This happened . . . Prompt #402

Today’s prompt is inspired by a talk Ianthe Brautigan gave on March 5, 2001. Memoir is a journey. Just because it’s your life, don’t think you know the end. A beeper could go off and change everything. Life is like a box of chocolates . . . you don’t know what you got until you bite into it. Sometimes your life makes sense after you write and digest your findings. Ianthe suggests writing a memoir in an unusual way, not “this happened and then that happened.” To start: Write excerpts from your past. Write your stories. Don’t worry about where they will go. Tell your story as if sitting around a campfire. If you need inspiration:  Make a collage from magazine articles/photos about what you want to write about. Look at these when you need a nudge to write. Once you start writing, let go of how you should write….

Just Write

How To Write A Memoir — Part One

Your Life. You lived it. Surely you can write about it. Right? In How To Write A Memoir, Part 1, we’ll discuss methods and ideas about writing personal stories, with links to published memoirs. How To Write A Memoir, Part 2, we’ll cover organizing, revising and more. You can write in chronological order, or build your story around pivotal events. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter what structure you use. Write in a style that is comfortable for you. Try one way and if isn’t working for you, try something else. Memoirs written in chronological order (with back story woven in): To Have Not by Frances Lefkowitz  and Grief Denied by Pauline Laurent. Rachael Herron, A Life in Stitches, assembles her stories around her knitting experiences. For the first draft, it’s fine to jump around in time. Don’t worry too much about making sense in the early stage of writing….

Guest Bloggers

The Power of Storytelling—Now Proven

Guest Blogger Frances Lefkowitz writes: The life of a freelance writer is full of the uncertain (“where will my next assignment come from?”) and the mundane (“did I spell that source’s name right?”), coupled with high deadline pressure and middling compensation. But every once in a while, I get to track down fascinating regular people and ask them to tell me stories. That’s what I did for a recent article for Good Housekeeping on the power of storytelling. The assignment was to write about the new evidence that storytelling has benefits for the health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities, and I had to read my fair share of academic research journals and talk to my fair share of M.D.s and Ph.Ds. But I also got to sit back, relax, and listen to tall tales. The best, most enduring stories, it turns out, are those that contain both hardship…


What games did you play? Prompt #32

Today’s prompt is from To Have Not, a fascinating memoir by Frances Lefkowitz. When us kids used to walk down 16th Street to the schoolyard or across Sanchez to the corner store, we’d keep a lookout for cool cars. When one drove by – a red mustang convertible, a tiny MG, a black Jag with the silver cat ready to pounce off the hood – whoever saw it first would point and say, “That’s my car!” We could play this game anywhere, my brothers and their buddies and I, shouting the words loud and fast to drown out anyone else who might be thinking about claiming the same car.  You could even play it alone, whispering the three magic words while walking home from school or sitting in a window seat on the bus, leaning your drowsy head against the sun-warmed glass. Then the car would speed through traffic, carrying…

Book Reviews

Frances Lefkowitz — To Have Not, a memoir

Frances Lefkowitz, author of To Have Not,  has written a memoir about her remarkable life: lifting herself up from the hard scrabble of a “have not” life in San Francisco in the seventies to attending an Ivy League college on a scholarship. She writes with clarity, honesty and humor, showing her unique perspective on life. Here’s an excerpt: “But time, like traffic, moves on. In a moment that lasts maybe a year or two, everything that was clear about the world becomes hazy and then sharpens up again, like the view through a camera lens as you twist the focus in and out. What you once knew without thinking begins to clash with the evidence darting out at you from all around, from TV and movies and comic books and magazines and even real life . . . This is the  moment when you discover that there are people out…

Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Frances Lefkowitz – “Are your parents still speaking to you?” The Dangers of Memoir

“Are your parents still speaking to you?” This question—a darn good one—comes up pretty much every time I do a Q&A. The short answer is “Yes.” My parents and siblings are all still talking to me; we still get together for holidays and birthdays and no blood gets shed. But this is not the case for other memoirists; I know several who are estranged from their families. Discussing family matters, revealing secrets, shining light on our most vulnerable and tragic moments including bad behavior or naive mistakes, and getting just our version into print, so it sounds like the official word on the subject: If this is what we do when we write memoir, then offending the people in our lives is one of our occupational hazards. The long answer is that this question is a great opportunity to discuss the distinction between the process of writing a memoir or…