YOUR MEMOIR IS A SELFIE IN WORDS-MEMOIRABILIA PODCAST #23
YOUR MEMOIR IS A SELFIE IN WORDS
by Viga Boland, author “Don’t Write Your MEmoir without ME!”
MEMOIRABILIA PODCAST #23 (based on excerpts from “Don’t Write Your MEmoir without ME”)
You’ve retired. Now, at last, you have the time to write that book you’ve been wanting to write all your life. Your friends and family are always telling you to write a book: you have so many great stories to share. You’re a natural raconteur. Perhaps they are right. This is your chance. Yes, you’ll write a memoir.
But do you really know what a memoir is? Here’s what it isn’t: it’s not a collection of your favorite memories. Nor is it a biography or autobiography. Both of those genres cover a lifetime, zero to wherever you are now. True memoir, on the other hand, covers a specific period of time: 5, 10 or 20 years in your life. It’s also not a collection of stories or memories. Rather, it presents a single situation, where a person faces a series of crises. These ultimately lead to an epiphany and result in a life-changing decision. In fact, if it’s written well, memoir reads like fiction, with one big difference: the events really happened to real people.
According to Jerry Waxler, author of “The Memoir Revolution”, the best memoirs are those that give us ”… a window into human nature through the lens of story.”
Stories that enlighten us about how we think, or why we do what we do, make for interesting reading. Memoirs that explore psychological development, coming of age, family relationships and values, along with all the grief and hardship of just trying to survive, make for compelling reading. When readers feel, identify with the narrator’s pain and desperation to find a solution to a problem, they pull for the narrator as they read. They keep turning pages hoping for a happy ending. And few things satisfy more than closing the book, knowing that in the end, the narrator came out on top.
Writing memoirs like that IS possible, but you must put the ME into your MEmoir. What does that mean? Well, just look at the word “Memoir”. The first two letters are ME. If there’s no ME in the memoir, no down to earth, regular, ordinary human being who is vulnerable, has weaknesses, thinks things that makes some blush, wants to do things they’ve been taught not to, doesn’t say the wrong thing at the wrong time, then there’s no “ME” in your memoir. This is not the same as crying, carrying on and railing at everyone who’s done you wrong. Your readers won’t have patience with that. It’s about helping readers see themselves and their own frailities and strengths through you.
Readers want to read about the real you, warts and all. They want to sense that you’re vulnerable; you hurt; you make mistakes but you pick yourself up and try again, just like they do. Think about it this way: “Your memoir is a “selfie in words”. Write that “selfie” and your memoir will speak to a much larger audience than your immediate and encouraging family and friends. If you have a memoir like that to share, one of yourself overcoming adversity, and can write it without holding readers at arm’s length, then that’s the memoir you should write.
But, you might say, “I’m not famous. I’m not a celebrity. Who will want to read my memoir?”
Some of the best and most important memoirs are written by people just like you. Why? Well although the World Wide Web can inform us on everything currently known from a clinical and scientific point of view about medical concerns like say, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, dementia, it can’t tell us what a memoir writer can: how it “feels” to have those diseases or care for someone who does. The WWW can give us all the statistics on child sexual abuse or sex trafficking. But it can’t tell you how it feels to have been abused or trafficked. The web provides a wealth of information on transgenderism, but how does it feel to change from a man into a woman, or vice versa, and deal with the criticism and judgements that will naturally follow such a transition? And while we can learn a great deal about the difficulties of living in other countries and cultures through the net, nothing compares to hearing about what it’s like to live in a country from someone who has breathed its air and eaten its food, whose lived with, loved and hated its inhabitants.
There are so many incredibly sensitive, often hidden or denied subjects about which it takes great courage to write. There’s tons of information on the Internet about all of them. But all that information will not move us, or mean as much to us as a first hand account by someone who’s lived through these true life situations and isn’t afraid to put the “me” into their memoir.
Provide readers who want help beyond the facts and figures with a story that shows them they are not alone, and you will write a memoir that matters. What an important and worthwhile service memoirists can provide!
Need some help getting started on your Memoir? Not sure how to write it and need motivation to keep going? Viga Boland’s book, “Don’t Write Your MEmoir without ME” is written to motivate you into starting and finishing that memoir you know you want to share. But don’t take her word for it. Read what Denis Ledoux of The Memoir Network says about this book:
“Viga Boland has written an eminently readable book that will appeal both to the new writer who is a loss as to how to undertake writing a memoir and to the more practiced writer who is looking for a refresher course. As a memoir teacher and writer myself (I am quoted in this book), I enjoyed the new angle Viga offered as she voiced her expert advice. This book addresses issues that arise for every writer and answers them in a way I can’t imagine a writer will not be able to implement immediately to the story’s great benefit. I felt her examples of good memoir writing was especially useful to the writer who wants to read an application of theory. The tone of this book is conversational and it feels like “a workshop in a book.”
The dominant theme in Don’t Write Your MEmoir Without ME! is the personal must be included. A memoir needs to show the writer’s vulnerability by exposing the inner life. Too many memoirs are about externals. Viga would have us write about the personal—not in a hurtful way but in an intimate way nonetheless.
If you want to write a better memoir, get this book!’
©Denis LeDoux, The Memoir Network