Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

I recently started working on a memoir, and at the same time I’ve discovered how difficult this genre can be. Fiction seems much easier—just make stuff up as you go along.  Need a villain?  Create one and give him both good and bad traits to make him believable.  Need a handsome hero?  Find a photo and invent a personality and a past.  Need a happy ending?  No problem!  But memoir is another story, with so many things to consider:

  • Who will read it?
  •  Where should I begin?
  •  What should I include—how much detail?
  • Will people be hurt or angry about the things I reveal
  • Will they think less of me?
  • Is my story even worth writing about?

I have many questions, yet I know people have already walked this path and left clear directions.  So I spent an hour shopping for books on memoir writing. I finally settled on one that suits me best: Fearless Confessions: AFearless-confessions6 Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman.   This book is fun to read and addressed all my concerns about how to dredge up memories and turn them into fascinating (or in my case, at least tolerably interesting) stories that will resonate with readers. She answers such questions as:

  •  How do you identify and combine the voice of your younger, less experienced self with your wiser, reflective voice?
  •  How do you devise plot powerful enough to make the leap from mere story to universal meaning?
  •  How do you sift through thousands of memories to find expressive metaphors?

The exercises in Silverman’s book are deceptively simple and progressively lead readers to dig more deeply into the past and use richer language to describe it.  As the author of a writing guide, I know it isn’t easy know what, and how much, to tell your readers. Sue Silverman seems to intuitively know what matters most to a memoirist, and she provided all of that in Fearless Confessions.

deanmartin-logoMemories are Made of This

Take one fresh and tender kiss

Add one stolen night of bliss
One girl, one boy
Some grief, some joy

Memories are made of this

Don’t forget a small moonbeam
Fold in lightly with a dream
Your lips and mine
Two sips of wine

Memories are made of this

Then add the wedding bells
One house where lovers dwell
Three little kids for the flavor

Stir carefully through the days
See how the flavor stays
These are the dreams you’ll savor

With his blessings from above
Serve it generously with love
One man, one wife
One love through life

Memories are made of this
Memories are made of this

Sammie Justesen is the author of Dialogue for Writers, a new book from NorLightsPress.

FRONT cover final

Sammie is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association

From a recent review:

Did you know dialogue matters even for poetry? I didn’t, and I am so glad I do now! This small book packs a punch. It easily and accessibly convinced me of just how and why good dialogue matters, why many pieces could use more of it, and when not to use it. The author also helps the reader learn to plainly identify what makes good dialogue good and what does and doesn’t work through the use of a plethora of useful examples. It is also full of different kinds of useful information for writers of all sorts. There are gems in it such as “Usually the best point of view character is the one with most to lose.” (page 83) If your writing could benefit from some good editing, try this book. If your writing could benefit from some new tricks, try this book. It won’t disappoint. I think of it as a course on dialogue in itself and there are exercises at the end of each chapter.

Comments on: "Memories are Made of This" (2)

  1. Can’t wait to read your memoir, and wonder where it will lead us. Like the craziest, wildest rides in life, and the most ethereal of the muses, after writing memoir, you don’t leave unscathed. But you may live deeper, fuller and richer than you did before. Highly recommended “memoir writing” reading: Natalie Golderg’s Old Friend from Far Away.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is SO hard to writer memoir, at least for me. Geez. I didn’t realize that until I started.


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