography into becoming a bloodless document. And Part 2 Academics, says T. Stiles, have largely abandoned the profession for fear of being accused of endorsing the parochial great man view of history.
By comparison, a snug cubicle in a history or English department, and a benefits package, begins to look mighty attractive. I've just skimmed the surface of the second piece, here. That few material facts are known about Nat Turner has not stopped writers of various backgrounds from imagining his life. In some cases, this dearth of information has spurred them on. Now, he turns to memoir. Contracted to write it when he was just 25, he used techniques learned from Richard Holmes and Richard Ellmann to produce a biography that read like a novel.
Voice, dramatized dialogue, atmospheric scene setting—these are techniques that can make a biography vivid and memorable. But getting them right depends upon prodigious feats of detail-mongering. Schwartz suffered from bipolar disorder: his life was a tragic story of immense promise unfulfilled. Later, Atlas was diagnosed with the same illness. In this essay as in his book, he apparently takes this on honestly. A good role model for us all.
The challenge was to keep the two worlds in sync. On the glut of overlong biographies. Does any figure—even one as interesting as Orson Welles—really warrant 1, pages of investigation? Donaldson is writing about his own experience writing biographies of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Archibald MacLeish, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Winfield Townley Scott, and Charlie Fenton, but the book is loaded with insights into the process and the sometimes legal complications of writing biography, including legal problems discussed in his interesting case studies.
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This focuses on the good ones. Among other interesting points: "Where letters have been a vital source for literary biographers, with all their ostentatious revelation and pronouncement, the smaller, casual intimacies of emails, which are increasingly being donated to public archives — Harold Pinter's and Wendy Cope's to the British Library — will offer insights that might, accidentally, be even more enlightening than a stash of letters can be. How do you pin a life to the page? Wilson, biographer of Tolstoy, C. A mystery exists at the heart of all literary biography: How does the mush of experience get turned into glittering artifact?
America , by looking at maps, by studying visual images, and other sources beyond traditional archives. Explore this website and you'll find audio recordings of many interesting academic talks and some transcripts. But thanks to a number of striking innovations, the patient has made a complete recovery. Alison Flood, The Guardian, When you can get so much from Wikipedia, is the market for biography declining? Kathryn Holeywell, organizer of a British conference of writers and academics on how biography should evolve in the age of the internet and Wikipedia, "believes there has been a shift in biography away from traditional 'life' narratives to what she is calling 'partial lives,' stories that look at a group, a particular event or an age.
In recent years, the UK's major non-fiction prize, the Samuel Johnson award, has gone to a range of innovative, sideways takes on biography rather than cradle-to-grave narratives. In Nocera's view, Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, written about a difficult man who was dying in his presence, lacks the distance that would have given him a chance not just to recount the life but to evaluate it. Given the perspective of more time, someone else or Isaacson later can try to "make sense of it.
Rockefeller to George Washington, and how their public reputations often concealed a far more interesting private person An artificial logic imposed on an 'incoherent succession of images'? What manifests as suspense on the page feels disconcertingly like anxiety in real life. Joseph Thomas, Slate, His censorious estate. And yet my latest subject, Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, has taught me to respect her freedom too Kate Buford's interview with him, yields gold: " A first-rate popular biography leaves readers feeling they know everything they need to know.
A first-rate academic biography leaves readers feeling they know everything there is to know. Excellent insight into the life of Penelope Fitzgerald and the writing of her biography. Read this especially if you feel you've had a run of bad luck. Jamie's practical observations about writing biography, such as what's hot, how to make money, what he thinks about academic publishers and self-publishing, etc. Although many writers leave instructions regarding posthumous publication and designate official biographers, conflicting interests between heirs and the public often overturn the expressed wishes of the deceased, writes Hamilton.
God, what goes on there under his eyes? When writer AD Harvey invented an meeting between Dickens and Dostoevsky, it was for years accepted as fact. So why did he do it — and why did he also create a series of fake academic identities? Fascinating profile of a man whose speed at finishing his dissertation and publishing a book made him suspect in academia. Rockefeller recommends that students of biography read Churchill's book about Monroe. She shows persuasively, and with flair, that not every biography of Monroe can be true in all the details, because they contradict each other profoundly.
Her book will burn into students' minds the lesson that biographical truth should never be taken for granted. Greene James Nye, Daily Mail, , illustrated with photos. Fashion and celebrity photographer Milton H. Greene was only 26 years old when he photographed Marilyn Monroe for Look magazine. He went on to take thousands of photos of the Hollywood siren, capturing both her vulnerability and her sex-bomb persona. Carl Rollyson wrote: "a fascinating study of biography as a genre and why it has incurred so much hostility.
Parker's process arrives to the truth of the matter in a field littered with the rambling surmises of New Critics hoping to eradicate authorial insight in favor of critical skewerings. Parker not only stands for the tried and true ways of literary tradition, but also embraces the potential of the Internet and blogging to enable the potential of new information as well as finding new ways to reach an audience that continues to expand generation after generation. Excellent New Yorker essay, The Historical Romance: Edmund Wilson's Adventures with Communism , in which Menand writes: "Intuitive knowledge—the sense of what life was like when we were not there to experience it—is precisely the knowledge we seek.
It is the true positive of historical work. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative, Biography, it seems, carried about as much weight in the scholarly world as did a People magazine article. She learned a lot about her grandmother through her biographer's research. She would never have learned it herself, she says; you don't think about investigating your grandmother. Ian Ker Oxford University Press blog, on writing academic critical biographies -- which capture the subject's intellectual and literary lives: G.
Dwight Garner, reviewing T. Stiles accusing Edward J. Renehan Jr. Ross wrote this now-classic fly-on-the-wall "profile" after following Hemingway for two days while he and his wife Mary were stopping over in New York enroute to Venice. It was a model others, including Gay Talese, would follow. Johnson's life.
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Interesting on the process of writing a biography. Johnson, she stayed at his Texas ranch Jobs was dying of cancer Contemporary biography has always been a tricky balancing act, even before Paula Broadwell demonstrated with her book about David H. Petraeus how the scales can tip decisively the wrong way. Look at the slideshow of Caro's painstaking process , especially slides 7 through Lyndall Gordon anticipates a new 'golden age' of biography: "If biography is ever to shape an art of its own, it will have to surrender the swollen tome of "definitive biography" We need to co-opt the narrative momentum of stories, the inward intensity of poetry, and the speed of drama, without surrendering the authenticity that is biography's distinct advantage.
What happens when a biographer learns about potentially explosive information after the book is finished. Unidentified key players are the bane of biographers, who cannot resist the urge to tie all the knots. After publication, Sachs receives information about one such player from a reader fluent in genealogical research--and also learns he should have gone down one peripheral path of research he had chosen not to pursue.
By redacting all documents, no matter how benign, the government is throwing its past down the memory hole. Supreme Court, What he did about a controversial quotation that left an unwarranted blot on the life and legacy of Justice Clark. In earlier days, biographies were created a variety of forms and with different purposes from today: to edify and instruct, to counsel and polemicize.
With a memoir, they can talk about what they related to in the story. And when done right with truth it satisfies our craving for authenticity. The same series of events — becoming a parent, getting a divorce, losing a loved one, finding a job — can be a tale of resilience and restoration or misfortune and regret. But there are a hell of a lot of facts, and the more time I spent in the Johnson library, the more facts I got. The more facts you get, the closer you come to whatever truth there is. Why do we start with these 'big rocks?
Most people won't have the interest or patience to read about them them. And other things to avoid. In this world, and in our country—where so many of us feel a lack of connection, where the challenges seem so large—writers who dare to tell the brutal, honest truth about their humanity offer us a gift Memoirs can do that: remind us that we are all flawed and complicated, all doing the best we can, none of us free from suffering They remind us that we are more alike than different. They make us feel less alone. This begins to sketch the spine of your plot and the arc of your story. What varies is which questions are raised and answered and to what extent.
Answer too many questions, and you burden readers with irrelevant information and risk undermining suspense; answer too few, and you create false suspense; confusion. If the searing emotionalism found in the work of most repeat memoirists Angelou, Augusten Burroughs, Mary Karr, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Maynard, Frank McCourt, Lauren Slater would seem to have been generated by forces other than those fueling writers who, at the end of, or well into, their careers, tack on a few autobiographical works to their oeuvres Diana Athill, Gore Vidal , one quality unites all these writers.
Their lingua franca is candor. Save money on therapy. Write your life story. Styron is author of the memoir Reading My Father , and Kathryn Harrison, author of the memoir The Kiss , about dealing with memoir characters who really exist and other challenges. Are family loyalty and literary integrity necessarily at odds? The story can become less authentic.
And there are other potential pitfalls to writing your life story. Writers can be thrown into despair if they have trouble reconciling past failures or placing traumatic events into a larger context. People who can construct cohesive life narratives—where there are common threads and one event leads to the next—are likely to benefit from writing a memoir, he says, while those who view their lives as a series of random, unrelated events are not.
His research has found that life narratives are especially beneficial if they focus on redemption and overcoming adversity. But secrets foster a specific version of reality in which the individual pieces have to be arranged in a particular way, fitting so neatly together that if just one were to change position, the whole picture would fall apart. Suddenly you are not who you thought you were. And then who are you? They speak of a fear of rejection, a fear of criticism, a fear of backlash, a fear of failure. What I always say to these women is, 'If you can't do it for yourself, please do it for your sisters.
Please write your story in the world, for the benefit of other women. Lakin, on Jane Friedman's blog, Choose the type of voice that best suits the story you are telling. Avoid sounding whiny or looking for sympathy it's annoying. And "I have grown to understand that people have their own ideas of who and what I ought to be, wounded victim or heroic survivor. They may enjoy the attention or be enraged by it.
Stalled, with three unsatisfactory manuscripts in a drawer and an MFA in creative writing, Herron discovered through NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month that her best process was to write a "fast terrible [but revisable] draft," a process that she found worked for both memoirs and novels. Who cares? What's the conflict to be resolved?
Are you believable? What's your platform how people know you and why they will listen to you? Jack Smith, The Writer, A long miscellany of observations about what makes some memoirs rise above the crowd, and some things seem to stand out: Voice is important, the quota for memoirs of abusive relationships has been filled, and you want to do more than tell the cumulative little stories of your life -- you want to tell your story in such a way that it resonates for the reader, who wants to keep reading.
It has to be about more than you. People have come to Finnegan to say that, really, Barbarian Days is not about surfing but about love or obsession or how to live. I later learned that memoirs in general sell better than investigative journalism. How many secrets can be exposed? What if the truth is not as you remember it? They're all valid questions without easy answers, because it all depends on who you ask—and Maran Why We Write asked some heavy hitters.
But to me, all these things are artificial. Life is lived in a much messier way. Our experience of life is messier than an arc with a before and after. How do they handle telling stories that might not be entirely theirs? Reedsy is a site where self-publishing authors can find developmental editors, other kinds of editors, ghostwriters, book cover designers, publicists, and translators. By "nobodies" Adams means those who are neither generals, statesmen, nor celebrities.
Frank McCourt and Mary Karr were the breakout nobodies who spawned many imitators. Adams sees 's memoirs as falling into three groups: the childhood memoir "incestuous, abusive, alcoholic, impoverished, minority, "normal," and the occasional privileged" ; the memoir of physical catastrophe "violence, quadriplegia, amputation, disease, death" ; and memoirs of mental catastrophe "madness, addiction, alcoholism, anorexia, brain damage".
It is an exploration into a family's past, a relentless hunt that unearths buried secrets with multiple layers and the uncertain motives of their keepers, and one son's attempt to fully understand the details and meaning of what has been hidden. From mental institutions to the Holocaust, from mothers and fathers to children and childhood, with its mysteries, sadness and joy--this book is one emotional ride. They can serve as springboards for those seeking higher office - and bridge-burners for those riding off into the sunset. Kojo explores the art of the political memoir - and what makes the great ones memorable and the poor ones forgettable.
End-of-career books tend to be the best because they're not campaign documents. Even if we "let it go and die with our ungrammatical pants down, the pertinent thing to remember is that in writing for our family our goal is not excellence so much as authenticity. What's she really like With each biography the challenge has been to answer the question John F. Kennedy posed when he said, "What makes journalism so fascinating and biography so interesting is the struggle to answer the question: 'What's he like?
Without having to follow the dictates of the subject, the unauthorized biographer has a much better chance to penetrate the manufactured public image, which is crucial. For, to quote President Kennedy again, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Concludes with her book list of fictional memoirs, some of which are memoirs that are not quite nonfiction, others of which are stories of other people posing as memoirs.
Just listening to these interviews may be a memoir-writing course in itself. Check out Kephart's book Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir "I think we have to stop imprisoning memoirs in marketing categories. Wince-inducing but maybe it's easier if you've incorporated parts of them into your memoirs.
Liu, Wired, Sophie Roell, The Browser, via Salon. Legendary critic and memoirist Calvin Trillin discusses his favorite books of the genre. What may be different about a lot of the recent memoirs is the writers are not necessarily well known. Christina Haag, WSJ I once heard writing fiction described as planting a garden in the desert, and memoir as weeding in the jungle.
What I experienced was more akin to chiseling, as if all that had happened was stone, and I had only faith and a small bit of metal to find the shape, to tap out the places where meaning might lie. Invariably, to jot things down, I learned to carry a pen and index card with me wherever I went—even on beach walks clad only in a bikini. Times, , on people from our past banging on our cyberdoors, looking to set us straight on our memories.
We take half-remembered events and stitch them together to form a larger story that will, we hope, resonate with others and help them make sense of their own scraps. A first thing to ask yourself about personal narrative is: What portion of my experience will resonate with other people? The Fry Chronicles. Stephen Fry twitter address: StephenFry , as Fast Company puts it, transforms how we read by producing the first book truly designed for the Internet his memoirs. Sanford Dody's own memoir of ghostwriting: Giving Up the Ghost James Birrens' brainchild. Structured memoir writing, two pages at a time, on a different theme each week, including branching points in life, family, health and body, sexuality, spirituality, work, death--and sharing those pieces aloud in small groups.
I got instructor training through Cheryl Svensson when she and Anita Reyes taught together. There are many local workshops and some online: I love teaching it and participants seem to love it too. It tends to draw an older group, or younger adults at a stage of life crisis or soul-searching. Now it's of Everyman. Tristram Hunt, The Observer, Excellent essay. Writing not only plays fast and loose with the past; it hijacks the past. Which may be why we put the past to paper.
We want it hijacked What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction. The more you can yank yourself away from your own intimacy with yourself, the more reliable your self-awareness is likely to be We should see ourselves as literary critics, putting each incident in the perspective of a longer life story.
The narrative form is a more supple way of understanding human processes, even unconscious ones, than rationalistic analysis. See her website: Center for Journal Therapy. What's Yours? It's an act of memory. Pick at your memories. An interesting read. Proceeds from the sale of an anthology I Speak From My Palms: The In Visible Memoirs Project Anthology help support the In Visible Memoirs Project, a project of no-cost, community-based writing workshops in communities underrepresented in literary publishing and programs.
How can we achieve both uniqueness and universality? Another challenge: dealing with characters who really exist. How can we maintain our real-life relationships without compromising the stories we need to tell? Memoirists Sarah Saffian, Alexandra Styron, and Kathryn Harrison discuss these issues, in pursuit of a form of expression that we can support as both authors and daughters.
What was missing and forgotten was less often crucial or even trivial details of events than the events themselves, gone in their entirety. They alert us, calm us, reach toward us. They say implicitly, Yes, I have hoped, and yes, I have wanted, and I know that you have, too. Can a memoirist write with total honesty if she is worried about what her son might think? Christina Patterson, The Independent, Sharon Olds' account of her marital break-up made her a deserved TS Eliot winner. But that doesn't mean confessional poetry is easy to pull off. Confessional poetry, says critic Mack Rosenthal, is poetry that "goes beyond customary bounds of reticence or personal embarrassment.
Or how not to write a grief memoir, in her view. Should Joyce Carol Oates have revealed her second marriage? Tempest in a teapot? David L. Ulin, Jacket Copy blog, L. Two of the writers withheld important facts and wound up producing inferior books; the writer who held nothing back produced a masterpiece. Joan Didion "understands that if you want to write about yourself, you have to give them something. Actually, Didion understands a far larger and deeper and darker truth. She understands that if you want to write about your grief, you have to give them everything. My favorite: Ernest Hemingway's "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Elsewhere, he writes "One of the saddest sentences I know is I wish I had asked my mother about that.
I wish I had asked my father about that. Writers are the custodians of memory so it's extremely important to get to people, interview your parents, your grandparents. Don't worry what anybody else thinks. The important thing is to be a recorder of the past. But it's very important work, I think, writing family history, whether anyone ever sees it or not. Stiles, Yahoo! Scott Raab's article for Esquire, based on an interview with the novelist in the town that provided the setting for so much of his fiction, is a Notable Narrative, as featured on Nieman Storyboard: Esquire goes home with Philip Roth Plot Twist : Philip Carlo, true crime writer with Lou Gehrig's disease, is working on his memoir.
His deadline: his own death. And therein, to me, lies the privilege and also the challenge of teaching how to write memoir. Anybody and everybody are writing memoirs these days. Before you join the crowd, suggests Genzlinger, in reviewing four memoirs. Don't write for sympathy.
Don't be a copy cat. And consider making yourself the "least important character" in the story. It makes its interest in readers explicit, offering not just a series of life events, but a deliberate suggestion of what it is to be a human being — to experience confusion, despair, hope, joy, and all that happens in between. Secrets of Memoir panel. Six-word memoirs hosted by Smith, a personal stories magazine.
One life. Six words. What's yours? Six word memoirs on love and heartbreak. Everyone has a story to tell. The Slate Diaries. A collection of some of the "diaries" published by Slate the online literary magazines. Speak Memory. Oliver Sachs's fascinating long essay in the New York Review of Books on the nature of memory-- how we remember, misremember, and construct memories -- and borrow from what we read! She learned that obsessive precision is not the greatest quality in a would-be memoirist. When Sting did this, his creativity was reborn.
Songs exploded from his head. More should do so because artists write about what matters to artists, so it is helpful to new artists. A Story Circle is a group of women who come together on a regular basis to write, read, share, and celebrate the stories of their lives. Clearly the method can be adapted to other types of groups. I was ecstatic when I sold a book about my sordid first marriage. I would only be pretending to be at peace with my past and ready to share its lessons with the world.
I thought becoming a writer was a Cinderella, all-or-nothing type deal. But it turns out to be more of a Velveteen Rabbit situation. The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead , David Shields' excellent autobiography of his body, is a fascinating little book about life and death and about what's happening to your body enroute from one to the other. Don't read it if you don't want to hear the bad news, but it does help explain things like why you have to make more trips to the bathroom as you age.
Rules for the much-maligned form. In brief but read the article! Part 1 by Matilda Butler, Women's Memoirs blog, about truth being affected by relative age and wisdom ; Part 2 about differences in vantage points and information ; and Part 3 about the difference between two people's emotional truths. Writers wrote them, of course, but rarely did they become known for the memoir alone JR Ackerley and Laurie Lee may be two exceptions. Publishers and readers thought instead of "autobiographies", in which intimate personal disclosure took a back seat to records of achievement.
The boundary between the two forms is blurred and bridgeable: VS Pritchett's wonderful account of his early life, A Cab at the Door, was described as "autobiography" when it first appeared in , whereas now it would have "memoir" written all over it. Gore Vidal explained the difference in this way: "A memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.
More important, by stressing subjective, unverified memory it permits the memoirist to misremember and, unconsciously or otherwise, to embroider and invent — an indulgence, it has to be said, that Athill has never been interested to take. It was liberating to write so truthfully. It was also effective. My teacher finally smiled at me, and he said my words held wisdom.
Traversing the Mystery of Memory by Richard A. Friedman NY Times, About the accuracy of nostalgia and how the brain records memories. Friedman concludes: "if anything marks us as human, it's more our bent for making sense of things than for discovering the essential truth about them. For example: "The single biggest change in recent years has been the dramatic drop in advances for most biographies. While this may seem shortsighted in the long run, it makes financial sense when considering the declining state of books.
Biographies, like most forms of nonfiction, have a hard time earning back the kind of money necessary to research and write them. The story part book, part film, part family photo album of Pine Point, a mining town that existed only long enough to give a generation or two some memories--and was then erased from the map. Scroll to bottom and click on Visit Website. He's writing about fiction but offers helpful insights how memory is affected by details from reality.
Critics take grim satisfaction in tearing the genre to pieces. How quickly they forget Nabokov and Karr and Wolff.