Continuing: A Short Study of Writing Memoir As an Accumulation of Short Pieces

It may seem hard to imagine how to write a life in short pieces rather than with a more traditional narrative arc, but it works. Here are excerpts from memoirs-made-of-pieces that I like very much: Excerpts from Abigail Thomas’ What Comes Next and How to Like It. Excerpt from Kim Stafford’s 100 Tricks Any Boy Can Do: … Continue reading
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A Three-Part Study Guide to Writing Short Memoir

Part One To get a feel for short memoir, you might enjoy reading from Writers’ Digest magazine’s column called “5-Minute Memoir.”  Here are links to a few of the columns: Writing from the Mat Hidden in Plain Sight The Beauty of Bones Here is a column I wrote for the October 2012 issue: Writing Grief … Continue reading
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“Long Meg Speaks” by Emma Hunter, a Winning Essay in the Fall/Winter WIR Contest

Our fall/winter writing contest guest judge Sharon Bryan chose Emma Hunter’s essay, “Long Meg Speaks,” as one of three winners. This week, we have the judge’s words about the essay as well as the author’s words about writing it, and, of course, the essay. Emma wrote this in answer to my request for words about … Continue reading
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20 Memoir and Personal Essay Writing Prompts

Exploring your life on the page is daunting whether you are writing short memoir (the personal essay) or a book-length manuscript. Where does one start? How does one choose the highlights for the story’s exploration? How does one find surprises? Here are 20 ideas to find a point of entry and to organize your memoir … Continue reading
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Rants and Raves — A Great Writing Strategy from Karen Lorene

“If I’d only known what was in this book forty years ago, how much more money would I have made and how fewer problems would I have encountered?” Karen wonders. Isn’t that true for all of us in our lives—if we knew what we know now we could have done better at what mattered to … Continue reading
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Excerpt from Richard-Gabriel Rummonds Fantasies & Hard Knocks, My Life as a Printer

This book is a big one—in every way. In its 813 beautifully designed pages and over 450 gorgeous photos and images, a story unfolds not only of fine handpress printing but the man who printed works by many great 20th Century writers as well as prepared food for them and others in his own kitchens … Continue reading
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Finding Form

Tarn Wilson delivered this paper for a panel on “Hydra-Headed Memoirs & Well-Connected Essays” at the 2015 Nonfiction Now conference. I am delighted to have her permission to post her words for Writing It Real readers. Tarn’s lovely memoir is The Slow Farm. She uses her experience writing it to inform other writers about her … Continue reading
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Excerpt from Good Morning Sam by Phyllis M. Washburn

The following is an excerpt from Phyllis M. Washburn’s book Good Morning Sam. In this part of the story, Phyllis and her husband Ralph rescue Sam, a mute swan, from bleeding to death. In all, the couple shared twenty-four years with mute swans and the book documents their time in narrative and photos. To read my interview … Continue reading
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The Interview: A Way to Write More Complex Characters in Your Memoir

Often when I try to write about my mother the same details surface. In my childhood memories she is always busy either working or participating on different committees; when she is home she is tired and does not like to cook. Now that I am an adult, my mother and I talk on the telephone … Continue reading
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Interview with Memoirist Tarn Wilson, Part III: Writing About Others and The Journey to Publication

Last week we posted Part II of my interview with Tarn Wilson about her memoir The Slow Farm. We talked about different ways of bringing back memories and how to write from a child’s viewpoint as an adult. This week, she shares the way she approaches writing about family members consciously and compassionately way, provides … Continue reading
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Interview With Memoirist Tarn Wilson, Part II: The Art of Remembering

Last week we posted the first part of my interview with Tarn Wilson about her memoir The Slow Farm. Tarn and I talked about how she used artifacts to reconstruct the past and how she structured her book. This week Tarn and I discuss the art of remembering. Tarn tells us about how she finds … Continue reading
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Interview with Memoirist Tarn Wilson, Part I: Reconstructing the Past

I am a person who saves things, from the obviously important letter my father wrote me right before he passed away to the “might need it someday” notes from middle school. I have shoeboxes of unorganized photographs, rocks and shells from past trips sit on my bookshelves, and, rolled in a back closet corner, sit … Continue reading
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Interview with Bonnie Rough on Her Book Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA

Bonnie Rough’s memoir, Carrier, which won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award, includes extensive research via family stories, interviews, pictures, legal records, letters, and more, but it is her compassionate portrayal of her grandfather, Earl, who passed away soon after her birth, that keeps readers turning pages. He lived with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), a genetic … Continue reading
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Interview with Memoirist Sue William Silverman

I am pleased to publish this interview with award winning memoirist Sue William Silverman about the writing of her newest memoir and her advice to those of us who write from personal experience. The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, follows two earlier memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I … Continue reading
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Beth Spencer’s Third Place Winning Poem “The Shipwreck Coast”

In choosing Beth Spencer’s poem, “The Shipwreck Coast,” as the fall/winter Writing It Real contest third place winner, guest judge Molly Tinsley wrote: “Yes, poetry is memoir–at least in the case of this intriguing narrative poem. I loved the resolutely unpoetic, sardonic voice.  Again, the emotional control over deeply painful material impressed me. We have all … Continue reading
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First Place Winning Essay – “Why I Write” by Mary Kurtz

Our fall/winter writing contest judge, Molly Tinsley, chose “Why I Write,” a personal essay by Mary Kurtz, as our first-place winner. Molly said in her notes about this essay: “Emotional control of the narrative makes Mary’s experience all the more riveting and poignant. I was swept up by the vivid flow of habitual action interrupted … Continue reading
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On Writing From Life

Our writing contest guest judge, Molly Tinsley, is now reading and making her selections of three contest winners in the recent Writing It Real contest. While we are waiting for the results, we are reprinting her article about writing memoir. It appeared orignally in the November 2013 issue of Author magazine.  Molly’s words on writing from … Continue reading
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What I Was Thinking

This article first ran January 24, 2008, after a visit from my grandsons. Their visit over this past Martin Luther King three-day weekend had me thinking again about the way watching children’s reactions to our adult judgments and commands can help us become kinder to our writing and our writing selves, so we can better … Continue reading
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A Coming-of-Age Vignette, Sage Advice, and the Writing Exercise They Inspired

When you read the following excerpts from Rhonda Wiley-Jones’ memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, you’ll likely remember incidents from your own youth when you learned important things about yourself, perceptions that allowed you to see yourself in new ways. I’ve included a writing exercise to use … Continue reading
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Writer Tells All – A Narrative About Self-publishing

Are you thinking of self-publishing and wondering what the process is like? It never hurts to hear from one who has successfully navigated the process. With humor and self-awareness, Rhonda Wiley-Jones takes us on her journey as writer turned self-publisher. Reading her narrative is like sitting in the chair next to her. When she’s done … Continue reading
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