Why You Should Write Memoir

Because they’ll get your story wrong.

It doesn’t matter who “they” are. No one can write your story the way you can. When I look at pictures of my grandparents, I realize that I can never fully know them just from my memories. I treasure all the letters, diaries, and other documents they left. Even with them, however, there are going to be gaps in my understanding.

This isn’t to say that your memoir will be entirely accurate. No one is the villain in her own story. Even if you fess up to the errors you made that you know about, the ones you didn’t recognize as errors will go down in someone else’s story. So present your side now. Regardless of the extent of your legacy, don’t you want your contributions remembered?

Luck and wisdom!

Telling Your Story

I toy with writing memoir. I even have titles for the first two volumes (My Life As A Sawhorse and Getting Lost With Lani). Then I sit down to write and realize I have some funny stories to share, but not a memoir. There is a difference between memoir and anecdote. If the end of the scene is a punch line, you’re better off fictionalizing the story. If you have some spare characters floating around, take events from your life and drop these new people into them. Let them change, learn, and grow as they wish to, not as you did. Your story is still yours to tell, but you can always recycle parts of it for another purpose.

Luck and wisdom!

Six Word Memoir

I heard an article about the Six Word Memoir project for the pandemic on my local public radio station. Since I was running errands at the time I didn’t hear all of the article. However, the bit I did catch encouraged me to try my own six word pandemic memoir. Here’s the link to learn more about the concept, and some of my attempts at the exercise.

FEVER

Hot flash, flu shot, or COVID?

 

LUCKY ONE

Home, safe, fed, healthy, relatively sane.

 

WHEN I HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

The projects are still waiting . . . waiting.

 

Care to share your own six word memoir?

Luck and wisdom!

My Story To Tell

If you’ve ever written a memoir, you know that one of the questions you will be asked is “How does your family feel about what you wrote?” I’ve started asking myself that question even about the happy stuff. Sometimes we are privy to good news but can’t say a word until the official announcement. The novelist and blogger in me has a real hard time respecting those confidences when there’s a good story waiting to be told. That’s why I started asking, “Self, is this your story or someone else’s?” If it’s my story, I have the right to tell it when and how I want. If it’s someone else’s story, take the fingers off the keyboard, Buttercup. The person with the most stake in the story gets to determine when, how, or if it will be told. In this time of holiday family newsletters (and everyday social media), take care that you don’t overshare. Your family will thank you.

Luck and wisdom!

Memoir, Turning Points, and Character Development

Linda Joy Myers has a lot of good advice for memoirists. The most useful (in my opinion) is to note the turning points in your timeline. We moved around when I was young, so those were both anchor and turning points in my list. Times when I said yes to a new challenge went in, as well as times when I ran for cover and thanked my lucky stars I got out before the (metaphorical) bullets started flying. Then I put in when I met those special people who befriended me and changed my life. That’s when I realized I was missing something.

My brother, mother, father, Dennis Franklin, and Hal Franklin (taken by me in 1966)

The man on the far right is Hal Franklin, who befriended my father and changed his life by teaching Dad about photography. Dad dabbled with photography, but having a mentor made all the difference in the world. It made all the difference in the world to me as well, since Dad introduced me to the camera. Because Dad and Hal explored creating art with their pictures, I learned – without really noticing it – that everyone can be an artist. Put in enough time to learn technique, train your eye to really see, and you can create beauty.

While I may not write a memoir with this epiphany, I will keep it in mind when I am writing backstories for my characters. Who they are doesn’t depend solely on the turning points in their own lives, but also on the turning points of those who have influenced them. Whether those influencers appear in the book or not isn’t the point. They may deserve a book of their own sometime. Can you say prequel?

Luck and wisdom!

My Life As A Sawhorse

I’ve always said if I ever get around to writing my memoirs the first volume will be called My Life As A Sawhorse, and the second will be Getting Lost With Lani. Rachael Herron spoke at Tri-Valley Writers the other day and gave me the title for a possible third installment in my life story: Packing Up.

Herron said that good memoir doesn’t have to cover one’s entire life. One could relate a series of stories that are thematically linked, or focus on the events of a few years. Getting Lost With Lani is an example of a theme memoir. Sadly, it will be a rather long book.

My Life As A Sawhorse would cover our first years as homeowners. My husband is a talented woodworker, and he decided to make a lot of our furniture. That’s all well and good, except we had moved from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 4-bedroom house, which meant three-quarters of the space was empty. We were also extremely house-poor. We had the money for the supplies for the furniture, but not for workstations or sawhorses. Thus it came to pass that when my husband was cutting large sections, I was on the output side of the saw holding the pieces steady.

The title for a third installment of my life story, Packing Up, comes from one of Herron’s writing exercises. She told us to write down six pivotal moments in our lives, then choose one event and write a couple of sentences about that. I realized the most life-changing moments for me center around the many times I’ve moved. It isn’t just the pulling up stakes that changes a person, it’s the putting those stakes in a box with all the other bits of one’s existence. Packing is an art form as well as a skill. It is fair to say that one of the reasons I am married is because the man who became my husband made an off-hand comment about my packing. He was part of a group of friends helping me get the last load out of one apartment and over to my new one. The last load is always a bit sloppy, and I wasn’t going to let his comment slide. I went on a campaign to make him think better of me. Five months later, he proposed.

So there you have it, notes for a 3-volume story of me which I will write in my copious spare time. What are the titles of your life story?