How to Write a Memoir: Examples and a Step-by-Step Guide

Zining Mok  |  January 29, 2024  |  25 Comments

how to write a memoir

If you’ve thought about putting your life to the page, you may have wondered how to write a memoir. We start the road to writing a memoir when we realize that a story in our lives demands to be told. As Maya Angelou once wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

How to write a memoir? At first glance, it looks easy enough—easier, in any case, than writing fiction. After all, there is no need to make up a story or characters, and the protagonist is none other than you.

Still, memoir writing carries its own unique challenges, as well as unique possibilities that only come from telling your own true story. Let’s dive into how to write a memoir by looking closely at the craft of memoir writing, starting with a key question: exactly what is a memoir?

How to Write a Memoir: Contents

What is a Memoir?

  • Memoir vs Autobiography

Memoir Examples

Short memoir examples.

  • How to Write a Memoir: A Step-by-Step Guide

A memoir is a branch of creative nonfiction , a genre defined by the writer Lee Gutkind as “true stories, well told.” The etymology of the word “memoir,” which comes to us from the French, tells us of the human urge to put experience to paper, to remember. Indeed, a memoir is “ something written to be kept in mind .”

A memoir is defined by Lee Gutkind as “true stories, well told.”

For a piece of writing to be called a memoir, it has to be:

  • Nonfictional
  • Based on the raw material of your life and your memories
  • Written from your personal perspective

At this point, memoirs are beginning to sound an awful lot like autobiographies. However, a quick comparison of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love , and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin , for example, tells us that memoirs and autobiographies could not be more distinct.

Next, let’s look at the characteristics of a memoir and what sets memoirs and autobiographies apart. Discussing memoir vs. autobiography will not only reveal crucial insights into the process of writing a memoir, but also help us to refine our answer to the question, “What is a memoir?”

Memoir vs. Autobiography

While both use personal life as writing material, there are five key differences between memoir and autobiography:

1. Structure

Since autobiographies tell the comprehensive story of one’s life, they are more or less chronological. writing a memoir, however, involves carefully curating a list of personal experiences to serve a larger idea or story, such as grief, coming-of-age, and self-discovery. As such, memoirs do not have to unfold in chronological order.

While autobiographies attempt to provide a comprehensive account, memoirs focus only on specific periods in the writer’s life. The difference between autobiographies and memoirs can be likened to that between a CV and a one-page resume, which includes only select experiences.

The difference between autobiographies and memoirs can be likened to that between a CV and a one-page resume, which includes only select experiences.

Autobiographies prioritize events; memoirs prioritize the writer’s personal experience of those events. Experience includes not just the event you might have undergone, but also your feelings, thoughts, and reflections. Memoir’s insistence on experience allows the writer to go beyond the expectations of formal writing. This means that memoirists can also use fiction-writing techniques , such as scene-setting and dialogue , to capture their stories with flair.

4. Philosophy

Another key difference between the two genres stems from the autobiography’s emphasis on facts and the memoir’s reliance on memory. Due to memory’s unreliability, memoirs ask the reader to focus less on facts and more on emotional truth. In addition, memoir writers often work the fallibility of memory into the narrative itself by directly questioning the accuracy of their own memories.

Memoirs ask the reader to focus less on facts and more on emotional truth.

5. Audience

While readers pick up autobiographies to learn about prominent individuals, they read memoirs to experience a story built around specific themes . Memoirs, as such, tend to be more relatable, personal, and intimate. Really, what this means is that memoirs can be written by anybody!

Ready to be inspired yet? Let’s now turn to some memoir examples that have received widespread recognition and captured our imaginations!

If you’re looking to lose yourself in a book, the following memoir examples are great places to begin:

  • The Year of Magical Thinking , which chronicles Joan Didion’s year of mourning her husband’s death, is certainly one of the most powerful books on grief. Written in two short months, Didion’s prose is urgent yet lucid, compelling from the first page to the last. A few years later, the writer would publish Blue Nights , another devastating account of grief, only this time she would be mourning her daughter.
  • Patti Smith’s Just Kids is a classic coming-of-age memoir that follows the author’s move to New York and her romance and friendship with the artist Robert Maplethorpe. In its pages, Smith captures the energy of downtown New York in the late sixties and seventies effortlessly.
  • When Breath Becomes Air begins when Paul Kalanithi, a young neurosurgeon, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Exquisite and poignant, this memoir grapples with some of the most difficult human experiences, including fatherhood, mortality, and the search for meaning.
  • A memoir of relationship abuse, Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is candid and innovative in form. Machado writes about thorny and turbulent subjects with clarity, even wit. While intensely personal, In the Dream House is also one of most insightful pieces of cultural criticism.
  • Twenty-five years after leaving for Canada, Michael Ondaatje returns to his native Sri Lanka to sort out his family’s past. The result is Running in the Family , the writer’s dazzling attempt to reconstruct fragments of experiences and family legends into a portrait of his parents’ and grandparents’ lives. (Importantly, Running in the Family was sold to readers as a fictional memoir; its explicit acknowledgement of fictionalization prevented it from encountering the kind of backlash that James Frey would receive for fabricating key facts in A Million Little Pieces , which he had sold as a memoir . )
  • Of the many memoirs published in recent years, Tara Westover’s Educated is perhaps one of the most internationally-recognized. A story about the struggle for self-determination, Educated recounts the writer’s childhood in a survivalist family and her subsequent attempts to make a life for herself. All in all, powerful, thought-provoking, and near impossible to put down.

While book-length memoirs are engaging reads, the prospect of writing a whole book can be intimidating. Fortunately, there are plenty of short, essay-length memoir examples that are just as compelling.

While memoirists often write book-length works, you might also consider writing a memoir that’s essay-length. Here are some short memoir examples that tell complete, lived stories, in far fewer words:

  • “ The Book of My Life ” offers a portrait of a professor that the writer, Aleksandar Hemon, once had as a child in communist Sarajevo. This memoir was collected into Hemon’s The Book of My Lives , a collection of essays about the writer’s personal history in wartime Yugoslavia and subsequent move to the US.
  • “The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week.” So begins Cheryl Strayed’s “ The Love of My Life ,” an essay that the writer eventually expanded into the best-selling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail .
  • In “ What We Hunger For ,” Roxane Gay weaves personal experience and a discussion of The Hunger Games into a powerful meditation on strength, trauma, and hope. “What We Hunger For” can also be found in Gay’s essay collection, Bad Feminist .
  • A humorous memoir structured around David Sedaris and his family’s memories of pets, “ The Youth in Asia ” is ultimately a story about grief, mortality and loss. This essay is excerpted from the memoir Me Talk Pretty One Day , and a recorded version can be found here .

So far, we’ve 1) answered the question “What is a memoir?” 2) discussed differences between memoirs vs. autobiographies, 3) taken a closer look at book- and essay-length memoir examples. Next, we’ll turn the question of how to write a memoir.

How to Write a Memoir: A-Step-by-Step Guide

1. how to write a memoir: generate memoir ideas.

how to start a memoir? As with anything, starting is the hardest. If you’ve yet to decide what to write about, check out the “ I Remember ” writing prompt. Inspired by Joe Brainard’s memoir I Remember , this prompt is a great way to generate a list of memories. From there, choose one memory that feels the most emotionally charged and begin writing your memoir. It’s that simple! If you’re in need of more prompts, our Facebook group is also a great resource.

2. How to Write a Memoir: Begin drafting

My most effective advice is to resist the urge to start from “the beginning.” Instead, begin with the event that you can’t stop thinking about, or with the detail that, for some reason, just sticks. The key to drafting is gaining momentum . Beginning with an emotionally charged event or detail gives us the drive we need to start writing.

3. How to Write a Memoir: Aim for a “ shitty first draft ”

Now that you have momentum, maintain it. Attempting to perfect your language as you draft makes it difficult to maintain our impulses to write. It can also create self-doubt and writers’ block. Remember that most, if not all, writers, no matter how famous, write shitty first drafts.

Attempting to perfect your language as you draft makes it difficult to maintain our impulses to write.

4. How to Write a Memoir: Set your draft aside

Once you have a first draft, set it aside and fight the urge to read it for at least a week. Stephen King recommends sticking first drafts in your drawer for at least six weeks. This period allows writers to develop the critical distance we need to revise and edit the draft that we’ve worked so hard to write.

5. How to Write a Memoir: Reread your draft

While reading your draft, note what works and what doesn’t, then make a revision plan. While rereading, ask yourself:

  • What’s underdeveloped, and what’s superfluous.
  • Does the structure work?
  • What story are you telling?

6. How to Write a Memoir: Revise your memoir and repeat steps 4 & 5 until satisfied

Every piece of good writing is the product of a series of rigorous revisions. Depending on what kind of writer you are and how you define a draft,” you may need three, seven, or perhaps even ten drafts. There’s no “magic number” of drafts to aim for, so trust your intuition. Many writers say that a story is never, truly done; there only comes a point when they’re finished with it. If you find yourself stuck in the revision process, get a fresh pair of eyes to look at your writing.

7. How to Write a Memoir: Edit, edit, edit!

Once you’re satisfied with the story, begin to edit the finer things (e.g. language, metaphor , and details). Clean up your word choice and omit needless words , and check to make sure you haven’t made any of these common writing mistakes . Be sure to also know the difference between revising and editing —you’ll be doing both. Then, once your memoir is ready, send it out !

Learn How to Write a Memoir at Writers.com

Writing a memoir for the first time can be intimidating. But, keep in mind that anyone can learn how to write a memoir. Trust the value of your own experiences: it’s not about the stories you tell, but how you tell them. Most importantly, don’t give up!

Anyone can learn how to write a memoir.

If you’re looking for additional feedback, as well as additional instruction on how to write a memoir, check out our schedule of nonfiction classes . Now, get started writing your memoir!


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Thank you for this website. It’s very engaging. I have been writing a memoir for over three years, somewhat haphazardly, based on the first half of my life and its encounters with ignorance (religious restrictions, alcohol, and inability to reach out for help). Three cities were involved: Boston as a youngster growing up and going to college, then Washington DC and Chicago North Shore as a married woman with four children. I am satisfied with some chapters and not with others. Editing exposes repetition and hopefully discards boring excess. Reaching for something better is always worth the struggle. I am 90, continue to be a recital pianist, a portrait painter, and a writer. Hubby has been dead for nine years. Together we lept a few of life’s chasms and I still miss him. But so far, my occupations keep my brain working fairly well, especially since I don’t smoke or drink (for the past 50 years).

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Hi Mary Ellen,

It sounds like a fantastic life for a memoir! Thank you for sharing, and best of luck finishing your book. Let us know when it’s published!

Best, The writers.com Team

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Hello Mary Ellen,

I am contacting you because your last name (Lavelle) is my middle name!

Being interested in genealogy I have learned that this was my great grandfathers wife’s name (Mary Lavelle), and that her family emigrated here about 1850 from County Mayo, Ireland. That is also where my fathers family came from.

Is your family background similar?

Hope to hear back from you.

Richard Lavelle Bourke

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Hi Mary Ellen: Have you finished your memoir yet? I just came across your post and am seriously impressed that you are still writing. I discovered it again at age 77 and don’t know what I would do with myself if I couldn’t write. All the best to you!! Sharon [email protected]

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I am up to my eyeballs with a research project and report for a non-profit. And some paid research for an international organization. But as today is my 90th birthday, it is time to retire and write a memoir.

So I would like to join a list to keep track of future courses related to memoir / creative non-fiction writing.

Hi Frederick,

Happy birthday! And happy retirement as well. I’ve added your name and email to our reminder list for memoir courses–when we post one on our calendar, we’ll send you an email.

We’ll be posting more memoir courses in the near future, likely for the months of January and February 2022. We hope to see you in one!

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Very interesting and informative, I am writing memoirs from my long often adventurous and well travelled life, have had one very short story published. Your advice on several topics will be extremely helpful. I write under my schoolboy nickname Barnaby Rudge.

[…] How to Write a Memoir: Examples and a Step-by-Step Guide […]

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I am writing my memoir from my memory when I was 5 years old and now having left my birthplace I left after graduation as a doctor I moved to UK where I have been living. In between I have spent 1 year in Canada during my training year as paediatrician. I also spent nearly 2 years with British Army in the hospital as paediatrician in Germany. I moved back to UK to work as specialist paediatrician in a very busy general hospital outside London for the next 22 years. Then I retired from NHS in 2012. I worked another 5 years in Canada until 2018. I am fully retired now

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I have the whole convoluted story of my loss and horrid aftermath in my head (and heart) but have no clue WHERE, in my story to begin. In the middle of the tragedy? What led up to it? Where my life is now, post-loss, and then write back and forth? Any suggestions?

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My friend Laura who referred me to this site said “Start”! I say to you “Start”!

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Hi Dee, that has been a challenge for me.i dont know where to start?

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What was the most painful? Embarrassing? Delicious? Unexpected? Who helped you? Who hurt you? Pick one story and let that lead you to others.

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I really enjoyed this writing about memoir. I ve just finished my own about my journey out of my city then out of my country to Egypt to study, Never Say Can’t, God Can Do It. Infact memoir writing helps to live the life you are writing about again and to appreciate good people you came across during the journey. Many thanks for sharing what memoir is about.

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I am a survivor of gun violence, having witnessed my adult son being shot 13 times by police in 2014. I have struggled with writing my memoir because I have a grandson who was 18-months old at the time of the tragedy and was also present, as was his biological mother and other family members. We all struggle with PTSD because of this atrocity. My grandson’s biological mother was instrumental in what happened and I am struggling to write the story in such a way as to not cast blame – thus my dilemma in writing the memoir. My grandson was later adopted by a local family in an open adoption and is still a big part of my life. I have considered just writing it and waiting until my grandson is old enough to understand all the family dynamics that were involved. Any advice on how I might handle this challenge in writing would be much appreciated.

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I decided to use a ghost writer, and I’m only part way in the process and it’s worth every penny!

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Hi. I am 44 years old and have had a roller coaster life .. right as a young kid seeing his father struggle to financial hassles, facing legal battles at a young age and then health issues leading to a recent kidney transplant. I have been working on writing a memoir sharing my life story and titled it “A memoir of growth and gratitude” Is it a good idea to write a memoir and share my story with the world?

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Thank you… this was very helpful. I’m writing about the troubling issues of my mental health, and how my life was seriously impacted by that. I am 68 years old.

[…] Writers.com: How to Write a Memoir […]

[…] Writers.com: “How to Write a Memoir” […]

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I am so grateful that I found this site! I am inspired and encouraged to start my memoir because of the site’s content and the brave people that have posted in the comments.

Finding this site is going into my gratitude journey 🙂

We’re grateful you found us too, Nichol! 🙂

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Firstly, I would like to thank you for all the info pertaining to memoirs. I believe am on the right track, am at the editing stage and really have to use an extra pair of eyes. I’m more motivated now to push it out and complete it. Thanks for the tips it was very helpful, I have a little more confidence it seeing the completion.

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Well, I’m super excited to begin my memoir. It’s hard trying to rely on memories alone, but I’m going to give it a shot!

Thanks to everyone who posted comments, all of which have inspired me to get on it.

Best of luck to everyone! Jody V.

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I was thrilled to find this material on How to Write A Memoir. When I briefly told someone about some of my past experiences and how I came to the United States in the company of my younger brother in a program with a curious name, I was encouraged by that person and others to write my life history.

Based on the name of that curious program through which our parents sent us to the United States so we could leave the place of our birth, and be away from potentially difficult situations in our country.

As I began to write my history I took as much time as possible to describe all the different steps that were taken. At this time – I have been working on this project for 5 years and am still moving ahead. The information I received through your material has further encouraged me to move along. I am very pleased to have found this important material. Thank you!

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The Write Practice

Write a Great Memoir: How to Start (and Actually Finish) Your First Draft

by Joe Bunting | 1 comment

When I first started writing my memoir, Crowdsourcing Paris , about a real-life adventure I experienced with my wife and ten-month-old son, I thought it was going to be easy.

After all, by that point in my career, I had already written four books, two of which became bestsellers. I’ve got this, I thought. Simple.

How to Write a Memoir: How to Start (and Actually Finish) Your First Draft

It wasn’t. By the time Crowdsourcing Paris was published and became a #1 New Release on Amazon, it was more than five years later. During that time, I made just about every mistake, but I also learned a process that will reliably help anyone to start and finish writing a great memoir.

My memoir, Crowdsourcing Paris , as a #1 New Release on Amazon!

In this guide, I want to talk about how you can start writing your memoir, how you can actually finish it, and how you can make sure it’s good .

If you read this article from start to finish, it will save you hundreds of hours and result in a much better finished memoir.

Hot tip : Throughout this guide, I will be referencing my memoir Crowdsourcing Paris as an example. To get the most out of this guide and the memoir writing process in general, get a copy of the book to use as an example. Order your copy here »

But Wait! What Is a Memoir? (Memoir Definition)

How do you know if you're writing a memoir? Here's a quick memoir definition:

A memoir is a book length account or autobiography about a real life situation or event. It usually includes a pivotal experience in your life journey.

A key point to make is that memoir is a  true story . You don't have to get every piece of dialogue perfect, but you do have to try to tell the personal story or experience as best as you remember.

If you're looking to fictionalize your real life account you're writing a novel, not a memoir (and specifically a roman à clef novel ).

For more on the difference between a novel and a memoir, check out this coaching video:

This Memoir Writer Impressed Me [How to Write a Memoir]

How to Get Started With Your Memoir: 10 Steps Before You Start Writing

This guide is broken into sections: what to do before you start writing and how to write your first draft.

When most people decide to write a memoir, they just start writing. They write about the first life experience they can think of.

That’s sort of what I did too. I just started writing about my trip to Paris, beginning with how I first decided to go as a way to become a “real writer.” It turned out to be the biggest mistake I made.

If you want to finish your memoir, and even more, write a good memoir, just starting with the first memory you can think of will make things much harder for you.

Instead, get started with a memoir plan.

What’s a memoir plan? There are ten elements. Let’s break it down.

Get the memoir plan in a downloadable worksheet. Click to download your memoir plan »

1. Write Your Memoir Premise in One Sentence

The first part of a memoir plan is your premise. A premise is a one-sentence summary of your book idea.

You might be wondering, how can I summarize my entire life in a single sentence?

The answer is, you can’t. Memoir isn’t a full autobiography. It’s not meant to be a historical account of your entire life story. Instead, it should share one specific situation and what you learned from that situation.

Every memoir premise should contain three things:

  • A Character. For your memoir, that character will always be you . For the purposes of your premise, though, it’s a good idea to practice thinking of yourself as the main character of your story. So describe yourself in third person and use one descriptive adjective, e.g. a cautious writer.
  • A Situation. Memoirs are about a specific event, situation, or experience. For example, Marion Roach Smith’s bestselling memoir was about the discovery that her mother had Alzheimer’s, which at the time was a fairly unknown illness. My memoir, Crowdsourcing Paris , begins on the first day of my trip to Paris and ends on the day I left. You can’t write about everything, at least in this book. But you can write about one thing well, and save all the other ideas for the next book.
  • A Lesson. What life lesson did you learn from this situation? How did your life change inexorably after going through this situation? Again, here you can’t write about everything you’ve ever learned. Choose ONE life lesson or emotional truth and focus on it.

Want to see how a premise actually looks? Here’s an example from my memoir Crowdsourcing Paris :

When a Cautious Writer is forced by his audience to do uncomfortable adventures in Paris he learns the best stories come when you get out of your comfort zone.

One thing to note: a premise is not a book description. My book description, which you can see here , is totally different from the premise. It’s more suspenseful and also less detailed in some ways. That’s because the purpose of a premise isn’t to sell books.

What is the premise of your memoir? Share it in the comments below!

2. Set a Deadline to Finish Your First Draft

Or if you’ve already finished a draft, set a deadline to finish your next draft.

This is crucial to do now , before you do anything else. Why? Because there are parts of the memoir plan that you can spend months, even years on. But while planning is helpful, it can easily become a distraction if you don’t get to the writing part of the process.

That’s why you want to put a time limit on your planning by setting a deadline.

How long should the deadline be?

Stephen King says you should write a first draft in no longer than a season. So ninety days.

In my 100 Day Book program, we’ve helped hundreds of memoir writers finish their book in just 100 days. To me, that’s a good amount of time to finish a first draft.

However, I wouldn’t take any longer than 100 days. Writing a book requires a level of focus that’s difficult to achieve over a long period of time. If you set your deadline for longer than 100 days, you might never finish.

Also set weekly milestones.

In addition to your final deadline, I recommend breaking up the writing process into weekly milestones.

If you’re going to write a 65,000-word memoir over 100 days, let’s say, then divide 65,000 by the number of weeks (about 14) to get your weekly word count goal: about 4,600 words per week.

That will give you a sense of how much progress you’re making each week, so you won’t be in a huge rush to finish right at the end of your deadline. After all, no one can pull an all-nighter and finish a book! Create a writing habit that will enable you to actually finish your book.

Keep track of your word count deadlines.

By the way, this is one reason I love Scrivener , my favorite book writing software , because it allows you to set a target deadline and word count. Then Scrivener automatically calculates how much you need to write every day to reach your deadline.

It’s a great way to keep track of your deadline and how much more you have to write. Check out my review of Scrivener to learn more.

3. Create Consequences to Make Quitting Hard

I’ve learned from experience that a deadline alone isn’t enough. You also have to give your deadline teeth .

Writing a book is hard. To make sure that you show up to the page and do the work you need to finish, you need to make it harder to not write.

How? By creating consequences.

I learned this from a friend of mine, writer and book marketing expert Tim Grahl .

“If you really want to finish your book,” he told me, “write a check for $1,000 to a charity you hate. Then give that check to a friend with instructions to send it if you don’t hit your deadline.”

“I don’t need to do that,” I told him. “I’m a pro. I have discipline.” But a month later, after I still hadn’t made any progress on my memoir, I finally decided to take his advice.

This was during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. So I wrote a $1,000 check to the presidential candidate that I most disliked (who shall remain nameless!), and gave it to a friend with instructions to send the check if I didn’t hit my final deadline.

I also created smaller consequences for the weekly deadlines, which I highly recommend. Here’s how it works:

Consequence #1 : Small consequence, preferably related to a guilty pleasure that might keep you from writing. For example, giving up a game on your phone or watching TV until you finish your book.

Consequence #2 : Giving up a guilty pleasure. For example, giving up ice cream, soda, or alcohol until you finish your book.

Consequence #3 : Send the $1,000 check to the charity you hate.

Each of these would happen if I missed three weekly deadlines. If I missed the final deadline, then just the $1,000 check would get sent.

After I put in each of these consequences, I was the most focused and productive I’ve ever been in my life. I finished my book in just nine weeks and never missed a deadline.

If you actually want to finish your memoir, give this process a try. I think you’ll be surprised by how well it works for you.

4. Decide What Kind of Story You’re Telling

Now that you’ve set your deadline, start thinking about what kind of book you’re writing. What is your story really about?

“Memoir is about something you know after something you’ve been through,” says Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project .

I think there are seven types of stories that most memoirs are about.

  • Coming of Age. A story about a young person finding their place in the world. A great example is 7 Story Mountain  by Thomas Merton.
  • Education. An education story , according to Kim Kessler and Story Grid, is about a naive character who, through the course of the story, comes to a bigger understanding of the world that gives meaning to their existing life. My memoir, Crowdsourcing Paris , is a great example of an education memoir.
  • Love. A love story is about a romantic relationship, either the story of a breakup or of two characters coming together. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a great example of a love story memoir, as it tells the story of her divorce and then re-discovering herself and love as she travels the world.
  • Adventure/Action. All adventure stories are about life and death situations. Also, most travel memoirs are adventure stories. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a great example, and Crowdsourcing Paris is also an adventure story. (You can apply the principles from our How to Write Adventure guide here , too!)
  • Performance. Performance memoirs are about a big competition or a competitive pursuit. Julie and Julia , Julie Powell’s memoir about cooking her way through Julia Child’s recipes, is a good example of a performance memoir. Outlaw Platoon , about the longest-serving Ranger platoon in Afghanistan, is another great performance story.
  • Thriller. Memoirs about abuse or even an illness could fall into the crime, horror, or thriller arena. (Our full guide on How to Write a Thriller is here .)
  • Society. What is wrong with society? And how can you rebel against the status quo? Society stories are very common as memoirs. I would also argue that most humor memoirs are society stories, since they talk about one person’s funny, transgressive view on society. Anything by David Sedaris, for example, is a society memoir.

For more on all of these genres, check out Story Grid’s article How to Use Story Grid to Write a Memoir .

Three Stories

Note that I included my memoir in two categories. That’s because most books, including memoirs, are actually a combination of three stories. You have:

  • An external story. For example, Crowdsourcing Paris is an adventure story.
  • An internal story . As I said, Crowdsourcing Paris is an education story.
  • A subplot . Usually the subplot is another external story, in my case, a love story.

What three stories are you telling in your memoir?

5. Visualize Your Intention

One of the things that I’ve learned as I’ve coached hundreds of writers to finish their books is that if you visualize the following you are much more likely to follow through and accomplish your writing goals:

  • Where you're going to write
  • When you're going to write
  • How much you're going to write

Here I want you to actively visualize yourself at your favorite writing spot accomplishing the word count goal that you set in step two.

For example, when I was writing Crowdsourcing Paris , I would imagine myself sitting at this one café that was eight doors down from my office. I liked it because it had a little bit of a French feel. Then I would imagine myself there from eight in the morning until about ten.

Finally, I would actively visualize myself watching the word count tracker go from 999 to 1,000 words, which was my goal every day. Just that process of imagining my intention was so helpful.

What is your intention? Where, when, and how much will you write? Imagine yourself actually sitting there in the place you’re going to write your memoir.

6. Who Will Be On Your Team?

No one can write a book alone. I learned this the hard way, and the result was that it took me five years to finish my memoir.

For every other book that I had written, I had other people holding me accountable. Without my team, I know that I would never have written those books. But when I tried to write my memoir, I thought, I can do this on my own. I don’t need accountability, encouragement, and support. I’ve got this.

To figure out who you need to help you finish your memoir, create three different lists of people:

  • Other writers. These are people who you can process, with who know the process of writing a book. Some will be a little bit ahead of you, so that when you get stuck, they can encourage you and say, “I’ve been there. You’re going to get through it. Keep working.”
  • Readers. Or if you don’t have readers, friends and family. These will be the people who give you feedback on your finished book before it’s published, e.g. beta readers.
  • Professional editors. But you also need professional feedback. I recommend listing two different editors here, a content editor to give feedback on the book as a whole (for example, I recommend a Write Practice Certified Coach), and a proofreader or line editor to help polish the final draft. (Having professional editing software is smart too. We like ProWritingAid. Check out our ProWritingAid review .)

Just remember: it takes a team to finish a book. Don’t try to do it on your own.

And if you don’t have relationships with other writers who can be on your team, check out The Write Practice Pro. This is the community I post my writing in to get feedback. Many of my best writing friends came directly from this community. You can learn more about The Write Practice Pro here .

7. What Other Books Will Inspire You?

“Books are made from books,” said Cormac McCarthy. Great writers learn how to write great books by reading other great books, and so should you.

I recommend finding three to five other memoirs that can inspire you during the writing process.

I recommend two criteria for the books you choose:

  • Commercially successful. If you want your book to be commercially successful, choose other books that have done well in the marketplace.
  • Similar story type. Try to find books that are the same story type that you learned in step four.

For my memoir, I had four main sources of inspiration.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain; A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; and Midnight in Paris , the film by Woody Allen.

I referred back to these sources all the time. For example, when I was stuck on the climactic scene in the memoir, I watched one scene in A Midnight in Paris twenty times until I could quote the dialogue. I still didn’t come up with the solution until the next day, but understanding how other writers solved the problems I was facing helped me figure out my own solutions for my story.

8. Who Is Your Reader Avatar?

Who is your book going to be for? Or who is the one person you’ll think of when you write your book? When the writing gets hard and you want to quit, who will be most disappointed if you never finish your book?

I learned this idea from J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote his novel The Hobbit for his three boys as a bedtime story. Every day he would work on his pages, and every night he would go home and read them to his sons. And this gave him an amazing way to get feedback. He knew whether they laughed at one part or got bored at another.

This helped him make his story better, but I also imagine it gave him a tremendous amount of motivation.

This Can Be You, Sort Of

I don’t think your reader avatar should be you. When it comes to your own writing, you are the least objective person.

There’s one caveat: you can be your own reader avatar IF you’re writing to a version of yourself at a different time. For example, I have friends who have imagined they were writing to a younger version of themselves.

Who will you write your memoir for?

9. Publishing and Marketing

How will you publish your book? Will you go the traditional route or will you self-publish? Who is your target market (check your reader avatar for help)? What will you do to promote and market your book? Do you have an author website ?

It might be strange to start planning for the publishing and marketing of your book before you ever start writing it, but what I’ve discovered is that when you think through the entire writing process, from the initial idea all the way through the publishing and marketing process, you are much more likely to finish your book.

In fact, in my 100 Day Book program, I found that people who finished this planning process were 52 percent more likely to finish their book.

Spend some time thinking about your publishing and marketing plans. Just thinking about it will help you when you start writing.

Start Building Your Audience Before You Need It

In the current publishing climate, most memoir agents and publishers want you to have some kind of relationship with an audience before they will consider your book.

Start building an audience before you need it. The first step to building an audience, and the first step to publishing in general, is building an author website. If you don’t have a website yet, you can find our full author website guide here .

(Building a website doesn’t have to be intimidating or time-consuming if you have the right guide.)

10. Outline Your Memoir

The final step of the planning process is your memoir outline . This could be the subject of a whole article itself. Here, I’ve learned so much from Story Grid, but if you don’t have time to read the book and listen to over 100 podcast episodes, here’s a quick and dirty process for you.

But First, for the Pantsers

There are two types of writers: the plotters and the pansters . Plotters like to outline. Pantsers think outlining crushes their creative freedom and hate it.

If you identify with the pantsers, that’s okay. Don’t worry too much about this step. I would still recommend writing something in this section of your memoir plan, even if you only know a few moments that will happen in the book, even recording a series of events might help as you plan.

And for you plotters, outline to your heart’s content, as long as you’ve already set your deadline!

Outlining Tips

When you’re ready to start outlining, here are a few tips:

  • Begin by writing down all the big moments in your life that line up with your premise. Your premise is the foundation of your story. Anything outside of that premise should be cut.
  • S eparate your life events into three acts. One of the most common story structures in writing is the three-act story structure. Act 1 should contain about 25 percent of your story, Act 2 about 50 percent of your story, and Act 3 about 25 percent.
  • Act 1 should begin as late into the story as possible. In Crowdsourcing Paris , like most travel memoirs, I began the story the day I arrived in Paris.
  • Use flashbacks, but carefully. Since I began Crowdsourcing Paris so late into the action, I used flashbacks to provide some details about what happened to lead up to the trip. Flashbacks can be overused, though, so only include full scenes and don’t info dump with flashbacks.
  • Start big. The first scene in your book should be a good representation of what your book is about. So if you’re writing an adventure story (see Step 4), then you should have a life or death moment as the first scene. If you’re writing a love story, you should have a moment of love or love lost.
  • End Act 1 with a decision. It is you, and specifically your decisions , that drive the action of your memoir. So what important decision did you make that will drive us into Act 2?
  • Start Act 2 with your subplot. In Step 4, I said most books are made up of three stories. Your subplot is an important part of your book, and in most great stories, your subplot begins in Act 2.
  • Act 2 begins with a period of “fun and games.” Save the Cat , one of my favorite books for writers, says that after the tension you built with the big decision in Act 1, the first few scenes in Act 2 should be fun and feel good, with things going relatively well for the protagonist.
  • Center your second act on the “all is lost” moment. Great stories are about a character who comes to the end of him or herself. The all is lost moment is my favorite to write, because it’s where the character (in this case you ) has the most opportunity to grow. What is YOUR “all is lost” moment?
  • Act 3 contains your final climactic moment. For Crowdsourcing Paris , this was the moment when I thought I was going to die. In a love story memoir, it might be when you finally work things out and commit to your partner.
  • Act 3 is also where you show the big lesson of the memoir. Emphasis on show. Back in Step 1, you identified the lesson of your memoir. Act 3 is when you finally demonstrate what you’ve learned throughout the memoir in one major event.
  • A tip for the final scene: end your memoir with the subplot. This gives a sense of completion to your story and works as a great final moment.

Use the tips above to create a rough outline of your memoir. Keep in mind, when you start writing, things might completely change. That’s okay! The point with your plan isn’t to be perfect. It’s to think through your story from beginning to end so that you’ll be prepared when you get to that point in the writing process.

Want to make this process as easy as possible? Get the memoir plan in a downloadable worksheet. Click to download your memoir plan »

That’s the end of the planning stage of this guide. Now let’s talk about how to write your first draft.

How to Write the First Draft of Your Memoir

If you’ve followed the steps above to create a memoir plan, you’ve done the important work. Writing a memoir, like writing any book, is hard. But it will actually be harder to not be successful if you’ve followed all the steps in the memoir plan.

But once you’ve created the “perfect” plan, it’s time to do the dirty work of writing a first draft.

In part two of our guide, you’ll learn how to write and finish a first draft.

1. Forget Perfection and Write Badly.

First drafts are messy. In fact, Anne Lamott calls them “shitty first drafts” because they are almost always terrible.

Even though I know that, though, any time I’m working on a new writing project, I still get it into my head that my first draft should be a masterpiece.

It usually takes me staring at a blank screen for a few hours before I admit defeat and just start writing.

If you’re reading this, don’t do that! Instead, start by writing badly.

Besides, when you’ve done the hard planning work, what you write will probably be a lot better than you think.

2. Willpower Doesn’t Work. Neither Does Inspiration. Instead, Use the “3 Minute Timer Trick.”

My biggest mistake when I began Crowdsourcing Paris was to think I had the willpower I needed as a professional writer and author of four books to finish the book on my own. Even worse, I thought I would be so inspired that the book would basically write itself.

I didn’t. It took not making much progress on my book for more than a year to realize I needed help.

The best thing you can do to help you focus on the writing process for your second draft is what we talked about in Step 4: Creating a Consequence.

But if you still need help, try my “3 Minute Timer Trick.” Here’s how it works:

  • Set a timer for three minutes. Why three minutes? Because for me, I’m so distractible I can’t focus for more than three minutes. I think anyone can focus for three minutes though, even me.
  • Write as fast as you can. Don’t think, just write!
  • When the timer ends, write down your total word count in a separate document (see image below). Then subtract from the previous word count to calculate how many words you wrote during that session.
  • Also write down any distractions during those three minutes. Did the phone ring? Did you have a tough urge to scroll through Facebook or play a game on your phone? Write it down.
  • Then, repeat the process by starting the timer again. Can you beat your word count?

This process is surprisingly helpful, especially when you don’t feel like writing. After all, you might not have it in you to write for an hour, but anyone can write for three minutes.

And the amazing thing is that once you’ve started, you might find it much easier to keep going.

Other Tools for Writers

By the way, if you’re looking for the tools I use and other pro writers I know use, check out our Best Tools for Creative Writers guide here .

3. Make Your Weekly Deadlines.

You can’t finish your book in an all-nighter. That being said, you can finish a chapter of your book in an all-nighter.

That’s why it’s so important to have the weekly deadlines we talked about in Part 1, Step 2 of this guide.

By breaking up the writing process into a series of weekly deadlines, you give yourself an achievable framework to finish your book. And with the consequences you set in Step 3 of your memoir plan, you give your deadlines the teeth they need to hold you accountable.

And as I mentioned above, Scrivener is especially helpful for keeping track of deadlines (among other things). If you haven’t yet, check out my review of Scrivener here .

4. Keep Your Team Updated.

Having a hard time? It’s normal. Talk to your team about it.

It seems like when you’re writing a book, everything in the universe conspires against you. You get into a car accident, you get sick, you get into a massive fight with your spouse or family member, you get assigned a new project at your day job.

Writing a book would be hard enough on its own, but when you have the rest of your life to deal with, it can become almost impossible.

Without your team, which we talked about in Step 6 of your book plan, it would be.

For me, I would never have been able to finish one book, let alone the twelve that I’ve now finished, without the support, encouragement, and accountability of the other writers whom I call friends, the readers who believe in me, and most of all, my wife.

Remember: No book is finished alone. When things get hard, talk about it with your team.

And if you need a team, consider joining mine. The Write Practice Pro is a supportive encouraging community of writers and editors. It’s where I get feedback on my writing, and you can get it here too. Learn more about the community here.

5. Finally, Trust the Process.

When I walk writers through the first draft writing process, inevitably, around day sixty, they start to lose faith.

  • They think their book is the all-time worst book ever written.
  • They get a new idea they want to work on instead.
  • They decide the dream to write a book and become a writer was foolish.
  • They want to quit.

A few do quit at this point.

But the ones who keep going discover that in just a few weeks they’ve figured out most of the problems in their book, they’re on their last pages, and they’re almost finished.

It happens every time, even to me.

If you take nothing else from this post, please hear this: keep going. Never quit. If you follow this process from start to finish, you’re going to make it, and it’s going to be awesome.

I’m so excited for you.

How to Finish Your Memoir

More than half of this guide is about the planning process. That’s because if you start well, you’ll finish well.

If you create the right plan, then all that’s left is doing the hard, messy work of writing.

Without the right plan, it’s SO easy to get lost along the way.

That’s why I hope you’ll download my Memoir Plan Worksheet. Getting lost in the writing process is inevitable. This plan will become your map when it happens. Click to download the Memoir Plan Worksheet.

More than anything, though, I hope you’ll never quit. It took me five years to write Crowdsourcing Paris , but during that time I matured and grew so much as a writer and a person, all because I didn’t quit.

Even if it takes you five years, the life lessons you’ll learn as you write your book will be worth it.

And if you’re interested in a real-life adventure story set in Paris, I’d be honored if you’d read Crowdsourcing Paris . I think you’ll love it.

Good luck and happy writing.

More Writing Resources:

  • How to Write a Memoir Outline: 7 Essential Steps For Your Memoir Outline
  • 7 Steps to a Powerful Memoir
  • The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith
  • Crowdsourcing Paris by J.H. Bunting

Are you going to commit to writing a memoir (and never quitting, no matter what)? Let me know in the comments .

Summarize your memoir idea in the form of a one-sentence premise. Make sure it contains all three elements:

  • A character
  • A situation

Take fifteen minutes to craft your premise. When you’re finished, share your memoir premise in the Pro Practice Workshop for feedback. And if you share, please be sure to give feedback to three other writers. Not a member? Join us .

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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Work with Joe Bunting?

WSJ Bestselling author, founder of The Write Practice, and book coach with 14+ years experience. Joe Bunting specializes in working with Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, How To, Literary Fiction, Memoir, Mystery, Nonfiction, Science Fiction, and Self Help books. Sound like a good fit for you?

Nandkumar Dharmadhikari

One of my book chapters has been accepted for publication, but I lack confidence in the accuracy of what I have written. I have completed the chapter, but I would appreciate your assistance in improving its quality.


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How to Write a Memoir Essay

October 12, 2023

What is a Memoir Essay?

A memoir essay is a form of autobiographical writing that focuses on a specific aspect of the author’s life. Unlike a traditional autobiography, which typically covers the author’s entire life, a memoir essay hones in on a particular event, time period, or theme. It is a deeply personal and reflective piece that allows the writer to delve into their memories, thoughts, and emotions surrounding their chosen subject.

In a memoir essay, the author aims to not only recount the events that took place but also provide insight into the impact and meaning of those experiences. It is a unique opportunity for self-discovery and exploration, while also offering readers a glimpse into the author’s world. The beauty of a memoir essay lies in its ability to weave together personal anecdotes, vivid descriptions, and introspective reflections to create a compelling narrative.

Writing a memoir essay can be both challenging and rewarding. It requires careful selection of memories, thoughtful introspection, and skillful storytelling. The process allows the writer to make sense of their past, gain a deeper understanding of themselves, and share their unique story with others.

Choosing a Topic for Your Memoir Essay

Selecting the right topic is crucial to write a good memoir essay. It sets the foundation for what you will explore and reveal in your personal narrative. When choosing a topic, it’s essential to reflect on your significant life experiences and consider what stories or themes hold the most meaning for you.

One approach is to think about moments or events that have had a profound impact on your life. Consider times of triumph or adversity, moments of exploration or self-discovery, relationships that have shaped you, or challenges you have overcome. These experiences can provide a rich foundation for your memoir essay.

Another option is to focus on a specific theme or aspect of your life. You might explore topics such as identity, family dynamics, cultural heritage, career milestones, or personal beliefs. By centering your essay around a theme, you can weave together various memories and reflections to create a cohesive narrative.

It’s also important to consider your target audience. Who do you want to connect with through your memoir essay? Understanding your audience’s interests and experiences can help you choose a topic that will resonate with them.

Ultimately, the topic should be one that excites you and allows for introspection and self-discovery. Choose a topic that ignites your passion and offers a story worth sharing.

Possible Memoir Essay Topics

  • Childhood Memories
  • Family Dynamics
  • Life-altering Events
  • Overcoming Societal Expectations
  • Love and Loss
  • Self-discovery and Transformation
  • Lessons from Nature
  • Journey from Darkness to Light
  • Triumphing Over Adversities
  • Life’s Defining Moments

Outlining the Structure of Your Memoir Essay

Writing a memoir essay allows you to share your personal experiences, reflections, and insights with others. However, before you start pouring your thoughts onto the page, it’s essential to outline the structure of your essay. This not only provides a clear roadmap for your writing but also helps you maintain a cohesive and engaging narrative.

First, consider the opening. Begin with a captivating introduction that hooks the reader and establishes the theme or central message of your memoir. This is your chance to grab their attention and set the tone for the rest of the essay.

Next, move on to the body paragraphs. Divide your essay into sections that chronologically or thematically explore different aspects of your life or experiences. Use vivid descriptions, anecdotes, and dialogue to bring your memories to life. It’s crucial to maintain a logical flow and transition smoothly between different ideas or events.

As you approach the conclusion, summarize the key points you’ve discussed and reflect on the significance of your experiences. What lessons have you learned? How have you grown or changed as a result? Wrap up your memoir essay by leaving the reader with a memorable takeaway or a thought-provoking question.

Remember, the structure of your memoir essay should support your storytelling and allow for a genuine and authentic exploration of your experiences. By outlining your essay’s structure, you’ll have a solid foundation to create a compelling and impactful memoir that resonates with your readers.

How to Write an Introduction for Your Memoir Essay

The introduction of your memoir essay sets the stage for your story and captivates your readers from the very beginning. It is your opportunity to grab their attention, establish the tone, and introduce the central theme of your memoir.

To create a compelling introduction, consider starting with a hook that intrigues your readers. This can be a surprising fact, a thought-provoking question, or a vivid description that immediately draws them in. Your goal is to make them curious and interested in what you have to say.

Next, provide a brief overview of what your memoir essay will explore. Give your readers a glimpse into the key experiences or aspects of your life that you will be sharing. However, avoid giving away too much detail. Leave room for anticipation and curiosity to keep them engaged.

Additionally, consider how you want to establish the tone of your memoir. Will it be reflective, humorous, or nostalgic? Choose your words and phrasing carefully to convey the right emotions and set the right atmosphere for your story.

Finally, end your introduction with a clear and concise thesis statement. This statement should express the central theme or message that your memoir will convey. It serves as a roadmap for your essay and guides your readers in understanding the purpose and significance of your memoir.

By crafting a strong and captivating introduction for your memoir essay, you will draw readers in and make them eager to dive into the rich and personal journey that awaits them.

Write the Main Body of Your Memoir Essay

When developing the main body of your memoir essay, it’s essential to structure your thoughts and experiences in a clear and engaging manner. Here are some tips to help you effectively organize and develop the main body of your essay:

  • Chronological Structure: Consider organizing your memoir essay in chronological order, following the sequence of events as they occurred in your life. This allows for a natural flow and a clear timeline that helps readers understand your personal journey.
  • Thematic Structure: Alternatively, you can focus on specific themes or lessons that emerged from your experiences. This approach allows for a more focused exploration of different aspects of your life, even if they did not occur in a linear order.
  • Use Vivid Details: Use sensory details, descriptive language, and engaging storytelling techniques to bring your memories to life. Transport your readers to the settings, evoke emotions, and create a vivid picture of the events and people in your life.
  • Show, Don’t Tell: Instead of simply stating facts, show your readers the experiences through engaging storytelling. Use dialogue, scenes, and anecdotes to make your memoir more dynamic and immersive.
  • Reflections and Insights: Share your reflections on the events and experiences in your memoir. Offer deeper insights, lessons learned, and personal growth that came from these moments. Invite readers to reflect on their own lives and connect with your journey.

By organizing your main body in a logical and engaging manner, using vivid details, and offering thoughtful reflections, you can write a compelling memoir essay that captivates your readers and leaves a lasting impact.

Reflecting on Lessons Learned in Your Memoir Essay

One of the powerful aspects of a memoir essay is the opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned from your personal experiences. These reflections provide deeper insights and meaning to your story, leaving a lasting impact on your readers. Here are some tips for effectively reflecting on lessons learned in your memoir essay:

  • Summarize Key Points: In the conclusion of your essay, summarize the key events and experiences you have shared throughout your memoir. Briefly remind readers of the significant moments that shaped your journey.
  • Identify Core Themes: Reflect on the core themes and messages that emerged from your experiences. What did you learn about resilience, love, identity, or perseverance? Identify the overarching lessons that you want to convey.
  • Offer Personal Insights: Share your personal insights and reflections on how these lessons have influenced your life. Were there specific turning points or moments of epiphany? How have these experiences shaped your beliefs, values, or actions?
  • Connect to the Reader: Make your reflections relatable to your readers. Explore how the lessons you learned can resonate with their own lives and experiences. This allows them to connect with your story on a deeper level.
  • Offer a Call to Action: Encourage readers to reflect on their own lives and consider how the lessons from your memoir can apply to their own journeys. Pose thought-provoking questions or suggest actions they can take to apply these insights.

By reflecting on the lessons learned in your memoir essay, you give your readers a chance to contemplate their own lives and find inspiration in your personal growth. These reflections add depth and impact to your storytelling, making your memoir essay truly memorable.

Crafting a Strong Conclusion for Your Memoir Essay

The conclusion of your memoir essay is your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your readers. It is where you tie together the threads of your story and offer a sense of closure and reflection. Here are some tips to help you craft a strong conclusion for your memoir essay:

  • Summarize the Journey: Remind your readers of the key moments and experiences you shared throughout your essay. Briefly summarize the significant events and emotions that shaped your personal journey.
  • Revisit the Central Theme: Reiterate the central theme or message of your memoir. Emphasize the lessons learned, personal growth, or insights gained from your experiences. This helps reinforce the purpose and impact of your story.
  • Reflect on Transformation: Reflect on how you have transformed as a result of the events and experiences you shared. Share the growth, self-discovery, or newfound perspectives that have shaped your life.
  • Leave a Lasting Impression: Use powerful and evocative language to leave a lasting impact on your readers. Craft a memorable phrase or thought that lingers in their minds even after they finish reading your essay.
  • Offer a Call to Action or Reflection: Encourage your readers to take action or reflect on their own lives. Pose thought-provoking questions, suggest further exploration, or challenge them to apply the lessons from your memoir to their own experiences.

By crafting a strong conclusion, you ensure that your memoir essay resonates with your readers long after they have finished reading it. It leaves them with a sense of closure, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of the transformative power of personal storytelling.

Editing and Proofreading Your Memoir Essay

Editing and proofreading are crucial steps in the writing process that can greatly enhance the quality and impact of your memoir essay. Here are some tips to help you effectively edit and proofread your work:

  • Take a Break: After completing your initial draft, take a break before starting the editing process. This allows you to approach your essay with fresh eyes and a clear mind.
  • Review for Structure and Flow: Read through your essay to ensure it has a logical structure and flows smoothly. Check that your paragraphs and sections transition seamlessly, guiding readers through your story.
  • Trim and Refine: Eliminate any unnecessary or repetitive information. Trim down long sentences and paragraphs to make your writing concise and impactful. Consider the pacing and ensure that each word contributes to the overall story.
  • Check for Clarity and Consistency: Ensure that your ideas and thoughts are expressed clearly. Identify any confusing or vague passages and revise them to improve clarity. Check for consistency in tense, tone, and voice throughout your essay.
  • Proofread for Errors: Carefully proofread your essay for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Pay attention to common mistakes such as subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, and punctuation marks. Consider using spell-checking tools or having someone else review your work for an objective perspective.
  • Seek Feedback: Share your memoir essay with a trusted friend, family member, or writing partner. Their feedback can provide valuable insights and help you identify areas for improvement.

By dedicating time to edit and proofread your memoir essay, you ensure that it is polished, coherent, and error-free. These final touches enhance the reader’s experience and allow your story to shine.

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Last updated on Apr 14, 2023

How to Write a Memoir: Turn Your Personal Story Into a Successful Book

Writing a memoir can be a meaningful way to reflect on your life's journey and share your unique perspective with people around you. But creating a powerful (and marketable) book from your life's memories — one that can be enjoyed by readers across the world — is no easy task. 

In this article, we'll explore the essential ingredients that make up an impactful and commercially viable memoir and provide you with tips to craft your own.

Here’s how to write a memoir in 6 steps: 

1. Figure out who you’re writing for

2. narrow down your memoir’s focus, 3. distill the story into a logline , 4. choose the key moments to share, 5. don’t skimp on the details and dialogue, 6. portray yourself honestly.

Before you take on the challenge of writing a memoir, make sure you have a clear goal and direction by defining the following:

  • What story you’re telling (if you’re telling “the story of your life,” then you may be looking at an autobiography , not a memoir),
  • What the purpose of your memoir is,
  • Which audience you’re writing it for.

Some authors write a memoir as a way to pass on some wisdom, to process certain parts of their lives, or just as a legacy piece for friends and family to look back on shared memories. Others have stronger literary ambitions, hoping to get a publishing deal through a literary agent , or self-publishing it to reach a wide audience. 

Whatever your motivation, we’d recommend approaching it as though you were to publish it. You’ll end up with a book that’s more polished, impactful, and accessible 一 even if it’ll only ever reach your Aunt Jasmine.

🔍 How do you know whether your book idea is marketable? Acclaimed ghostwriter Katy Weitz suggests researching memoir examples from several subcategories to determine whether there’s a readership for a story like yours.

Know your target reader

If you’re not sure where to start it doesn’t hurt to figure out your target audience 一 the age group, gender, and interests of the people you’re writing it for. A memoir targeted at business execs is a very different proposition from one written to appeal to Irish-American baseball fans. 

If you want a little help in asking the right questions to define your audience, download our author market research checklist below. 



Market Research Checklist

Find your ultimate target audience with our checklist.

Now that you know who you’re writing for, you need to clearly define which (yummy) slice of your life you want to share with them. 

When writing a memoir, there's always the temptation to cover broad periods of your life, from that time in first grade when Mrs. Taylor laughed at your painting, to your third divorce, and everything in between. But remember, this is not a biography. You should try to choose specific experiences or aspects of your life that form a red thread or a central theme. The narrower the focus, the better your memoir will resonate with others. 

For example, a memoir could be about the time you hiked the Appalachian Trail, became a Jiu-Jitsu master, or volunteered in a refugee camp. Naturally, anecdotes from other parts of your life may intertwine with your main narrative, but there needs to be a focused center to your book.

Not only will a narrower slice of life help you concentrate your efforts, it will also make it easier to shift the focus from your personal story to specific, relatable things you experienced , making it easier for readers to care and take something away from the book.



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A broader theme readers can relate to

Unless you’re a celebrity, you can’t expect people to just want to read your memoir 一 you have to give them a reason to carve time out of their busy schedule and sit with your book. People are drawn to stories that they can relate to or that teach them something about themselves and the world. 

So, before you get to writing, identify the broader themes behind your personal experiences and center the book around them. For example, a story about hiking the Appalachian Trail could be a story about spiritual growth. A book about learning Jiu-Jitsu may be about building confidence and overcoming fear. A memoir about working with refugees could be about cultivating empathy and overcoming structural inequality. 

These are themes that people from different ages, gender, and cultures can relate to. They will make your memoir much more universal. Figure out what readers can learn from your experiences, whether that’s something about resilience, trauma, parenting, self-discovery, or other, and center your book around that .    

💡 Listen to 3-time memoir author Paul Bradley Carr explain the importance of nailing your memoir’s focus from the get-go in this advice-packed Reedsy Live.

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At this point, you’re probably fired up and stretching your fingers to start writing. But there are a few more steps to take to ensure you’re set up for success. 

Memory lane isn’t a straight path — it’s a winding road with many off-ramps and distractions. So before you start drafting, make a note of where you’re going by encapsulating your memoir in a sentence or two. Ask yourself: if I were to pitch it to a stranger on an elevator, how would I summarize it? The purpose of this exercise is to help you weave the main themes into a clear narrative arc, which is essential to turn your life into a captivating story. 

Here are some example loglines from famous memoirs for inspiration: 

Take some time with your logline and whittle your story down to its purest form. If it helps, start by writing what you think the back cover blurb will be. Then boil it down further and further, until you can finally pitch it in just a few sentences.

The logline is the North Star that will guide you as you start to collect the moments of your life to include in the book. 

Now that you have a direction and some central themes, it’s time to pick the best tales from your buffet of life experiences. It’s natural to look back at your life chronologically and select memories in a linear fashion, but really, what’s important is to pick the most meaningful moments, whether big or small, that propel your memoir forward.

For example, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is a collection of stories about growing up as a mixed-raced child in Apartheid South Africa. The book shares how Noah questioned his mother’s religious beliefs, spoke multiple languages to bridge cultural differences, made and sold CDs to escape poverty, and more. Each story is a different window into his world and how it shaped him, but all of them build on the book’s central themes of faith, identity, and resilience.

Look for moments of high emotion

When you’re mining your memory for stories, look for those with moments of high emotion and meaning. Whether it was a funny, sad, or embarrassing memory, the ones that shaped who you are and how you see the world tend to be the most emotionally charged.

To discern the gems from mediocre stories, consider working with a professional editor and take advantage of their editorial wisdom. 



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Now close your eyes, and dig deep into your memories to repaint your stories on the blank page as colorfully (and accurately) as possible. 

To make your memoir deeply engaging, experiment with different storytelling techniques and use sensory details, actions, and dialogue, as opposed to explicitly stating what you did or how you felt. This falls into the classic writing advice of ‘ Show, don’t tell .’

When revisiting your memories, be thorough in your research and try to collect as many details as possible: 

  • Read back your journal entries (if you kept one) to see how you felt in the moment.
  • Get your hands on photos or videos from that period in your life (either digital or analog.)
  • Interview your family members, friends, and other people relevant to your story.
  • Revisit locations and settings from the past that you plan on writing about.
  • Look up anything that can be verified or fact-checked (e.g. dates, social media posts, or world news.)

Once you've collected the raw material, organize these memories in a way that makes sense for you. Being systematic in your research will pay serious dividends when you actually start working on your manuscript.

You’re allowed some creative license with dialogue

One thing that is particularly important to get right is dialogue. Obviously, you don't have to write dialogue exactly as it happened — our memories are fallible after all. However, you do need to accurately capture the essence of what was said (and how). As long as you’re faithful to what happened (or at least honest about how you experienced it) you can take some liberties with the precise wording. 

To write believable dialogue, take inspiration from your favorite writers, or take our free course below for tips. 



How to Write Believable Dialogue

Master the art of dialogue in 10 five-minute lessons.

😱 Inevitably, when you write about other people there’s always a risk of portraying them in a way they don’t appreciate. As general advice, tell them you’re writing this story, or prepare to lose some relationships. And if you’re really pushing some boundaries, discuss it with your lawyer! 

Next, it’s time to look inwards and flesh out a compelling and relatable protagonist: you!  

The best memoirs read like novels, which means they hinge on the protagonist’s voice and personality 一 their quirks, values, and goals, and how they rise to life’s challenges. Just as in a novel, your memoir needs a relatable protagonist that undergoes some change.

It takes a good dose of courage to portray yourself as a multidimensional character 一 one with both strengths and weaknesses, one who sometimes wins and sometimes loses. 

Do background work on yourself

To infuse a dose of humanity to your own character, you’ll have to do the background work as if you were a character in a novel. Take note of everything from your physical appearance, cultural background, psychological traits, and more. This exercise will help you bring to surface details about your personality that you’d otherwise look over, and depict a much more well-rounded protagonist. To facilitate the process, use our free character development template which will guide you with specific prompts and questions.  


Reedsy’s Character Development Template

A story is only as strong as its characters. Fill this out to develop yours.

Define your character’s arc

Additionally, it's helpful to define your own character's arc 一 how you’ve matured through the life experiences highlighted in the memoir. There are specific steps you can follow to define your personal hero's journey , but among other questions, you’ll have to answer: 

  • What inciting incident set you on a journey?
  • What were the obstacles you encountered?
  • Which mentors helped you along the way?
  • What were the lessons you needed to learn?
  • How have you changed as a result?

These questions will help you strengthen your memoir’s narrative, hooking the readers in like the best novels do. 

To give an example, Cheryl Strayed's journey in Wild begins after the death of her beloved mother and other family problems, which lead her on a path of self-destruction, culminating in a divorce and addiction to heroin. Having reached the bottom, she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for three months in order to find herself. The path is filled with challenges 一 from her hiking inexperience, to losing her boots, to fellow hikers warning her that it's not safe to go on alone. Through resilience (and some help) she is able to overcome her physical and emotional challenges, find forgiveness and rediscover her inner strength. 

Still of Reese Witherspoon in Wild, backpacking the Pacific Coast Trail

Take inspiration from Wild and other memoirs, and deconstruct how your own experiences might fit into these all-important story elements. 

You now have all the ingredients: a specific memoir topic that touches on universal themes (as summarized by your logline), a selection of vivid and relevant memories, and a multidimensional character with an interesting story arc. It’s time to put it all together by outlining the structure of your memoir, which is exactly what we’ll cover in our next post.

15 responses

CourtneySymons says:

11/01/2018 – 15:26

This was exactly the article I needed today! I've just begun a new career path as a ghostwriter and am finding it difficult to find learning resources (conferences, courses, books, networks of ghostwriters, etc.). If any readers have advice on where I should be looking or who I should be talking to, I would be forever grateful! Thanks so much!

M. Thomas Maxwell says:

11/01/2018 – 15:28

I had no intention of writing a book but encouraged by my grandson I embarked on a story telling venture that led to Grandfather's Journal, www.captaintommaxwell.com. It truly is a series of life stories shared with my grandson. Published by Westbow press in 2015 I used many Reedsy tips and am very pleased with the results.I have since encouraged others to consider doing the same. It took over a year and was a pleasant experience.

Don Karp says:

11/01/2018 – 16:06

As a self-published memoir writer, I read this with appreciation. I do not agree with all that's said here. For example, "2. Do Your Research." Of course certain events--those experienced publicly by a large number of people--need to be accurate. But even the word, "memoir," says it's about memory, not accuracy. This is one of the major differences from an autobiography which does require research. I looked up the dictionary definition and got confirmation on this. Perhaps you need to re-examine this and get it right?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

11/01/2018 – 17:00

I would agree that memoirs are indeed based on memory — and in some way that's why historians are often forced to question the reliability of memoirs as a primary source. I would say, however, that modern readers to expect memoirs to be as factually-correct as possible. Editors at publishers will go to great pains to ensure that — or face a public backlash. If you say anything in a memoir that can be disproved by a basic google search will seriously compromise your relationship with a reader. The other benefit with research is that it can do a lot to jog your memories. Unreliable recollections can often be set straight once you remind yourself of certain facts. Thanks for commenting!

↪️ Don Karp replied:

11/01/2018 – 17:28

Thanks for your response. This brings up two points for me. First, what is more powerful, a memory of an experience or the actual experience? Different people interpret the same experience differently. Second, what do you propose to do with the dictionary definition of "memoir?" Since the word is based on memory and not research, perhaps you can suggest some alternate word form?

↪️ The Red Lounge For Writers replied:

05/12/2018 – 08:14

I think looking at the idea of the 'voice of innocence' and the 'voice of experience' could really help with this distinction between fact and memory. As writers of memoir, we are expected to write what we remember. We can do this using the voice of innocence, and use the voice of experience to write about the factual context.

Stu Mountjoy says:

11/01/2018 – 21:48

A group I used to attend, on a Friday, started people off with the basic exercise of writing a story about one thing that happened to you, and I did one about a race at school. I am always impressed by the first page I read of Alan Alder's bio (actor in M*A*S*H TV series) - "Hi I'm Alan Alder, and when I was six, my mother tried to kill my father." - wow.

31/01/2018 – 10:15

Alda's a great writer — "Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself" is such a fantastic name for a memoir too.

Robbie Cheadle says:

31/01/2018 – 04:48

A very useful and interesting post on writing a memoir.

31/01/2018 – 10:14

I'm glad you like it Robbie :)

The Red Lounge For Writers says:

05/12/2018 – 08:10

All great advice. Memoir is probably my favourite genre to read, and some of my favourite books are memoirs. I'm of the opinion that everyone has a story to tell; it's just a matter of figuring out how to do it really well.

James Soil says:

15/07/2019 – 13:16

Thank you very much I just finished my Memoir titled Addicted it will be out this summer after reading this article I feel much better about it I pretty much did what the article says.

Izaura Nicolette says:

04/08/2019 – 04:50

Self-published Author, Izaura Nicolette. 'Within The Mountains: A Mormon Reform School Experience.' Published January, 2019. Seeking legit Publishing House or Agent. I still have not received any royalties due to publishers being fraudulent. I want to speak publicly about my memoir. Hundreds to thousands can back me up. This is a true story. I hold too close to my heart. Hoping to heal by sharing this experience, and opening door for many others.

Magzley says:

08/08/2019 – 02:14

Can I *breathe* life into my story instead?

Cassandra Janzen says:

20/12/2019 – 04:35

Very helpful, thank you!

Comments are currently closed.

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  • Knowledge Base
  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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Writing the Memoir (Moxley): Introduction

  • Introduction
  • Tips for Writing the Memoir
  • Annotated Memoirs
  • Describing a Person
  • Describing a Place
  • Sample Topics and Essays

Introduction to Writing the Memoir

Teaching and writing the memoir .

            A memoir can be one of the most meaningful essays that a student can write and one of the most engaging essays for a teacher to read.  The spirit generated by the memoir can create class fellowship less attainable through subjects requiring pure analysis, description, or narration.  More than any other subject, a memoir demands that a student bring his sensibilities and experiences to school, and when that happens, it is virtually impossible for anyone to accept a mediocrity of passion.  Students and teachers are likely to treat writing as an experience in itself, a means for writers to understand their lives and for teachers to understand their students’ worlds.

              In Terrains of the Heart, Willie Morris writes,

  If it is true that a writer's world is shaped by the experience of childhood and adolescence, then returning at long last to the scenes of those experiences, remembering them anew and living among their changing heartbeats, gives him, as Marshall Frady said, the primary pulses and shocks he cannot afford to lose. I have never denied the poverty, the smugness, the cruelty which have existed in my native state [ Mississippi ].  Meanness is everywhere, but here the meanness, and the nobility, have for me their own dramatic edge, for the fools are my fools, and the heroes are mine too.

  As a young editor who left his native state for New York City, Willie Morris wrote prolifically about his hot Mississippi youth from the cold Northeast.  His essays on home preserve a way of life in the Delta—a complicated history marked by romance and violence—while he lived in a New York far removed from this past.  We sense when reading Willie Morris’s carefully crafted memories that he is coming to know himself through his writing and, in a broader sense, has resurrected a world that can help others understand their own lives.

            To both student and teacher, this is what I hope teaching and writing the memoir will give you:  a chance to investigate your past, your culture, and your lives in general, and in so doing, create a community of authors who delight in the struggle to write clearly, meaningfully, and correctly.

The Rationale

              By clicking here , or by opening the above tab, Annotated Memoirs, you will go to a list of six types of essays, each of which is hyperlinked to a sample essay and a discussion of it. 

              Each sample annotated essay will have the following:

1.  an introduction that comments on the type of essay and how it may generate good writing from young students;

2.  a link to the essay so you can open or print it;

3.  a discussion of the essay, called “The Craft of the Essay,” which explains the strategy in each paragraph or “part” of the essay so that the teacher and student can see how the memoir was crafted from the bare memory.  This section should encourage teacher and student to scrutinize the essay together during a read-aloud session to determine how they think the memory was turned into memoir;

4.  an “Assignment” section that gives the student some specific questions to answer that might help them see the further craft of the particular memoir.

Teaching Strategies

              As with any assignment, the teaching strategy depends on the size of the class, the amount of time allotted for the assignment, how much it is weighted, and so forth.

            Ideally, teaching the memoir should take 6-7 nights of homework.  These nights could be spaced over the course of two-three weeks.

            You could also make it a lighter assignment and cut it to 3-4 assignments, with only one rough draft, instead of the two I suggest.

Homework Assignment #1: 

              The teacher/class decides which category of memoir they will read together as a class to introduce the assignment.  For example, you may choose from the Annotated Memoirs to read the Writing about Death and Mortality assignment and its sample annotated essay “Death of a Pig” by E. B. White.  For this night’s homework, the students should print out the assignment and essay at home to bring to class as their text.  They should read the essay, read the “Craft of the Essay” discussion, and then answer on paper the questions under the “Assignment” section. 

            In class the next day, read the essay aloud (or as much of it as possible), go over the “Craft of the Essay” and finish the day having the students explain their responses to the “Assignment.”

            If there is any time left, you might get the students to discuss the topic, “Where does memory begin?” ( Click here for a passage from Willie Morris's Taps to get the ball rolling. )

  Homework Assignment #2:

              Open the  Sample Topics and Essays  tab to find numerous topics and sample essays.  Decide whether everyone is going to write the same type of essay or whether the topic will be open to a variety of memoirs.  Then read a few sample essays for the topic you choose. 

Written homework is to sit for 40 minutes and do a “fast write,” in which the student writes about half of the first draft of the memory, paying no attention to grammar, style, syntax, or organization. This assignment is to get the student to write or type 2-3 pages of his memory with some, but minimal, revision (the revision should take place after the fast-write).  Click on the tab, Tips for Writing the Memoir, for some help getting started after the fast-write.

            In class the next day, students will read aloud what they have written.  The object is to hear one or two inspiring accounts so that each student can “get the hang of the assignment.”  The teacher should be pushing everyone to develop his “voice.”   Again, see Tips for Writing the Memoir  for a discussion of voice and other terms.

  Homework Assignment #3: 

              Continue where the students left off in Assignment #2 and try to write 4-5 handwritten, or 3-4 typed, pages.  If someone does not like what he/she did in Assignment #2, then start anew.

            In class the next day, have the students read aloud their work.  By the end of this day everyone should have read his/her essay at least once, either on this day or the day before.  The teacher should keep track of who has read.  Again, note how distinct the students’ written voices are, and who is putting in moments of self-reflection and not getting hung up on chronological retelling.

  Homework Assignment #4:

              By this time the students should know the focus of their essay (in other words, what wisdom, revelation, or general idea that their essay is revealing) and should begin “crafting,” or creatively organizing, the memory to become a memoir.

            It is crucial that the student realize that facts are not solely important.  Good memoirs are a blend of fact and creation; this concept will be tough to defend, but the writers of memoir have flexibility regarding the facts of the memory, since it is the “truth” of the memory they are creating; sometimes the facts are too confusing or pallid to have the needed color to make a memory vivid.  For a memory to become memoir, it needs a larger-than-life appeal.  ( Click here for some comments by Dorothy Gallagher on fact versus truth in memoir. )

To craft the essay, for homework (5-10 minutes) try having them draw a timeline of the way the memory works; in class the teacher can draw the timeline of other successful sample essays.  They will see that many essays about a lost loved one starts at the funeral, flashes back to the life, and at the end returns to the funeral.  Flashbacks are crucial to building characters, dead or alive

            Also ask them to outline what they have written as best they can (10-15 minute assignment).  Then, looking at their outlines, they may see a way to restructure the telling of the memory to get the most out of it. 

            The students should be encouraged to imitate the structure of essays that resemble the one they are writing.

            With all this in mind, they should go back and begin writing a new draft for 30 minutes.  In class the next day, have them report on what they’ve changed and have them read some first paragraphs aloud.

    Homework Assignment #5:

              Finish draft number 2.  The students should be keeping track of their rough drafts, as their grade will be based as much on effort and process as on final product.  By now the essays should have incorporated a number of ways to build character, place, and their focus:  short dialogue, concrete descriptions, anecdotes, and moments of reflection.

            Have each student read his or her first 3-4 sentences.  Urge everyone to listen intently and decide which of these sentences should be the first one in the essay.  Frequently, the first paragraph or two can be cut.  It takes most writers about 100 or more words to get warmed up.  Remind them of the Truman Capote Rule:  “I believe more in the scissors than I do the pencil.”

  Homework Assignment #6:

              The final essay is due, approximately 4-5 typed pages.  The student should turn in at least two verifiable rough drafts and the final draft.  The teacher will have heard every student’s paper at least once and should have encouraged each student to drop by for 5-10 minutes during the last 4-5 days to discuss the progress of the memoir.

            The process of this assignment should be weighted as heavily as the final product.  I usually check that the student has written two drafts, contributed to class workshops, and has revised carefully by showing he has learned: 

  (1) to start strategically;

(2) to create the various characters through description, action, anecdote, and brief dialogue;

(3) to create place and atmosphere through concrete description, temperature, climate, and telling details;

(4) to build a strong focus through moments of self-reflection;

(5) to organize strategically, dividing his essay into many paragraphs, some short, some long;

(6) to unify his essay so that, although it may wander, it ultimately returns to some unifying point or image;

(7) to punctuate and write solid sentences that create a pleasing variety and rhythm.

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How to Write Memoir: Examples, Tips, and Ideas for School &College students

How to Write Memoir: Examples, Tips, and Ideas for School &College students

Everyone has the right to write his memoir; there is no need to become famous. If you want to write your memoirs quickly and successfully, our article will help you. It has all the helpful information for writing and practical examples and instructions on how to write an outline.

  • ✔️ What Is a Memoir

✨ Memoir Examples and Ideas

  • 🖊 ️ How to Write a Memoir

🔗 References

✔️ what is a memoir.

A memoir is a genre of non-fiction in which the author recounts specific historical events that they witnessed or participated in . This type of work can show either the author’s entire life as a biography or a particular event that they experienced.

What is a memoir? Definition.

Memoir Characteristics

Initially, the memoir genre acted as a subjective description of the past through the prism of the author’s life in it. An essential feature of memoirs is the claim for the authenticity of the reconstructed history and, accordingly, the documentary nature of the text, although, in reality, not all memoirs are truthful and accurate.

They have several stylistic features of memoir:

  • Clear relevance to the history
  • Factoriality
  • Chronological narrative

Examples of memoirs can be diaries, notebooks, correspondence, memos, or travel notes.

You can get a better idea of what a memoir is in our free essays database.

Memoir vs. Autobiography

Despite the outward similarities between these types of literature, there is still a difference between memoir and autobiographical literature. They are entirely different genres that are independent and complete works.

The best way to understand how to write this type of work is to see examples. That’s why we’ve given you examples of 100-word student memoirs below.

1. I dreamed of being an artist and becoming a doctor, and I don’t regret it. The dream of becoming a journalist has haunted me since my childhood. Back then, I was a very young boy, inspired by late-night TV shows and concerts. Those were glorious times when the well-known rock bands performed on stages, the real heroes. Wanting to become the darling of the audience, a hero like these guys, from time to time, I picked up a comb and sang into it in front of the mirror, impersonating the lead singer of one of them. Time passed, and fate had it so that now – 10 years later – I’m an emergency room doctor. You’d think my dream never came true. But it wasn’t. Over time, I realized that even though I do not have colossal fame and am not a hero to many teenagers, I did what I wanted – every day, I and my colleagues save lives. 2. Being sad for no reason frustrates me. For me, sadness can even be pleasant; justifying it in any way I can – I can imagine myself in that person’s shoes, listening to the sad music of the main character in a dramatic movie. I can look out the window as I cry and think, “This is so sad. I can’t even believe how sad this whole situation is.” Even reproducing my sadness can bring an entire theater audience to tears.” Feeling sorry for myself in times of sorrow intensifies it in me at such moments. 3. 1998 – This was the year my life changed. My friends and I went on a mountain trip, and as we were climbing rocks, I got oxygen deprivation at a certain altitude. Then my life was saved by people close to me. It was a moment after which I decided to live each year as if it were my last. It meant spending two years in New York City and focusing on loving life. It meant making new friends. It meant saying yes to many other things. It meant that my priorities were no longer the same as most.

If you would like to see more extensive examples of memoirs, the Fictional Memoir of Kerry Brodie and the Sociological Mini-Memoir on Personality Development would be remarkable for that.

6-word Memoir Examples

It is not necessary to write many paragraphs. Sometimes only 6 words are enough. There is a type of memoir of just one sentence. Mostly they are quotes from famous people, but no one forbids everyone to compose them. Here are some 6-word memoir examples:

  • Unrehearsed, honest, unstoppable, and succeeding gradually
  • Because of my big dreams, I’m always stressed.
  • Every day is thinking of dreams , still thinking.
  • The supremacy of reason over the dictatorship of emotion.
  • Never let anyone steal your joy !
  • Keep up the fight! Don’t give up .
  • Loved his soul, not his money.
  • A dream journey for all of us.
  • At first glance, she was gentle.
  • I was happy , and then I wasn’t.
  • The right choice saves lives.

Memoir Prompts

To write a memoir, you must first choose a topic. Here are prompt ideas to help you:

  • Write about your first love.
  • Write how you survived the 2020 crisis.
  • Write about the best trip of your life.
  • Discuss friendship and what it means in your life.
  • What are some of the things you regret that you didn’t do?
  • Explain what you have too much of and what you have not had enough of in your life.
  • Write about how you got into trouble.
  • Tell me what aspect of your personality you are proud of.
  • Write about what kind of music helped you cope with stress .
  • Tell me how you felt when your father taught you to ride a bicycle .
  • Tell about a situation in your life when you were insanely happy.
  • Tell us about your most reckless purchase.
  • Write about a goal that was easy for you to achieve.
  • Discuss how you met your friends.
  • Talk about a situation that is beyond your understanding.

Memoir Topics

What are some excellent memoir topics? Check out the list of memoir ideas:

  • Hiking with friends in the mountains.
  • How I survived Hurricane Katrina .
  • Breathtaking Victoria Peak in Tokyo.
  • Moving to another country left a mark on me.
  • A man who saved my life.
  • The problem of gun control and how it affected me.
  • The lawsuits between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard led to a confrontation between my friends.
  • The time when I lived in a house with a beautiful view of the mountains.
  • A strange incident happened in my home in the middle of the night.
  • Watching my favorite movie with my family.
  • Fear of flying an airplane.
  • Today I’m glad I made the right choice.
  • My best friend at school.
  • My car broke down in the middle of a mountain road.
  • I didn’t get to be a designer .
  • I never got to make up with my grandfather.
  • A long trip to Europe.
  • Switzerland won my heart.
  • My favorite dish and memories associated with it.
  • The war in Yugoslavia left a mark on me.
  • How I found the courage to say “NO.”
  • Surfing in Bali.
  • The most horrible injury of my life.
  • Winning a chess competition.
  • Studying at Harvard .
  • I didn’t help a man in trouble, and karma found me.
  • Organizing the most massive event in town.
  • Playing in the casino made me poor.
  • The job that made me brave.
  • The plane crash I survived.

🖊️ How to Write a Memoir

Now you can get out your pen and paper and start writing. Any work has specific rules and structure, and memoirs are no exception.

When you are writing a memoir, organizing all your memories makes sense. A peculiarity of this genre is that the author recalls their emotions and impressions as they write. They can negatively affect the work because they can mess up the structure and order. In addition, you may accidentally start telling stories that run parallel to the main story and “go astray.”

A well-written memoir synopsis will help you prevent this.

How to write a memoir outline?

Here are a few steps:

  • Represent the main character . There will also necessarily be an antagonist in a person, situation, or circumstance. You need to “hook the reader’s interest in the first act. Examples of a successful hook will be below.
  • Involve some drama, conflict, and critical events . All of your emotions need to be revealed, as do all of the events. In this part, your problems become more entangled and complex, as shown through scenes of actions and reactions that highlight your journey of change, transformation, and discovery of true or false.
  • The drama, conflicts, and problems reach a climax , and the person (you) has completed the action, having had the experience. There are many endings in which the reader feels happy, sad, satisfied, with cause for reflection, etc. But the ending should always leave the reader feeling that the story is complete.

You can use this memoir outline template when writing your work:

Memoir outline template.

Memoir Introduction

A memoir should reveal intense, exciting, and real-life discoveries from the first lines to the end of the first chapter. If you are just beginning to write your memoir, follow these writing tips on how to start:

  • Engage. There’s nothing like a gripping hook to keep the reader engaged. Elizabeth Gilbert, for example, opens her bestseller Eat, Pray, Love with an intimate moment.
  • Build credibility. From the beginning, tell your story as if you’re sharing a secret you’ve never told anyone. This approach makes the reader a confidant and builds trust from the start.
  • Evoke emotion . Write your first pages from the heart. Use language that resonates with people on an emotional level. One of the best ways to evoke emotion in your reader is to talk about yourself.
  • Lead the story with a laugh. Try leading with humor, whether you’re writing about your childhood or your memoir is about a darker story.
  • Reveal a dramatic moment . Choose a dramatic moment to begin your memoir. You can revisit the event in more detail later, but it may interest the reader if you share a compelling glimpse of what is to come.
  • Think like a fiction writer . A memoir is the true story of your life, but it should also include the structural elements of fiction. In your exposition, be sure to set the stage for the rest of the book by establishing yourself as the protagonist, laying out the source of the conflict, and highlighting the central theme.
  • Keep it relevant. There are a million little details and life experiences that can be interesting on their own, but if they don’t support your story, you should exclude them.
  • Chronology in the introduction is optional . Start writing the part of the story that inspires you the most, and then go back to your beginning after you finish your first draft. As you register, you will find the perfect start.

Memoir Hook Examples

As mentioned earlier, the memoir structure involves having a clear that draws the reader in the hook.

What’s it for?

First, the hook arouses the reader’s interest. Second, it reveals a situation, a feeling, an emotion, or all of these in a thesis statement. This gives the reader a chance to understand what the story will be about and get attention.

Effective hook characteristics:

  • 1-2 sentences
  • Brings emotions
  • Goes beyond a memoir

You can see a great hook in a live example of a memoir, as well as in the examples below:

  • At the Chess Olympiad then, everyone gave me a standing ovation.
  • At that moment, I was one of the first to feel the fear of death.
  • Broken knees and even my nose, but I still tried to pedal, getting on my bike time after time.
  • I heard a scream. Something terrible had happened.
  • The waterfall overshadowed all my memories with its beauty, even my first love.
  • Few have spent their lives in Africa treating tigers.
  • It’s about a historical event
  • I was sure my parachute wouldn’t open
  • The mass shooting at Columbine Middle School. I would have rather died than my friends.
  • All the students were amazed to see an elderly professor doing somersaults, demonstrating the laws of physics.

Memoir Conclusion Examples

As you know, your story must have a beginning and an end. In the end, there needs to be a conclusion. Describe what you got out of your situation, how your life changed afterward, or what you gained or lost. You may want to jump back in time, perhaps many years in advance, to complete your story and summarize it for readers long after the “period” your memoir covers has ended.

And now, grab these memoir conclusion examples:

1. This journey along the river took all my energy. But it was nothing compared to the people I got to know. Billy, Miles, and Ashley seemed like strangers to me, but now we talk every day, and we see each other on weekends, reminiscing about our shared adventures on the Mississippi. 2. The moment the hurricane grabbed me and lifted me into the air, something changed in my mind. I thought I was about to die and was ready to accept it. But fate gave me a chance for salvation, and I took it. After that event, I became a different person; I rethought all the values in life and began to look at problems from another side. Although the trauma of that day still affects me, I’m happy with how my life has changed. 3. For a week after I had recovered from my serious injury, I had not heard from my unit in Afghanistan. The doctors told me not to get nervous, and no one gave me any information. Then on Wednesday, at 2 p.m., I heard the doorbell ring. It was Sean, the deputy squad leader, and a couple of other privates from our squad, safe and sound. A feeling of joy immediately filled me, and they broke into my house and started giving me a friendly hug and patting me on the back. All I could think about was how glad I was that they were in one piece, and the phrase kept rolling through my head, “We did it, Sean, we did it.”

These are just a few examples of the completion of a memoir. It’s enough to get the gist of a well-written.

As you can see, anyone can write a memoir, and it’s not as hard as it sounds. Now that you know how to write an outline, an introduction, and a conclusion, you have seen short memoir examples. You will write a fantastic memoir.

Don’t forget to share this article with your friends.

What Are the 5 Parts of a Memoir?

A memoir should contain 5 crucial elements: the truth, theme, first-person narration style, voice, and perception. The focused theme, demonstration of a specific event or experience, and conflict. The writing style of your memoir should be straightforward and spare. Supporting details will add charm to your memoir, and giving elements to your narrative will help the reader relive some of the emotions you experienced.

What Is the Purpose of a Memoir?

A memoir’s primary purpose is to recall an event from the past and present it to the reader in an exciting way. At the same time, it is necessary to conclude that it will be interesting for your audience.

What Is a Personal Memoir?

The essence of a personal memoir is that you write about what happened to you personally. Remember how you felt in those moments, and sincerely communicate that in your work. Only you can tell the story of your life that will make others more prosperous spiritually. A memoir about yourself examples is in the article.

How Many Words Should Be In a Memoir?

The standard size of a memoir is about 60,000 to 80,000 words. That’s about the size of the average novel. Can a memoir be smaller, like 40,000 words? Sure. Its main point is for the author to tell a story to the reader.

What Is the Difference Between Memoir and Biography?

These two genres are generally similar and are part of non-fiction. The critical difference is that while a memoir focuses explicitly on a particular incident or experience and attempts to highlight a point of view, a biography presents chronological events from a specific person’s life without emphasizing a specific experience. Also, unlike memoirs, which emphasize individual emotions, biography tends to be more general.

  • The Personal Memoir: Purdue Writing Lab
  • Audience Considerations for ESL Writers: Introduction: Purdue Writing Lab
  • Making an Outline: USC Libraries
  • Outline Components: Purdue Writing Lab
  • Memoir | Definition, Examples, & Facts: Encyclopedia Britannica
  • What Is a Memoir? – Definition & Examples: Study.com
  • Six-Word Memoirs: UPENN
  • Writing a Memoir: Dallas Baptist University
  • Memoir: An Introduction: Oxford Scholarship
  • Writing Memoir | Monmouth University
  • Writing Lives: Autobiography in Fiction and Memoir – ANU
  • Biography and Memoir | CUNY Graduate Center
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Book Creation

How to write a memoir: do's and don'ts.

Memoirs are among the most powerful books on the market in terms of their ability to positively affect their readers. The basis of memoir writing lies in an author with a story worth telling, whether about an accomplishment or struggle. But while memoir authors often have many life lessons to share, it’s important that they don’t stray into the more prescriptive world of self-help writing.

Follow these do’s and don’ts, and you’ll be well on your way to writing a memoir that can compete toe-to-toe with the best on the market.

Tell a Story

DO THIS: Establish a story arc. Even though it’s a story about your life, it still has to have some of the elements and structure of fiction to make it compelling. Consider how you will tell your story based on what elements you’re trying to emphasize. Remember, you still need character development, a compelling struggle, and a resolution.

NOT THIS: Include every detail of your life in your memoir. If you’re focusing on your relationship with your siblings, don’t put unnecessary details in about your college years or your European vacation with friends unless it relates directly to the story.

Show Don't Tell

DO THIS: The inspiration needs to come from the story. If you’re writing an inspirational memoir, it’s the story, the characters, and the action that should incite emotion. When you read an amazing memoir, it’s not uplifting because the author is telling you it is; the inspiring nature of the book is written into the story.

NOT THIS: Tell the reader why the story is inspiring. Don’t say things like, “In overcoming my illness, I finally realized how strong I was.” Show your readers how you felt, and let them infer from your storytelling the lessons you learned. This is an important distinction between self-help and memoir, and a key place where authors unintentionally blend the two.

Highlight What's Unique

DO THIS: Find your hook and emphasize an element of your story that makes it unique and marketable. Telling about your struggle isn’t enough. Research comparable titles and figure out an angle for your book that is new and different from what is already out there.

NOT THIS: Write a very broad book about overcoming a difficult situation. For example, instead of a book about addiction, write a book about beating alcoholism with your supportive, madcap Southern family at your side.

Writing a self-help book? Learn what makes it different than a self-help book here .

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  • A Research Guide
  • Writing Guide
  • Essay Writing

How to Write a Memoir Essay

  • The seedier side of town
  • A broken family home
  • A tumultuous or abusive relationship
  • Addiction or substance abuse
  • The social service system
  • In a position of power
  • Fit or healthy
  • Open to faith

Tips How to Write a Memoir Essay – Step by step

  • Understand your theme, and stick to it: Remember that no one cares that you’ve ‘made something of yourself’, except for your mom and maybe a handful of other close friends and relatives who already know and love you.
  • Find a Common Ground
  • Pick your Anecdotes Carefully
  • Write your Memoir like You Would Write a Novel
  • Share your story, but don’t steamroll people

What is the difference between a Memoir vs. Autobiography

  • less formal
  • less inclusive
  • focused more on emotional truth and how it has shaped the current life of the writer
  • less strict to factual events
  • Written by the subject, or with a collaborating writer
  • A chronological account of the entire life of the subject
  • Extremely fact based

Tips for Writing a Well-Written Memoir

  • Don’t make it too much like an autobiography. Stick to your theme.
  • Don’t include minutiae. (Small, insignificant details that no one cares about)
  • Try not to gloat or brag.
  • Don’t gloss over the truth. Yes, you can change identifying details so that you don’t expose the people you are writing about, but don’t outright lie.
  • Try not to sound to ‘preachy’ or like you are far superior to those around you.

Some Remarkable Memoir Examples

  • Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
  • Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Dancing to the Beat of the Drum by Pamela Nomvete
  • The Girl from Foreign  by Sadia Shepard

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Memoir coach and author Marion Roach

Welcome to The Memoir Project, the portal to your writing life.

How to Write A Memoir in Essays

how to write a thesis for memoir

Sorting the Stories — Memoir as Essay Collection

by Linda Styles Berkery

When I told a friend that I was taking a memoir-writing class, she replied, “Your life just isn’t that interesting.” Obviously she was thinking autobiography , not understanding memoir . I ignored her comment and continued to write about the small threads of wisdom I’ve learned.

After many edits, additions, and subtractions, I had built a wardrobe. I had a collection of fourteen personal essays—each one told through the lens of a dress. A Little Black Dress —learning compassion as illustrated by growing up in a funeral home. Memory Gown —naming mistakes as illustrated by a trip to the ER. Red Mini —seeing individuals as illustrated by teaching third grade. Ordinary dresses can bring out profound lessons.

Since all the writing pieces were in essay format, I adjusted Marion Roach Smith’s famous writing math, It’s about X as illustrated by Y to be told in a Z , and made a chart. To my Z factor, (essays) I added color and noted the dress: a turquoise paisley print, a navy maternity dress, an orange Hawaiian muumuu, a yellow sundress from 1941, a blue velvet jumper.

Each essay could stand alone, yet a book kept coming to mind. It was not enough to say I have a collection of “dress stories” of different length and various moods. I had more work to do. Although my structure would not be typical of a book length memoir (Act 1, Act 2, Act 3), even memoir as an essay collection must have an overall arc—a roof overhead, not just dress threads running through. Yes, memoir can be an essay collection, but it still needs structure and order.

I printed each story individually and laid them across my living room carpet. I knew which essay to put first and which would be last, but the other twelve? Originally I was tempted to group them. These three relate to my father’s WWII stories—put them together. Two had childhood dresses. My husband was mentioned in this group. But nothing really worked until my wonderful editor, Robyn Ringler, passed along tips she had learned from her own writing coach.

“Mix them up,” Robyn suggested. “Vary the word count. Don’t try to force the order, but pay attention to the emotions and lessons in the stories. Then, after you collect everything in the order you think might work, read the last paragraph of one story and the first paragraph of the following story and see if that works. You might need to do that process a few times.”

Robyn was right. I did arrange the essays a few times. But since these were, after all, dress stories, I got creative. If I had a photo of the dress, or a scrap of material from the dress, I stapled it to the printed page. Clearing a closet rod, I hung each essay from fourteen skirt hangers and started arranging them for a book. (Don’t try this at home.) I moved them and moved them until I could see a lovely rainbow arc for the entire collection.

When I was finally comfortable with the flow, I released my dress stories from their hangers and returned to the computer to cut and paste the individual essays into one long document. More edits. Moving paragraphs. Breaking up stories into parts. Adding just a bit more here and there. Writing an introduction and a final note to the reader. Two years after I wrote the first “dress story” for a memoir class, the book was published as Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons. Memoir, like a classic great dress, never goes out of style.

From the Introduction:

The hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy.

—Helen Hayes

At ten, I wasn’t the moody middle child wanting to be noticed, as much as the one who always seemed to notice. I was the sorter of stories, the keeper of traditions. Reaching up, or out, or down, I saw invisible threads that joined people together. I still do. Now, at seventy, I’m connecting more strands. And dresses are coaching my memory.

Three hard white suitcases live under my bed. I yank out the middle one and plop it on the blue star quilt. I’m not loading it up for a trip; it’s already full. I know what’s inside: dresses, scraps of fabric from dresses, and old photos. Clicking on the double locks feels like opening a black box of flight recordings. Messages vibrate from crinkles and creases, stains and frills. Memories rise from cotton, velvet, and silk—fibers from my journey through life.

Wisdom remains on the fold of one dress. I smooth a wrinkle and kindness appears. When I trace my pinky over white lace, I remember letting go. Hope is in there too, along with judgment, loss, compassion, forgiveness…a wardrobe of memories just waiting to be unpacked. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” I agree. But sometimes a life lesson can also be worn as a dress.

  Excerpt from a middle essay:  Navy Maternity

My first maternity outfit was a long-sleeved navy blue dress from Sears that I bought for my father’s wake and funeral. I wore it again on Father’s Day and then buried it under the lilac bush in my childhood backyard, watering the ground with my tears. The words from a homily echoed in my head. Ritualize where you are now . That’s what I was doing—dressing a wound by burying a dress…

The moment I stepped out of that dress, I felt different. Lighter. Aware. I was carrying a new life—had been all along—but now I could finally breathe. I glanced in the mirror and saw myself as a mother-to-be. I shoved the dress in the bag and tossed it in the car. The dress was easy to remove, but not the grief. Shifting my focus to new life, I decided to take one small step.

The following week, on my final day of teaching elementary school, I drove to my childhood home only two blocks away. I pulled the navy maternity dress from the white plastic bag. My mother was at work. But I didn’t need her. I knew where my father’s garden tools were kept. I grabbed a shovel and began digging in the dirt near the lilac bush—Dad’s favorite bush. It didn’t take long to scoop a hole big enough to bury a death dress…

Excerpt from the final essay: Dressing for a Reunion

At the Hyatt Regency Hotel near Dulles Airport, I’m wearing the same tri-colored dress that I wore for my 50 th  high school reunion in 2016—it’s mostly blue, with bands of black and white. I call it my past-present-future dress. The dress is making an encore appearance in 2017 at a different reunion tonight.  Can it really be called a reunion if we’ve never met?  My husband tells me to hurry. We exit the elevator and enter a full dining room. The celebration begins.

Arms reach across the table to shake my hand. A shoulder nudges close. I feel a tap on my back. Legs move toward me. Fingers clasp. Another arm extends around my waist. Then hugs, so many embraces and tears. I am aware of my middle-ness. I am a quiet middle child, in the middle of a loud story. I am in the middle of history, in the middle of generations, in the middle of Danish fishermen and American flyers. I’m standing in the middle of memory and expectation because I did what middle children do best—I made connections…

Author’s bio: Linda Styles Berkery holds an M.A. from Russell Sage College. Linda taught third grade, led retreats and worked in parish ministry. Her writings on faith/life have been published in various magazines, blogs and books. Her new book is Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons. 

HOW TO WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK I hope you enjoy Writing Lessons. Featuring well-published writers of our favorite genre, each installment takes on one short topic addressing how to write memoir. It’s my way of saying thanks for coming by. Love the author featured above? Did you learn something in the how-to? Then you’ve got to read the book. And you can. I am giving away one copy, and all you have to do to win is leave a comment below about something you learned from the writing lesson or the excerpt. I’ll draw winners at random (using the tool at random dot org) after entries close at midnight on May 15, 2019. Good luck!

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Related posts:

  • Writing Lessons: Picking Small Topics To Write About
  • Writing Lessons: Finding Time to Write
  • Writing Lessons: How to Write About A Difficult Subject, by Bette Lynch Husted


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Reader interactions.

Amy Laundrie says

April 14, 2019 at 7:37 am

I found this extremely helpful. I’m a columnist for “The Wisconsin Dells Events” and am searching for a way to connect my “Slice of Life” columns into a second memoir. My first, “Laugh, Cry, Reflect: Stories From a Joyful Heart” includes pieces on nature, my pet ducklings, antidotes about my teaching career, and family stories. I appreciate the tips on how memoirists should make sure the last paragraph of one piece ties in with the first paragraph of the next and I think using dresses as a uniting metaphor was brilliant. I’m eager to read your book.

April 14, 2019 at 10:50 am

Dear Amy, I appreciate your kind words. I had a lot of fun using dresses as a thread through the essays. I would love to read your own slices of life columns. Marion has helped all of us go small. Linda

Susan Davies says

April 14, 2019 at 8:05 am

I love this concept! I have been so stuck in my writing, feeling overwhelmed. I had contemplated this approach but was so unsure….this lesson just gave me that push! Wish me luck! Thank you for your lessons! I enjoy them so much!

April 14, 2019 at 10:54 am

Susan, This is great news. I found all the writing lessons to be so helpful in my own work and I am honored that sharing my experience can help nudge you today. It is so good to give back. My editor, Robyn Ringler shared these tips from her own writing teacher so we are helping each other to gain movement. Linda

Laura McKowen says

April 14, 2019 at 8:09 am

Your content is so very helpful, Marion. About nine months ago, I read your book, and then I was on one of your calls. What I learned helped me focus, organize, and finish my manuscript for my first book, a memoir about sobriety. I sent it to my publisher last week. :) Thank you!

April 14, 2019 at 10:57 am

Marion’s content has always been so helpful to me too. Congratulations on completing your story.

David Sofi says

April 14, 2019 at 8:10 am

Excellent lesson and piece by Ms. Berkery. Especially resonating was the bit about Robyn’s advice from her writing coach. I will have that posted on my Writing Wall. I also tingled with her modification of The Algorithm (That is my personal emphasis of Marion’s lesson, it is so insightful and meaningful.)

Linda Berkery says

April 14, 2019 at 8:31 am

Marion’s writing math made each essay possible and I held it in mind throughout the entire book. Robyn RIngler’s advice pulled the entire collection together. Thank you for your comments.

Careen says

April 14, 2019 at 8:14 am

I want this book! Not only for its content, but because it illustrates the principles Marion puts forth.

April 14, 2019 at 11:34 am

Careen, I hope you continue to find help from the writing lessons and the wisdom from Marion. I surely did. Linda

Ginger Hudock says

April 14, 2019 at 8:16 am

This was wonderful post! The book would be something I could relate to because my age (61) and the metaphor of dresses. This is a great and doable way to structure a book as a series of essays. It seems much more doable for me. I am comfortable writing blog posts and magazine articles, but the thought of a long book is overwhelming sometimes.

April 14, 2019 at 11:01 am

Ginger, I am with you on the thoughts of a long book. It seemed too much for me. I was so happy to find that a series of essays was a reachable goal and Marion gave good feedback when I shared that I was attempting to do just that – she reminded me that I still needed an overall arc in order to print them together as a book. I hope you continue.

April 14, 2019 at 8:30 am

Breaking up the writing into smaller, more manageable pieces seems to tame the bigger writing project, sticking to the algorithm in each section. I loved seeing the process of finding the structure of the book, which is my biggest challenge.

April 14, 2019 at 11:40 am

Dear Beth, Smaller pieces worked so well for this collection. And yes, with each essay I made sure to follow the writing math. I kept asking myself what is this about ? Although told through the lens of a dress, it wasn’t about the dress… it was about a universal theme. Thank you for your thoughts. Linda

April 14, 2019 at 8:35 am

I can’t tell you how often I used Marion’s book and notes from her course as I was completing this book. Such good advice.

Elizabeth says

April 14, 2019 at 8:38 am

I flipped through my closet in my mind – many ideas there for essays, including the ban on trousers for women in my high school in the sixties, and the godawful bloomers for gym class. Thank you!

April 14, 2019 at 11:09 am

Oh Elizabeth, Our minds must run similar. There is a story about those gym “dresses” from my first P E class at Russell Sage College. And oh yes, a mini dress from my teaching days, when women were not allowed to wear pants, but COULD wear a mini dress three inches above the knees. Keep flipping through your closet in your mind. Clothing is so rich to draw out the memoir essays. Thank you for your post. Linda

Ruth Crates says

April 14, 2019 at 8:59 am

I continue to look for a way to write my memoirs. Essays might be a good fit for me. I love how Linda used an unlikely subject…. dresses – to relate her life experiences. If I don’t win the book, I will buy it…I loved the exerpt about burying her grief. We can all relate to that.

April 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Dear Ruth, I do hope that you will continue to write memoir. I found that essays were a perfect length. Mine ranged from about 800 to 1200 words in the book. Some had several parts but each one could be read alone which helped me continue. I am happy whenever someone considers the book, the proceeds are going to assist a local thrift store, called ReStyle, from Unity House in Troy. When we have some book signings we are also inviting readers to donate a gently used dress. So my unlikely thread of dresses is really being put to good use. Linda

April 14, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Isn’t it amazing how an idea can take off in so many directions! A wonderful way to help others.

April 14, 2019 at 4:40 pm

If you are in the Albany-Troy area look for several benefit book signings on the Facebook page: Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons

Cynthia C says

April 14, 2019 at 9:04 am

Incredibly helpful hearing about the writing process! I love reading how these authors make decisions about how the final product will look.

April 14, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Cynthia, I always loved reading the writing lessons from Marion’s posts. I was fascinated with the whole process of structure. Linda

Cassandra Hamilton says

April 14, 2019 at 9:41 am

Great post. I appreciate Linda Styles Berkery sharing her process. By breaking her subject into essays she was able to work ideas in smaller sections. I like how when she focused on the larger piece, the book, she turned to a visceral and visual method: hanging up her essays, each represented by a dress, to sort and rearrange until she felt they were right. I would think the photos of the dresses also evoked in her thoughts and feelings and helped her to pack her writing with vivid descriptions. I’m inspired with her process and how she cleverly teased us with snippets of her new work. Thank you!

April 14, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Dear Cassandra, Thanks for your comments. You are right about the visual part. It really helped me to organize the flow of the essays and the overall arc of the book. (And at one point when I realized that I didn’t have a green dress – it brought up a life lesson from an old memoir of a green gym dress!) Linda

Cheryl Hilderbrand says

April 14, 2019 at 10:08 am

Since the excerpts offered here resonated so strongly, I can’t wait to read the rest of the book. Is it just women our age who grew up with dresses who are so emotionally connected to fabric, and tucks, and gathers? A quilt made from childhood dresses keeps me warm, but I worry that I should put it away so that it’s scrapbook, memory-spurring nature can be preserved. The advice from Ms. Berkery’s editor was something I needed to hear . Thank you Marion, Linda, and Robyn.

April 14, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Dear Cheryl, I do think that dresses meant a lot more to us than they do to the next generation. My own adult daughters rarely wear dresses, but they still have emotional and memories attached to clothing. My husband saved his race t-shirts and had them made into a quilt! He no longer runs, only walks due to an injury, but that quilt hangs over his couch reminding him of all those races. Robyn Ringler’s insights (my editor for the book) were so valuable in getting this collection to print. I am glad to pass her advice along. Linda

Jen Chambers says

April 14, 2019 at 10:17 am

I find this very helpful- it solidifies a concept that I’ve been working on for some time of using essays as memoir in my own work. Using a literal thread to hold the narrative together made a great metaphor here. I am intrigued by the structural ideas and hope to get the book!

April 14, 2019 at 5:18 pm

Dear Jen, Thank you for your comments. I hope you continue to use essays as memoir. It really helped me to keep going.. I could focus on one essay at a time. Indeed I kept them in separate folders on my computer until I recognized how to make “dress stories” into a literary closet collection. Best regards,’ Linda

Debbie Morris says

April 14, 2019 at 10:28 am

I’ve had an idea brewing for years now, and this style has opened up a completely new way to join them yet keep them separate. I thoroughly enjoy the teachings here as well as that wonderfully inspiring sampling of essays. I feel energized, thank you!

April 14, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Dear Debbie, Thanks for the comments. I hope this idea keeps brewing and maybe finds a similar outlet. Linda

Barbara Womack says

April 14, 2019 at 10:38 am

I love this concept and have been inspired to use a similar approach in my own (somewhat stalled) writing.

I can’t wait to read this book!

April 14, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Dear Barbara, I am glad to hear about your writing. I wish you well on the journey and am happy that you found this approach to be helpful. Linda

Ann Hutton says

April 14, 2019 at 10:44 am

Excellent! I’m sharing this with a memoir writing group I facilitate. Meanwhile, I call out a “Yes!” to visually laying out your pages to really SEE what you’ve got and how it might fit together. Once I taped 260 pages to three walls in an empty office in order to look at the structure of a memoir manuscript. That’s when I realized that I did indeed have a beginning, middle, and ending! And looking for repetitions or other glaring mistakes was easier this way, rather than trying to read through pages on a computer screen.

Many thanks!

LInda Berkery says

April 14, 2019 at 6:11 pm

Dear Ann, Wow that must have been some wall sight! Yes, I think we sometimes need a visual way to keep us moving forward. Glad that worked for you and thank you for the comments. Best to your writing group. If you send me a personal message on Facebook page for the book. I will send you my “chart” with all the essays. My editor used that page for a talk she was giving on memoir writing. Linda

Merrie Skaggs says

April 14, 2019 at 10:49 am

Linda’s wardrobe structure is brilliant. I learned that I might be able to include an essay I wrote about my dad in my memoir. Also, Linda’s words spoke to me on several levels, or with various threads as she might say. I am still in the unraveling stage of my memoir writing and relish the connections since I am a Marion disciple, have seen my 70th birthday, and taught third grade. I learned much from your charming writing and the lessons you shared. Thank you, Linda, and thank you to our guru Marion. I’m not going to wait to win your book; I plan to buy it, read it, and learn from it now. “. . .bury a death dress. . .” My heart strings are still vibrating.

Linda Styles Berkery says

April 14, 2019 at 11:13 am

Dear Merrie, I am so happy to meet another over 70 writer of memoir. My father’s journey through his WWII experience rescued in the North Sea by Danish fishermen and as a POW is another thread through the collection. The proceeds from this book are also being used to help ReStyle, the thrift store run by Unity House in Troy, NY – my hometown. So buying the book supports a great cause. Thank you. Linda

Carol Gyzander says

April 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

I love the connecting device of the dresses! The first essay excerpt was interesting, but then I found myself curious about how it would be used in the next…and the next…

April 14, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Carol, I am so glad that you found yourself curious about the dresses used and the lessons they told. Sometimes I found myself pondering how a certain dress or saved piece of fabric could bring out so many memoires. What was going on? – You start writing and then you find more and more life experiences coloring the page. Linda

Jan Duffy says

April 14, 2019 at 11:15 am

Thank you Marion for another excellent post. The idea of basing a series of personal essays on a collection of dresses is so good. As I was reading the excerpts I felt as though I was Linda’s alter ego, experiencing every emotion that she did. Good work, I hope I can be as successful in my writing endeavors.

marion says

April 14, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Dear Jan, You are most welcome. Isn’t this a lovely, helpful post? Linda did an excellent job with this and with the book. I am delighted to see you here. Please come back soon. Best, Marion

Thank you Jan and Marion for your kind remarks. Several readers have commented that they felt they were standing right with me as they read. So we touched universal topics – close to our hearts. Linda

Karen Elizabeth Lee says

April 14, 2019 at 11:42 am

Thank you for writing this piece. I have been struggling with structure for my memoir for almost a year! writing short pieces as that is how it seems to be unfolding but then questioning myself – “Is this the right or acceptable format?” “Can I do it this way?” Your insight gives me the courage to follow this path – the essay path – to see where it will lead me! thank you.

April 14, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Dear Karen, I never started out to write a book or a collection. I just began with one essay of a brown plaid dress – a short piece for a writing assignment. I casually remarked, “I could probably write a lot more essays through the lens of a dress…” and I received such encouragement to continue. See where the short pieces lead you. Perhaps you have a collection rather than a traditional memoir book. Blessings for your good work. I am happy that this piece could encourage you. Linda

Cheryl A Kesling says

April 14, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Thank you, Linda, for sharing your story. I’m a 72-year-old struggling writer working on a memoir since 2014. It seems life keeps flying in front of me to the point of building a wall too high to see over. I’ve journaled, keeping track of unimaginable tragic moments and survival. I’ve written words on paper for a critique group but never seems to hit the mark, or at least to my satisfaction. Maybe I’m too hard on myself. Your memoir essay structure is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time but I know that each essay needs a reason or a lesson learned, and that is been my problem. Knowing what lessons I’ve learned is hard to put on paper when one holds back emotions. I’m sure reading your book would be helpful. Maybe making a chart as you did from Marion’s math and color coding for different periods ( as told in a Z- the essay) and using one metaphorical object to push the essays along is the answer for me as well. Thank you again.

April 14, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Dear Cheryl, Thank you for your heartfelt comments. Some essays (lessons) needed space and time before I could write about them. We all tend to be hard on ourselves. Keep writing. and Keep journaling. I found that going back to journals and circling some key memoires allowed me to move toward an essay. But journal writing is different than writing for print and I had to allow some pieces to stay in a journal and not try to force them to be an essay. But making the chart using X, Y, and Z was the most important formula I learned from Marion.

Etty Indriati says

April 14, 2019 at 3:11 pm

I love the excerpt of Linda’s book as it reflects the “what it is about” in Marion’s online course The Memoir Project that I took; and Linda cleverly wrote her book into chapters of personal essays. It makes me want to read the whole book! It is also inspires me to not giving up writing a memoir.

April 14, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Dear Etty, Marion’s outline is a wonderful way to start. I hope you can read the whole book and please don’t give up writing memoir in whatever form it takes. I think reflecting through writing is a blessing. Thank you for the comments. Linda

iliana says

April 14, 2019 at 7:23 pm

Linda, thanks so much for sharing aspects of your writing process! Cut and paste, and I really mean printing the pages, cutting where needed and rearranging, gluing them on another blank page, was my graduate advisor’s way of writing and editing articles, reports and proposals. That’s how I wrote my thesis too, hands on, feeling it. Looking at a dress as a metaphor, so clever! Looking forward to reading your book :)

April 14, 2019 at 7:36 pm

Seems like I did something like that old fashioned cut and paste on my TYPED thesis back in the day. Thanks for your kind remarks. Linda


April 14, 2019 at 7:28 pm

OMG. I’ve been struggling with not having lived “an important life” and yet wanting to write a memoir for my kids. My father died when I was 31. I often wished I had received more lessons from him and had them for my kids. In recording my own, 20 years later, on the upside of my life lessons, I’m hoping they see the possibilities for their lives even in The dark days. The idea of writing bits and and pieces of varying length and letting them tell me how to structure the book is liberating. Thank you!

April 15, 2019 at 9:00 pm

Dear Krista, I am happy that you can see your life as memoir worthy as it surely is. My father died when I was 26 and yet his influence is strongly felt in this collection. I wish you all the best for your writing. Linda

Lisa Sonora says

April 15, 2019 at 8:43 am

So many take aways here!

I haven’t read all of the comments, but skimmed, so hope to offer something not shared yet.

First, that you ignored your friends comment about writing about your life.

Then… using Marion’s algorithm for each of the essays (described in the second paragraph) —brilliant!

I too, am a student of Marion, and have been so STUCK on trying to figure out the algorithm for my memoir.

Your piece gave me the idea to look closer at the individual pieces within the book and trying to name what those are really about.

I just love the image of you hanging up your essays like dressed in the wardrobe, and laughed out loud at “don’t try this at home”. Because, yeah, I would try that at home — it make sense to give the writing some physical form that relates to the subject to help see it differently.

Congrats on the publication of your book, Lynda — I cannot wait to read it!

April 15, 2019 at 9:07 pm

Dear Lisa, Thank you for such great comments. Yes, hanging up those dress stories was crazy but a fun way to really see them in place. And it was wonderfully refreshing too. We often need to trust our own instincts sometimes more than the voices of dear but sometimes bossy friends! Best to you for your own writing. Linda

Cathy Baker says

April 15, 2019 at 8:47 am

I love everything about this post as I’m working on a book with mini-memoirs on our building my future writing studio, Tiny House on the Hill. After reading this post, I might consider having fewer chapters with a higher word count. I always learn so much from you, Marion, as well as those you coach. Thank you!

April 15, 2019 at 9:09 pm

I love the idea of mini-memoirs! Great! Thanks for your comments. I have also learned so much from Marion and her writing posts. Linda

Tammy Roth says

April 15, 2019 at 11:51 am

I’m always looking for clever ideas of arranging memoir topics and this is just brilliant. Thank you for sharing the process.

April 15, 2019 at 9:14 pm

Dear Tammy, Arranging those memoir essays was made easier using Robyn’s advice along with Marion’s wisdom. I was honored to share the process with so many interesting writers. Thank you for your comments. Linda

April 16, 2019 at 8:35 pm

Oh my! This came at the most perfect time. I am trying to write a memoir and it keeps running through my mind that I should try doing it in essays. I lost my son to suicide, so it’s about grief, hope, and faith. I loved what Robyn shared with you about connecting the last paragraph of one to the beginning of the next. The excerpts are wonderful. I can’t wait to read the book. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

April 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Dear Faith, I am glad that Robyn ‘s idea might help you find your way through a collection of essays. She suggested the last paragraph and the first one should flow for the reader but they can still stand alone as individual essays. I wish you blessings in your writing. Linda

Naomi Johnson says

April 16, 2019 at 10:51 pm

I LOVED the wonderful advice from her editor, while she was still working out the overarching structure: “pay attention to the emotions and lessons in the stories . . .. Then . . . read the last paragraph of one story and the first paragraph of the following story and see if that works.”

Lovely, indeed!

April 17, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Thank you for your comments. Robyn Ringler and Marion offer such valuable suggestions. And I am grateful. Linda

Melanie says

April 17, 2019 at 2:49 pm

I’m in the process of structuring my next book now. I was right there, with descriptions of white suitcases containing “…fabrics from my journey through life.” I could hear the crinkle of crinoline, and I was reminded of one of my absolute favorite couplets by Joni Mitchell: “Everything comes and goes, marked by lovers and styles of clothes…” As I enjoyed all the other places the piece had taken me, I asked myself, “Do I have milestones (like these dresses) that mark the milestones of my life?” And I realized, I DO! I am a songwriter, so of COURSE, every milestone has a song! Thanks, Marion & Linda for such beautiful and inspiring work.

April 17, 2019 at 5:23 pm

You are most welcome, Melanie. Please come back soon. Best, Marion

April 17, 2019 at 7:06 pm

Thank you for your comments and the great quote! Love it. And nice for me too as my maiden name was Styles. I am glad that you found yourself asking questions about your own milestones.

Teresa Reimer says

April 20, 2019 at 9:12 pm

What a wonderful idea to hang each story and it’s inspiration on a clothes hanger. Organization and expanding on the theme! Can’t get much better than that.

April 22, 2019 at 6:15 pm

Teresa Thanks for your comments. Yes it was definitely different but fun! Linda

Donna P says

April 29, 2019 at 11:36 am

Dear Linda,

Your ideas, along with Marion’s brilliant advice, strike a real chord with me. I, too, have been struggling with the concept of essays within a memoir. Due to health issues, I have not given my book as much attention lately. I’m going to paste this article to my forehead to keep it top of mind! Truly inspirational at a time when I really needed it. Thanks to you and to Marion. I will definitely buy the book.

April 29, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Dear Donna, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Marion’s advice really helped me stay focused on each individual essay. And I am so happy to know that sharing my experience making a collection of essays could help you move your own writing along. Best to you for your writing. Linda

Gail Gaspar says

Essays in the form of a wardrobe of dresses, yes. I am wondering if my memoir will take the form of essays unified by a theme (I adore metaphors) and you have illustrated how it can done. As a coach, I am happy you listened to your inner voice and not to the friend who remarked, “Your life just isn’t that interesting.” I appreciate how you show, don’t tell, about what each dress represents. The image of your dress stories hanging in your closet is an excellent reminder of how creative and expansive the writing process can be – when we allow it.

Laurie says

May 1, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Marion – This is my first visit to your blog and site. So much info! Thank you! I too am working on a memoir that right now is a collection of stories. This truly resonated with me as I am stuck as to how to pull them together into a book. Linda – your insights and suggestions couldn’t have been more on target. I have already printed them out and moved them about – but I think I need to write a few more – and then piece them together – reading the last para / first para – and adding bits as you suggested. I LOVED reading the excerpt of the book – what a wonderful way to tie the stories together by the dresses. As a writer – I loved that creative idea to tie it all together – and as a reader – each except you shared – I could apply to my own life and my own past closet of dresses! Well done! I would be tickled to win the book and read more!

May 1, 2019 at 5:47 pm

Dear Laurie, Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. Finding Marion’s blog and site is certainly a real gift. I was fortunate to take a class when she was teaching in Troy before everything went online. But look how many more people can be reached. I am delighted that you could relate to the dress stories and find memories arriving from your own closet. I loved making the book a collection/ wardrobe of stories. All the best to you with your own memoir. Linda

May 2, 2019 at 11:52 am

What a lovely way to seamlessly piece together a book! I’m in awe of your process and inspired by the concept! I’ve always struggled to let go of certain garments because of the memories associated with them. Now I understand why: Not only does each one offer a memory, but you’ve proven each one tells a story. I can’t wait to visit your story-closet and read more!

May 2, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Dear Susan, Thank you for your kind remarks. I hope you do visit my “story-closet” as well as peek at some life lessons from your own wardrobe. Linda

Maggie Yoest says

May 3, 2019 at 10:57 am

I am new to memoir writing and have been encouraged by Susan and Marion. Hopefully, as I stay with this, some of the fear will dissipate and the courage to share myself and my view will grow. Thank you both!

May 3, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Maggie, I hope you continue with memoir. Marion is a wonderful guide. Linda


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FAQ: What is a thesis statement and how do I write one?

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What is a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is a sentence that states the main idea of your paper. It is not just a statement of fact, but a statement of position. What argument are you making about your topic? Your thesis should answer that question.

How long should my thesis statement be?

Thesis statements are often just one sentence. Keep thesis statements concise, without extra words or information. If you are having trouble keeping your thesis statement to one sentence, consider the following:

  • Is your thesis is specific enough?
  • Does your thesis directly supports your paper?
  • Does your thesis accurately describes your purpose or argue your claim?

Can I see some example thesis statements?

The following websites have examples of thesis statements:

  • Thesis Statements This link opens in a new window (UNC)
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These web resources may be helpful if you are looking for examples. However, be sure to evaluate any sources you use! The Shapiro Library cannot vouch for the accuracy of information provided on external websites.

Where can I find more information?

Video tutorials.

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Dissertations / Theses on the topic 'Memoir'

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Cummins, Tara Lee-Geerlings. "Untitled Memoir." CSUSB ScholarWorks, 2016. https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/etd/384.

Weiss, Katherine. "Dieter Leisegang: Texts as Memory, Texts as Memoir." Digital Commons @ East Tennessee State University, 2012. https://dc.etsu.edu/etsu-works/2262.

Giura, Maria. "A memoir, untitled." Diss., Online access via UMI:, 2006.

Lovell, Bonnie Alice. "Home: A Memoir." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2001. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc2841/.

Bush, Diane. "Thaw: A Memoir." DigitalCommons@USU, 2009. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/478.

Garnett, Nicholas. "Twisted Straight: A Memoir." FIU Digital Commons, 2011. http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/etd/400.

Strasburg, Toni. "Fractured lives : a memoir." Master's thesis, University of Cape Town, 2009. http://hdl.handle.net/11427/12118.

Wells, Jennifer E. "Rough-Hewn: A Memoir." Miami University / OhioLINK, 2005. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=miami1122555509.

Thorne, Amy Renee. "Breaking Bad: A Memoir." The Ohio State University, 2009. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1238089397.

Ticoras, Hannah. "Unbecoming: A Digital Memoir." Ohio University Honors Tutorial College / OhioLINK, 2015. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=ouhonors1429787785.

Jin, Rui. "Memoir of a marionette /." Online version of thesis, 2008. http://hdl.handle.net/1850/8039.

Ross, Mario Joachim. "Fuel: Collected Memoir Essays." PDXScholar, 2011. https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/open_access_etds/1381.

Harmer, Liz. "Interpretation Machine: a Memoir." Chapman University Digital Commons, 2019. https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/creative_writing_theses/4.

Read, Jacinta. "Patchwork Someone : a memoir ; and, Religious memoir in a secular age : critical commentary." Thesis, Goldsmiths College (University of London), 2018. http://research.gold.ac.uk/24302/.

Teague, Sian. "Sink or swim: A memoir - and - Writing memoir: Truths, tensions, transitions: An essay." Thesis, Edith Cowan University, Research Online, Perth, Western Australia, 2014. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2333.

Culp, A. J. "The memoir of Moses : Deuteronomy and the shaping of Israel’s memory." Thesis, University of Bristol, 2012. http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.573760.

Gillaspy, Kelley Marie. "Flatlines| A Memoir of Grief." Thesis, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2018. http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10643131.

This dissertation is a hybrid project that includes a critical paper and a collection of creative writing, including poems, a nonfiction piece, several drama pieces, and an erasure project. The critical paper is an analysis of the mental ailments and disassociated discourse of Anton Chekhov’s characters in three of his plays— The Seagull, Uncle Vanya , and The Cherry Orchard . Many of Anton Chekhov’s characters display symptoms of depression, including suicide attempts, and formal thought disorder. The creative section’s drama pieces were loosely influenced by Anton Chekhov’s work, but all of the work completed in the creative section is connected through common themes of mental illness and grief. Many of the poems in this section symbolize grief through the loss of a father. Some of the more grief-stricken moments are symbolically represented through animals, such as the mice in “All Summer.” Later, this same type of grief is transformed in “Flatlines,” the titular work of the dissertation, to a young woman’s reimaging and hallucination of childhood characters brought to life to her by her father’s death. The last work presented in this creative section is the erasure project that blends the poetry with the drama–a stage manager’s notes blacked out, silenced, and relit with a different perspective, but still a connection to the theatre’s space, set, and characters.

Beckwin, Deborah. "In Double Exile: A Memoir." Master's thesis, University of Central Florida, 2014. http://digital.library.ucf.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ETD/id/6243.

Slager, Judit. "Simulation in Dave Eggers’s Memoir." Cleveland State University / OhioLINK, 2008. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=csu1234544623.

Faust, Katelyn. "This is Fun: A Memoir." Scholarship @ Claremont, 2017. http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cmc_theses/1705.

Lovell, Bonnie Alice. "The Lexicographer's Daughter: A Memoir." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2011. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc68004/.

Slager, Judit. "Simulation in Dave Eggers's memoir." Cleveland, Ohio : Cleveland State University, 2008. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=csu1234544623.

McCall, Catherine W. "Lifeguarding : a memoir of family /." Electronic version (PDF), 2003. http://dl.uncw.edu/etd/2003/mccallc/catherinemccall.pdf.

Sutton-Linderman, Chelsi Joy. "Lessons in Humanity: A Memoir." DigitalCommons@USU, 2008. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/158.

Merrill, Mark Reed. "Where We Belong: A Memoir." PDXScholar, 2012. https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/open_access_etds/393.

Clewett, Laura. "I REMEMBER MYSELF: A MEMOIR." UKnowledge, 2019. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/english_etds/99.

Dotson, Holly. "A Bruised Sky Falling." ScholarWorks@UNO, 2009. http://scholarworks.uno.edu/td/1005.

Robson, Claire Elizabeth. "Collective memoir as public pedagogy : a study of narrative, writing, and memory." Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2011. http://hdl.handle.net/2429/34631.

Lee, Melissa. "The Many Pedagogies of Memoir: A Study of the Promise of Teaching Memoir in College Composition." Master's thesis, University of Central Florida, 2012. http://digital.library.ucf.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ETD/id/5392.

Den, Elzen Katrin. "“My Decision: A Memoir” and “The Young Widow Memoir: Grief and the Rebuilding of Fractured Identity”." Thesis, Curtin University, 2018. http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11937/70488.

Videtto, Aubrey. "The Underground House: A Body Memoir." TopSCHOLAR®, 2005. http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/theses/485.

Kang, Jeffrey. "Memoir: A Collection of Short Stories." Scholarship @ Claremont, 2011. http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cmc_theses/261.

Finnerty, Mora Lee. "Dancing with the baglady a memoir /." Huntington, WV : [Marshall University Libraries], 2002. http://www.marshall.edu/etd/descript.asp?ref=229.

Frazer, Brentley. "Scoundrel Days Writing Rebellion/Youthful Memoir." Thesis, Griffith University, 2017. http://hdl.handle.net/10072/371134.

Sanabria, Camila B. "The Red Front Door, A Memoir." DigitalCommons@USU, 2019. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/7529.

Day, Samantha L. "Gritting Teeth: A Memoir of Unhealthy Love." TopSCHOLAR®, 2010. http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/theses/230.

Heimbecker, Elizabeth Helen. "Stories of teaching and learning, a memoir." Thesis, National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, 2001. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/ftp04/MQ62749.pdf.

Horsfall, Benjamin Robert. "The logic of bunched implications : a memoir /." Connect to thesis, 2007. http://eprints.unimelb.edu.au/archive/00002633.

MacAdams, Anneliese. "Any other mouth : writing the hybrid memoir." Thesis, University of Huddersfield, 2017. http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/32633/.

Jones, Allyson L. ""Just Ask: A Memoir of My Father"." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2020. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1707259/.

Kochendorfer, Josie. "My Body Knows Many Deaths: A Memoir." The Ohio State University, 2020. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1588100798307493.

Ramirez, Bridgette. "How to Survive Autism: a Family Memoir." Scholarship @ Claremont, 2017. http://scholarship.claremont.edu/scripps_theses/1050.

Harris-Gershon, David. "I want my ball back : a memoir /." View electronic thesis (PDF), 2009. http://dl.uncw.edu/etd/2009-1/rp/harris-gershond/davidharris-gershon.pdf.

McGuire, Ira R. "Memoir in fragments: mapping family and place." Thesis, Griffith University, 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/10072/389689.

Dalmaso, Renata Lucena. "Disability and metaphor in the graphic memoir." reponame:Repositório Institucional da UFSC, 2015. https://repositorio.ufsc.br/xmlui/handle/123456789/160541.

Sauvageau, Jacob Kevin. "Vagrant of the El Camino: a Memoir." PDXScholar, 2017. https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/open_access_etds/4015.

Criswell, Jill. "ORDINARY MADNESS." Master's thesis, University of Central Florida, 2008. http://digital.library.ucf.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ETD/id/4132.

Nichols, Jacob A. "Halfback on Acid: A Coming of Age Memoir." Thesis, Connect to resource online, 2010. http://hdl.handle.net/1805/2194.

Leaf, Patricia L. "Mercy of the fallen : a memoir in shards." Virtual Press, 2007. http://liblink.bsu.edu/uhtbin/catkey/1371469.

Schmucker, Dietlinde. "Negotiating German victimhood in the American misery memoir." Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2018. http://etheses.bham.ac.uk//id/eprint/8549/.

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Hutton Honors College

Hutton honors seminars, stories of the self: themes in memoir and autobiography.

Eric Metzler Kelley School of Business

Course Description

Humans tell stories about themselves and their experiences to connect with others, share values, build relationships, and create kinship and friendship bonds. We all have stories to tell, but what makes stories compelling enough that others (i.e., strangers) would want to hear them or purchase them as books to read or listen to? What is the purpose – beyond entertainment – of stories of the self? How do memoirists shape their stories to advance a perspective or set of values? How important is authenticity: Does it matter that the events in the narrative really happened exactly as narrated? Does it matter if events are exaggerated or even made up?

In this seminar, we will read and discuss autobiographical texts that not only relate compelling stories, but also provoke questions such as those articulated above. We will also sample some key autobiographical texts in the Western tradition in order to give context to the more contemporary memoirs or autobiographies we study. Finally, students will complete a final project of their choosing, which may take several forms, including, but not limited to, a comparative analysis of two memoirs, an in depth study of one memoir and its contexts, or an essay where students create a short memoir of their own based on a flashpoint event in their lives.

Catalog Information: HON-H 232  MEANINGFUL WRITING

About Instructor Eric Metzler

Gened program details.

GenEd Information: Approved for the Arts & Humanities requirement of the IU Bloomington General Education program .

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2023-2024 Bermont Family Distinguished Visiting Author – Phillip Lopate

Phillip Lopate

Phillip Lopate   is a central figure in the recent revival of interest in memoir writing and what has come to be called “the personal essay.”

 Lopate is the author of  Portrait of My Body, Confessions of Summer, Against Joie de Vivre, The Rug Merchant, Being with Children,  and  Totally Tenderly Tragically . He is also the editor of  The Art of the Personal Essay  and was the series editor of  The Anchor Essay Annual .

 Lopate’s work has been included in  The Best American Essays  and  The Pushcart Prize Series . Recent books include  To Show and Tell, Portrait Inside My Head, Waterfront, Getting Personal: Selected Writings  and  Notes On Sontag . In 2023, he published A Year and a Day: An Experiment in Essays.  Lopate formerly directed the non-fiction MFA program at Columbia University. “

Time: Monday, April 8, 2024 (7:00 PM) Location: Rogers Free Library - 525 Hope Street, Bristol RI

Former Florida food critic takes aim at 'mango shooter' mom in new book 'The Mango Tree'

how to write a thesis for memoir

She didn't plan to write about her infamous "mango shooter" mom. At least not entirely.

Instead, Annabelle Tometich started out writing what she thought was a cookbook ― an obvious move for the former food writer and restaurant critic for The News-Press and Naples Daily News.

But her mom ― a dominant force in Tometich's life ― ended up dominating the book, too. And instead of a cookbook interspersed with family stories, it became a full-on memoir about Tometich's chaotic childhood and her love/hate relationship with her fiery, whip-smart, complicated Filipina mother.

The resulting book, "The Mango Tree," hit store shelves April 2 and has been racking up positive reviews and mentions in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.

Tometich says there were lots of tears, laughter and soul-searching while writing "The Mango Tree." And along the way, she came to appreciate how Josefina Tometich's hot-tempered personality shaped her own.

"It was understanding that the parts of her that are good are OK to hold onto," says Tometich, sitting at the kitchen bar in her Fort Myers house. "I think a big part of me was like, 'No, we don't want to be anything like her ... '

"But then it's like, 'Well, no. There's actually these really brilliant things she did. And these really life-saving things she did.' It was trying to accept parts of her. And all of her."

'The Mango Tree' tells a tale of fruit, Florida and felony

"The Mango Tree" − subtitled "A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony" − revolves around her mom's 2015 arrest for shooting a BB gun at a couple she claimed was stealing her mangoes. But it also examines Tometich's life growing up in a volatile, sometimes violent Fort Myers household; the racism she encountered as a mixed-race Filipino-American in Southwest Florida (including from her own grandmother); her mom's beloved mango tree; and her journey to eventually accept her mother ― warts and all.

"She's like this great enigma," Tometich says. "Why does she do the things she does? Why is she the way she is?"

Tometich launched a book tour for "The Mango Tree" this first week of April with stops in California, Georgia and several Florida cities, including Fort Myers, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Coral Gables and Gainesville. She already has two more books in the works: A children's book and a follow-up memoir about her years as The News-Press food critic Jean Le Boeuf.

Here’s what else Tometich had to say about "The Mango Tree." This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

News-Press/Naples Daily News: I love the book. It's beautifully written. Why did you write it?

Tometich: I joke ― I half-joke ― that it's like a mid-life crisis for me ( laughs ). But in 2019, I had a job offer to go to the Tampa Bay Times. Their restaurant critic had just left to go to the Washington Post. And I couldn't take it, because my family's here and my husband's here and my life is here. And it didn't make sense to uproot everything and move.

So I turned down that job offer and, like, spiraled into this hole of, "Are you ever going to leave your home town? Are you ever going to do anything beyond Fort Myers?" And it was like, "If you can't be in journalism, then how else can you do something with your career that's different?" And I was like, 'Oh, I'll write a book. Easy! ( laughs)

When was this?

This was 2019. … It actually started as a cookbook. I always had this idea of all these quirky things that happened to myself and my family. I was not thinking of it as a memoir ― just these little essays and recipes.

But for a long time when ( former News-Press breaking-news reporter) Mike Braun's story came out in The News-Press , if you Googled "mango shooter," the very first result was my mom. Her mugshot and everything in The News-Press.

Yeah, of course ( laughs )

And the second result was this Absolut Vodka cocktail that was a mango shooter cocktail. And I was like, "That's hilarious. That's just funny."

Your two worlds converging…

Yeah! And so, in my head, I thought that was fodder for something.

It's not a cookbook: It's a memoir

How long ago was this?

2015 was the arrest, and her trial and everything. And this is four years later. She was still on probation, and it still felt very fresh. And I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

So I started this cookbook/essay collection that was a mess ( laughs ). To get a book deal, you have to have an agent. So I queried a couple of agents, and they were just like, "We don't understand what this is." And I was like, "I don't really understand what it is, either."

And I was talking to my friend Artis Henderson (a Southwest Florida writer who's also featured in "The Mango Tree"). And she was like, "The recipes are interesting, but if you can take these essays and fit them together, then you have a really strong memoir."

And I was like, "I'm not writing a memoir. I'm writing a cookbook." And she said, "No you're not."

Good advice, Artis!

Yeah. Then it was like, "Well, I have to admit it's a memoir now." For forever, I called it a cookbook.

Then I figured out the mango tree component: The fact that this tree was planted a year before our dad died and it fruited right when we were about to pick up everything and move to the Philippines, and the shooting and then Hurricane Irma. It became this very convenient structure: These are all these major plot points of my life coinciding with this tree.

And then it just came pouring out. I think the vast majority of it I wrote between June and September of 2020 (while on furlough from The News-Press).

What was it like going back and revisiting all those memories? You had a chaotic childhood. And then your dad died. And there's the racism you encountered in school. Was it hard to go back and focus on some of those painful memories?

It almost felt indulgent. Because I don't like to sit with those memories, you know? But then to think about it and put yourself back in your little kid head was weird and interesting.

And there were plenty of tears. There was lots of grief in my childhood. And it was almost nice to kind of sit with that little kid for a bit and be like, "But look: Here we are now. It's all fine now, and it worked out."

Focusing on her 'mango shooter' mom

The book is as much about your mom as it is about you. Why did you decide to make her the focus?

It's funny, because I think it was more about her. Because I'm very comfortable writing about other people ( laughs ). But I couldn't not write about her. She's such a dominating figure in my childhood. And there was a conscious decision as an adult: "I'm not talking to her anymore. I'm not dealing with her anymore."

But that was just a compartmentalization. She's still looming there in my head. And I was kind of like, if I'm ever going to figure myself out, I've got to figure out why I can't stop coming back to her. Why I can't stop trying to figure her out.

Would you be who you are today without her?

Oh no. 100 percent not. And I feel like so much of my personality was developed in reaction to her, you know? ( laughs ) Because she was hot-tempered. And she was always yelling at the Publix cashiers. And I was always trailing in her wake ― "sorry, sorry" ― apologizing and making amends. 

You still talk to her, right?

And I'm sure everyone's going to ask you this question: What does she think of the book?

That's the sad part. She has vascular dementia, and it's gotten pretty bad in the last two years. She doesn't drive anymore. And it's not like Alzheimer's: She knows who everybody is. She's OK, day to day, for the most part. But she really struggles with processes and procedures.

So the act of getting into the car and buckling your seatbelt and driving to wherever you need to go and then remembering how to get home ― that became a struggle for her. And she was constantly getting lost.

So one, she's never been a reader. And two, I don't know if she could get through a book right now.

Is the rest of the family OK with the book?

Yeah. My biggest worry was that they would think I was taking it too easy on our mom, honestly. So I think it's a very honest portrayal of my childhood in that house. It's not their childhood. It's not my mom's perspective, obviously. I think it's a very honest portrayal of my point of view.

You live near her, right?

She's just down the street.

It sounds like she needs a lot of care. How often do you see her?

Every day. She's here most days (at Tometich's house).

One of the things that amazes me is your recall of details in "The Mango Tree." That's something you have in common with your mother. She had a photographic memory. Do you have a photographic memory?

I used to in high school. But I was never as good as her. She had the Periodic Table memorized, down to atomic numbers and weights and whatnot.

It was weird: That summer was very odd (when she wrote that book). Certain memories played out like a film in my mind. It was like watching this film of my life and hitting pause and being like "What's over there? And what's over there?"

From News-Press food critic to memoirist: Annabelle Tometich's new career

You worked for years at The News-Press. Do you miss it?

I miss the 2015 newsroom. Or the 2010 newsroom. I miss when there were lots of people and police scanners going off and televisions on. I miss that version of the newsroom, which we're never gonna get back (thanks to layoffs over the years and most of the newsroom working from home now).

Yeah, I miss that camaraderie, too. I think everyone would rather work at home now. But you miss being around people.

But yeah, I do (miss it). The review stuff (as food critic Jean Le Boeuf), I do think I was getting ― well, not tired of it. I still loved it. There's no complaining about going out and eating and writing about it ( laughs ). I think I was ready for something different.

So you're a published author now. Or maybe I should say published memoirist. How do you feel about that?

Yeah, it’s wild. That was like the goal, right? And five years later, here we are.

Do you feel like this is where you'll be from now on?

I hope so. I like the pace of this life a lot ― where it's like, write a book every couple years ( laughs) . Versus writing five stories a week, or 10 stories a week (at The News-Press and Naples Daily News).

Well I'm glad you're going to keep doing this. The book is beautiful.

I can't wait to read whatever you do next.

Hopefully more ( laughs )!


Tometich has the following stops scheduled for her "The Mango Tree" book tour:

  • April 4, 7 p.m. at Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • April 7, 4 p.m. at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida
  • April 10, 6:30 p.m. at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, Florida
  • April 11, a virtual event at 6 p.m. with New Orleans' Blue Cypress Books
  •  April 12, 6 p.m. at Third House Books in Gainesville , Florida
  • April 16, 2 p.m. at South County Regional Library in Estero, Florida
  • April 18, 7 p.m. (Pacific Time) at North Figueroa Books in Los Angeles
  • April 19, 6 p.m. (Pacific Time) at Bel Canto Books in Long Beach, California
  • April 21, 3 p.m. (Pacific Time) at the L.A. Times Festival of Books in Los Angeles
  • April 25, 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Fort Myers, Florida
  • May 4, 3 p.m. at A Capella Books in Atlanta
  • May 18 at the Orlando Book Festival (details to be announced)

Learn more about Annabelle Tometich, "The Mango Tree" and her book tour at annabelletometich.com .

Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. To reach him, call 239-335-0368 (for tickets to shows, call the venue) or email him at [email protected] . Follow or message him on social media: Facebook ( facebook.com/charles.runnells.7 ), X (formerly Twitter) ( @charlesrunnells ), Threads (@crunnells1) and Instagram ( @crunnells1 ).


Interview with Agata Izabela Brewer

Home » Interview with Agata Izabela Brewer

Agata was born and raised in Poland. She came to the U.S. as an MFA student and graduated with a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina. Her publications include a forthcoming memoir, The Hunger Book, scholarly books on 20th-century literature, as well as essays and short stories in Guernica, Black Warrior Review, Contrary Magazine, River Poets Journal, Entropy, Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities, and Wabash Magazine. She is the winner of the 2022 Gournay Prize and the 2019 Black Warrior Review Nonfiction Prize. Agata lives in Indiana, where she teaches at Wabash College and volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. She is the founder and chair of Immigrant Allies.

Interviewed by Alyssa Kang

Inscape Journal: When did your writing journey begin? You mentioned how writing became an escape from the challenges you were experiencing. Was there a moment or period of time early on that influenced your path toward writing?

Agata Izabela Brewer: I wrote bad poetry as a kid and adolescent, in Polish. Then I became too self-conscious and self-critical to write creatively and, instead, I read voraciously and started writing literary criticism. I think I had to mature to being open again to the trials and mistakes of creative work. Perhaps seeing my kids engage freely in all kinds of artistic endeavors helped me realize it’s okay to do art, even badly. I’m not sure, but watching them draw chalk rainbows and misshapen dinosaurs reminded me that perfection is the enemy of creativity and that the process itself is what matters. I began writing The Hunger Book without thinking much about the end goal. I just wanted to record what I witnessed and try to understand it.

Inscape: This book explores the idea of hunger in many unique ways. Could you share some additional insights behind the creation of the book’s title? Did the title come to you right away, or did it take time?

AB: The title came to me quite early, which is unusual for me. I often struggle with titles for my scholarly books and essays. Here, I understood early that what I was meditating on was hunger understood in many ways: the hunger for food during and after World War II that my grandparents experienced, the hunger for a warm meal my brother and I sometimes felt when Mother was drunk, and the more metaphorical hunger: for love and affection from a parent who was too far gone into the drink to notice that need in me and my brother. While the subtitle of the book was my publisher’s idea, the first part, The Hunger Book , had been on my mind as I wrote the essays.

Inscape: Throughout the book, you share much of your culture with the reader through traditions, food, and nature. What was it like compiling different traditional Polish recipes and customs and exploring the memories associated with them?

AB: I love doing research and connecting seemingly unrelated things, playing with these connections, testing their limits. So traveling to archives, digging through boxes filled with sepia-colored photos, interviewing people—-all this was a fun exercise for me, even though the subject matter itself was not always fun. But at one point I realized that the research became a form of escapism, a distraction from the hard practice of writing, and I had to tell myself, “Stop!” So there is a lot of unused material on my computer that I made myself abandon in favor of the creative process. I hope to go back to some of these interviews and photos when I have time to devote to another creative project.

Inscape: You share how sometimes your family wouldn’t try certain foods that you grew up with, or that your son preferred to go by the American version of his name. When coming to America, what was it like experiencing that cultural distance or isolation while trying to hold onto that part of who you are?

AB: When I came to the U.S. as a graduate student, I thought I knew the country because I had been immersed in the American culture. I had read Steinbeck and Faulkner, Morrison and Dickinson, Poe and King, and I watched American TV shows, and so I thought I was not going to be surprised by much. But, of course, I was wrong. I knew one or two of many complex versions of this country.     As for isolation, neither South Carolina, where I went to grad school, nor Indiana, where I live now are known for large Polish populations. It’s true that I miss speaking and hearing my native language, tasting traditional Polish foods, having immediate access to all the new books and magazines and films coming out of Poland. And yet I understand that I tend to idealize my native country, perhaps due to the distance, and I tend to forget the things I wanted to escape when I applied for scholarships to distant countries: the parochialism, the religious adherence to the past, the unquestioning attachment to traditions even if they harm living, breathing human beings. In other words, my attitude toward my home country is complicated.

Inscape: In the book, you talked about how you initially wrote to understand your mother’s past actions, which led to a deeper exploration of your country’s history and extended family relations. Do you feel that your past is clearer to you after writing this book, or do you find yourself left with more questions?

AB: What writing this book helped me realize is that there is more to my mother’s alcohol use disorder and lack of warmth than I had initially thought, that there is epigenetic trauma behind her aggression, that the political and historical context behind her own childhood and early adulthood played a significant role in shaping her as a grown woman, mother, and wife. I also realized that hiding trauma and suppressing unsightly emotions perpetuate dysfunctional behaviors and patterns. I don’t know whether I sufficiently answered the questions I was asking at the beginning of the writing process, but I do know that writing helped me ask the right questions and accept ambiguous and incomplete answers.

Inscape: You mentioned how coming to write this story was challenging for you and there were difficult obstacles you faced. How did you overcome those barriers? Do you have any advice for writers who might be struggling to write about their own difficult pasts?

AB: I do have advice: Don’t push it. Be kind to yourself. Whenever I wanted to continue writing despite obvious signals that my body was reacting to unearthing childhood trauma, I ended up paralyzed by fear and panic. I wish I had been gentler with myself. It was my amazing therapist who said that I needed to give myself permission to stop writing, even for longer stretches of time. I learned techniques that helped me ride the waves of panic attacks, which I experienced for the first time while revisiting traumatic moments in order to write about them. To recreate a scene, a writer often wants to remember the specific sensory elements of that scene because that’s how scene building generally works. But those same elements that make writing tick can make the writer herself ill all over again. If I associate a particular smell or color or whatever with finding my mother after one of her suicide attempts, I relive that moment all over again, as if I were a small girl. This is why access to mental health specialists and a strong support network are important for memoir writers. 

Inscape: What is something you hope your readers can take away from your memoir?

AB: Well, unlike my scholarly books and essays, which have a thesis, my memoir doesn’t have one big claim or a didactic element, or at least I did not write it to teach readers a lesson about anything. It’s an offering of sorts. Here is my life. I hope I turned it into art that you, [the] reader, can be immersed in for some time, be moved by it one way or another, and if you do take something away from it, I’m fine with that, of course. If you see yourself in some of these pages, or if you learn about a life previously alien to you, you’ve engaged in the text, and that’s what matters.

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Rebel wilson says sacha baron cohen is the “a**hole” that allegedly tried to stop her writing about him in memoir.

The Aussie actress had earlier claimed that an unnamed star had hired "a crisis PR manager and lawyers" to "threaten" her over a chapter in her book, 'Rebel Rising.' A spokesperson for Baron Cohen says, "These demonstrably false claims are directly contradicted by extensive detailed evidence."

By Abid Rahman

Abid Rahman

International Editor, Digital

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Rebel Wilson has revealed that her Grimsby co-star Sacha Baron Cohen is the previously unnamed Hollywood “asshole” that is allegedly attempting to stop her writing about him in her upcoming memoir, Rebel Rising .

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Last week, in an Instagram post, Wilson revealed that she intended to dedicate a whole chapter in her book to “a massive asshole” she had previously worked with in Hollywood, although she didn’t reveal the person’s name, the project they worked on together or provide any further details.

“When I first came to Hollywood, people were like, yeah, ‘I have a no-asshole policy, [it] means like, yeah, I don’t work with assholes.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah. I mean, that sounds sensible or logical,'” Wilson says in an Instagram video posted March 15 . “But then it really sunk in [what they, the older people in the industry, meant] because I worked with a massive asshole and yeah, now I definitely have a no-assholes policy.”

Wilson added, “The chapter on said asshole is chapter 23. That guy was a massive asshole.”

Wilson’s book, Rebel Rising , is set to roll out globally in hardcover, ebook and audio April 2. The book, published by Simon & Schuster, will track Wilson’s “unconventional journey” to finding success in Hollywood after growing up in Australia.

Over the weekend, Wilson sent an update on her social media, claimed that the star in question had hired a “crisis PR manager and lawyers” to “threaten” her in order to stop her writing about him.

“I wrote about an asshole in my book. Now, said asshole is trying to threaten me,” Wilson said in a now deleted Instagram Story reported by Us Weekly . “He’s hired a crisis PR manager and lawyers. He is trying to stop press coming out about my book. But the book WILL come out, and you will all know the truth.”

Wilson and Baron Cohen worked together on the 2016 comedy Grimsby . In the film, Wilson played the girlfriend of Baron Cohen’s character Nobby, an English football hooligan who becomes an elite spy. The film also starred Mark Strong, Penélope Cruz and Baron Cohen’s real life wife Isla Fisher.

Wilson has previously hinted at friction and disagreements over her role in Grimsby . In 2014, Australia’s The Courier-Mail newspaper reported on comments Wilson made to the radio show Kyle and Jackie O about her time working on the Louis Leterrier film. “Sacha is so outrageous,” Wilson said. “Every single day he’s like, ‘Rebel, can you just go naked in this scene?’ And I’m like, ‘No!’ Sacha and I have the same agent in America and I’m like, ‘Sacha, I’m going to call our agent Sharon and tell her how much you are harassing me.”

Wilson adds, “Every day he’s like, ‘Just go naked, it will be funny. Remember in Borat when I did that naked scene? It was hilarious.’ On the last day I thought I’d obviously won the argument, and he got a body double to do the naked scene.”

She continued, “Then in the last scene…he was like, ‘Rebel can you just stick your finger up my butt?’ And I went, ‘What do you mean Sacha? That’s not in the script.’ “And he’s like, ‘Look, I’ll just pull down my pants, you just stick your finger up my butt, it’ll be a really funny bit.'”

This story originally posted March 24, 11:47 p.m.

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