Table of Contents:
The author's personal connection to the genre of literary memoir.
What it takes to write honestly about our lives.
A note about
the use of female and male pronouns.
1: What is Memoir?
The difference between "memoirs" by famous people and the
contemporary literary memoir.
What makes memoir distinct from other
genres including autobiography, fiction and essay?
Your "contract" with
the reader to be honest.
Let yourself be opinionated.
2: Who Cares? And Other Thoughts on Getting Started
Believing in the importance of your own story.
Taking the time
to learn your craft: apprenticeship.
What to write about.
memoirs by other writers.
Chapter 3: Finding
Organizing by theme or narrative.
To tell it chronologically
or make a collage.
Adapting the form; using photographs or letters;
being willing to leave things out; digging deep to find the true
heart of your story.
The difficulty of ending a memoir.
4: The Truth: What, Why, and How?
When to rely on memory and when to do research.
How memory "revises" a
story over time.
Demands for loyalty and the risks of telling the
truth; reasons to pursue truth, even when it is painful.
avoiding seeking the reader's sympathy.
5: Scene, Summary, and Musing
Narrative techniques for storytelling.
The long view and the
Developing scenes and dialogue.
The essential presence
of retrospection or "musing."
Chapter 6: Moving Around
Write from a "now."
How not to lose your reader
when you flash back or forward.
Verb tenses, signposts, and the
difficulties of narrating in present tense.
Diagramming a clear
Chapter 7: Using Your Senses
Show, don't tell.
Concrete details, imagery, using all your senses.
Describing people using descriptive verbs instead of adjectives.
Sensory details as a key to memories.
8: Naming Names
The power of real place names to give authority to your voice.
Recognizing and using the music of names.
9: Writing about Living People
The writer's responsibility to those we write about.
what may harm someone if you publish a name.
Naming those who
have wronged us; to show your subject a draft or simply publish?
10: Your Memoir and the World
Grounding your story in a period, in history, and in cultural
references for authenticity.
Balance between internal and external
11: Watch Out for the Myths
Myths about writers that impair our being in touch with ourselves,
our feelings, and our stories: the drunk the suicidal writer,
and the neurotic writer fearful of rejection letters.
new images of a healthy writer.
Getting Feedback on Your Work
Writing groups and the specific challenges of critiquing memoir.
A set of guidelines to follow in a group.
Your Memoir and the Law
When to worry about being sued (hardly ever).
When to get written
consent to write about someone.
A summary of some legal points
relating to publishing.
Each chapter includes
extensive writing exercises.
Back to Writing the Memoir