Childhood Stories . . . Prompt #745

Stories from our childhood can be rich material to write about. Let’s start with going back in time. See yourself at 6 years of age, five years, 4 years. See yourself at the kitchen table where you ate breakfast. Maybe swinging your legs because your feet couldn’t reach the floor. Listen. Hear the adult chatter.  Maybe there was no ‘round the kitchen table time for you. Maybe it was a picnic table, or a dining room table. Perhaps there was no table. Maybe family time was in the family room, or the TV room, the den, or the rumpus room. Possibly there was no family time. Friends might have been significant in your child life. Maybe most of your childhood was spent outside. Take a deep breath in. Let it out. See the room or the place where you spent a lot of time as a child. Write about that…


Lies, humiliation, secrets . . . Prompt #604

Memoir is similar to many elements of fiction: Careful scene setting, pacing, tension, conflict. Seduce the reader with a confiding tone. Reveal secrets. The best secrets are those that the author reveals or learns about self in the process, “Ah, did I really think that?” Readers are interested in your conflicts. It’s important to modulate good times and bad times. “The best memoirs explore and reveal conflict in a way that illuminates and startles.” —Kat Meads Consider the scope of your memoir. It’s not necessary to start from when you were born and work your way up. Don’t try to write about everything. Take one aspect. The year you were in Paris, for example. If you go with a chronological way of telling, share just the important events that shaped you. The idea is to look objectively at your life to write a richer subjective memoir. Part of writing memoir…

Just Write

Memoirs As Textbooks

Use a published memoir as a textbook to write your memoir. Read the memoir. Read it again to examine structure. Notice where author used narration vs. dialogue to tell the story. Notice the balance between fast-paced action scenes and slower, contemplative scenes. Note when and how backstory is used. Let’s use Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt as our textbook. McCourt’s ability to write as if experiencing events as they unfold, pacing, and his strong writing voice made Angela’s Ashes a New York Times beloved best seller. Angela’s Ashes takes the reader on an emotional journey. There is so much vulnerability in this book. McCourt reaches into our compassionate hearts as he tells his story, moving from childhood to adulthood. He weaves details into a story, similar to the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. McCourt taps into universal messages and themes. Understanding your theme will help to write your memoir. Possible…

Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Frances Lefkowitz

Today’s guest blogger, Frances Lefkowitz, writes about the importance of family stories and keeping memories alive. Telling stories ‘round the table, can increase well-being, reduce anxiety and depression, reinforce feelings of closeness among family members, and build resilience for navigating life’s normal ups and downs. Stories about something good coming from something bad are particularly therapeutic. When something bad happens, but you find a way to use it to your advantage, you redeem (and transform) the negative experience. The tales need to be structured, with a beginning, a middle, and — most crucial — an end, a conclusion that makes sense of the situation and gives it meaning. Tips for getting the storytelling started: 1. Share photos: Albums, yearbooks, holiday photos, loose photos in shoeboxes. 2. Start and continue traditions. Rituals contribute to stories. 3. Share stories during mealtimes. Frances Lefkowitz has spent over twenty years writing and publishing. The…

Just Write

Mini memoirs unfold naturally

Remember the joke: “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” Same with writing memoir . . . one incident at a time. “Whether your life story has an over-arching motif or you plan to cobble together a montage of more diverse meditations, the project can seem less overwhelming if you approach it as a series of mini memoirs—two-to three-page essays . . . pivotal points. . . in the broader portrait of your life.” Richard Campbell, January 2017 Writers Digest “The beauty in approaching your life story in terms of mini memoirs is that when it comes to themes, you don’t have to pick just one. Write scenes or vignettes on each theme that speaks to you. You may find that mini memoirs unfold more naturally than the more unwieldy, longer story you have to tell—and that they build momentum strong enough to carry you through…

Guest Bloggers

Short essays can be a goldmine.

Today’s guest blog post is excerpted from Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris. Writing about writing. Mostly.  Book length memoir is a hard sell, but short essays can be a goldmine. Memoir is the most popular genre at any writers’ conference. Unfortunately, it’s the hardest to write well—and the least likely to be successful if you’re an unknown newbie writer. That’s because book-length memoir isn’t likely to become a bestseller unless people already know who you are. So how do you get people to know you? You could become a reality TV star, run for political office, or be related to somebody who marries into the British royal family of course, but not everybody has that option. You can also work to get yourself known through social media, which I recommend for all memoirists. Start a blog, podcast, or vlog on the subject or setting of your memoir and…


Create a vignette. Prompt #308

Many of us have vignettes, little stories of things that happened, that we could write about: Events or situations that enlightened, inspired, or changed us.  All are memorable and could be written. But why? Why should you write these stories? “All humans understand and use story on an intuitive level. It’s our most effective teaching tool. It’s how we understand our world, ourselves and each other. It’s how we make and deepen our connections. It’s how we draw meaning from experience.”  — Deb Norton, “Story Structure, Simplified,” WritersDigest, February 2017 What if there was a recipe for this type of writing like there is for voodoo doughnuts? “Learning when to throw the flour, proper handling of a rolling pin, the intricacies of an old fashion, the ‘flip,’ and countless other tricks of the trade were now in the hands, minds, and notebooks of  Cat Daddy and Tres.”  Voodoo Doughnut Recipe…


Memoirists are the bravest writers.

Helen Sedwick, author of Coyote Winds, believes “Memoirists are the bravest of writers.” “In exploring the journeys of their lives, they [memoirists] delve into the private (and imperfect) lives of others. Can a memoirist write about surviving abuse without getting sued by her abuser? Can a soldier write about war crimes without risking a court-martial? Helen answers these questions in her guest blog post “A Memoir is not a Voodoo Doll.” We lead rich lives, most of us. Rich in experiences, in friendships, in family, and in our work. I think you can find riches to write about.  So, whatchya waitin’ for? Start writing. And don’t worry about a thing. Just write.

Guest Bloggers

A Memoir is Not a Voodoo Doll

Guest Blogger, attorney Helen Sedwick, writes: Memoirists are the bravest of writers. In exploring the journeys of their lives, they delve into the private (and imperfect) lives of others. Can a memoirist write about surviving abuse without getting sued by her abuser? Can a soldier write about war crimes without risking a court-martial? Yes, but a cool head is key. Considering the thousands of memoirs published each year, there are relatively few lawsuits. Claims are difficult and expensive to prove. Most targets don’t want to call attention to a matter best forgotten. However, it’s important for memoir writers to be aware of the legal risks. You can’t avoid risk 100% of the time, but you can learn to take the ones that are important to your narrative arc and minimize those that are not. What is Safe Territory? You may write about a person in a positive or neutral light….

Places to submit

Hippocampus Magazine wants your story about All Kinds of Weather

Hippocampus Magazine enthusiastically accepts unsolicited submissions in the following categories: memoir excerpt – a self-contained portion (chapter or selection) of a larger, book-length work personal essay – a short narrative reflecting on a particular life experience or observation flash creative nonfiction or a work of creative nonfiction in an experimental format Here is an article that discusses the difference between memoir and essay. And here is another. 2014 Theme: Weather & Acts of Nature From storms and sprinkles to earthquakes and extreme heat, Mother Nature can pack a punch or paint a pretty picture. Weather can be wacky and wild. And weather can be calm. Weather often plays a character in our everyday—and not so everyday—lives. We’re seeking tales in which the weather or even a natural disaster played a significant or supporting role. To be clear, we’re not specifically looking for stories just about bad weather or destruction; instead,…