IF YOU WANT TO WRITE MEMOIR, READ MEMOIR!

Viga Boland

Viga Boland is the author of 4 memoirs. She mentors memoir and creative writing groups for the Hamilton, Ontario Public Library. She is also a paid speaker at conferences on child sexual abuse. Viga blogs and podcasts from her site at MEMOIRABILIA, from her personal author's website, VIGA BOLAND, and on her latest site for writers of all genres, VIANVI.

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6 Responses

  1. gulara says:

    What a thoughtful piece, Viga. I agree with every word. And really excited about the anthology. I’m in 🙂

    • Viga Boland says:

      Thanks Gulara. I felt compelled to write it after pouring over so many submissions. Being an editor is not easy. I want to include everyone’s pieces. I know how it feels to have your “baby” rejected. But quality is important. And I’m glad you’re excited about the idea of an anthology. Me too.

  2. Thank you for the shout out, Viga! So nice of you to reference my first memoir. But more importantly, you are SOOOO right about writing and reading. There are numerous styles of memoir out there — not only in the writing, but also in the approach. Abigail Thomas comes to mind. Check out Dinty W. Moore’s THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST. Memoir does not have to be a “life story” — it just has to be about a relevant and relatable aspect of the shared human condition. Write on! And READ ON!

    • Viga Boland says:

      You’re most welcome David. And while I may not agree 100% that memoir doesn’t have to be a life story, I do agree it must be about a relevant and relatable aspect of the shared human condition. I just personally prefer to be “entertained” as it were by a story, and love memoirs that read as though they were fiction with all the elements that makes fiction such a popular genre. I believe, with closer attention to HOW we write memoir, it can be every bit as engrossing as fiction, but quite honestly, much more significant because it’s real.

      • I just mean they don’t have to be about an ENTIRE life – birth to death. They can be about one experience, one theme, one moment of epiphany, one adventure, one harrowing year. And yes, the craft of fiction in memoir is essential. In personal memoir — YOU are the main character!

        • Viga Boland says:

          Ah, thanks for the clarification on your earlier comment. Now I know what you mean. What you are talking about is autobiography, not memoir. See Memoirabilia #1 for a chart on the difference. Autobiography covers a life; memoir usually deals, as you say, with one experience, one life-changing event. So many folks tackling memoir don’t know that difference, making it very hard to sustain interest in the entire story. And yes, you have it right: “the craft of fiction in memoir is essential”. I think that is what I struggle with most in accepting or rejecting submissions. Too many submissions are reflective narrative and not stories.