Telling stories (6)

Somewhere in the short stories of Voltaire is a woman who claims that everybody who has lived a certain number of years – I think she said forty  – has a great life story to tell.

Every life is unique, and everybody negotiates unique events in a unique way. The perspectives we bring to experience and the perspectives created in us by experience give us the raw material for fascinating narratives. We all sprout the seeds for more than one memoir.

But as every novice cook knows, ingredients alone do not inevitably result in a delicious product. Effective memoir, interesting stories, require skill and technique.

A secondary but equally important aspect of the subject of life stories relates to the stories we tell ourselves. How we see the world and our place in it is shaped and colored by our self-concepts and our attitudes. These are as important to our story as the events we survive

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/jun/17/history-using-personal-stories-teaching-schools

Moving beyond the monarchs: using personal stories to bring history to life

All personal events take place against the backdrop of history. First-person narratives can give a new dimension to the teaching of history, just as history can illuminate what happened to individuals.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/tweeting-death

Tweeting death

We can’t always make sense of our experiences when they happen, but it’s important to take note of them as soon as we can, while they are still imprinted in our minds. Reflection can come later.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-andrew-solomons-memoir-of-coming-out-became-a-completely-different-story/2018/08/02/89b0f104-9429-11e8-a679-b09212fb69c2_story.html?

How Andrew Solomon’s memoir of coming out became a completely different story

Writing a memoir can be a voyage of discovery – so much so that you abandon the story you thought you were going to write and end up with another.

 

http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/opinion/columns/read-in-the-blue-line/2018/08/tissot-details-a-turn-to-a-new-life-in-her-memoir/

Tissot details a turn to a new life in her memoir

A novelist can throw in lots of details for atmosphere. A writer of short stories does not have that luxury; every detail must contribute to the ending. This reviewer takes a story-teller to task for putting in irrelevant details.

 

https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/130183/the-invisible-city

The invisible city

Our lives intersect with the history of all the places we inhabit, as well as with the traditions of our families and whatever communities influence us. To be fully dimensioned, the story of our lives should make allowances for those other stories.

 

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/mennonites-life-story-doesnt-quite-expose-the-man-204975371.html

Mennonite’s life story doesn’t quite expose the man

Of all the aims of story-telling, the most important is to be interesting enough to make the reader want to stay until the end. The author is free to invent structure, approach, even language, but innovative methods do not always let the whole story shine through.

 

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/how-to-listen/

How to listen

Listening is a too-neglected communication skill. When you are telling somebody else’s story, or when your own story depends on the memories of others, it is crucial to know how to listen to what they say when they bring up the past.

 

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/endure-void-rachel-cusks-outline-trilogy/

To endure the void: On Rachel Cusk’s “Outline”trilogy

In memoir it is axiomatic that the writer’s feelings and responsive should be more prominent than the events that stimulate them. But here is a trilogy by a writer who is first and foremost an observer – and the method seems to work.

 

http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=56248595&itype=cmsid

‘World’s Strongest Librarian’ strengthens writing voice in new memoir

Telling an interesting story is only the first part of the memoir formula. Of equal value is the extent to which your narrative can resonate with readers and seem universal, can become a fount of amusement or inspiration that a myriad of readers can mine for their own reasons.

 

https://www.newlifeonahomestead.com/my-great-grandfathers-memoir/

My great grandfather’s memoir: Life in the early 1900s

An artless essay on life a century ago, lovingly reprinted (but not retold) by a modern journalist.

Life stories and truth (5)

Garrison Keillor said, “You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.”

When most of us tell our stories, we try to describe events exactly as they happened. We want to express some measure of truth about the past. Unfortunately, many things keep us from doing this. Most important are the filters that influence our perception and our memories. Years have intervened since the event, our attitudes have changed, we see life with a more mature perspective. And there are more negative filters as well: We hesitate to write the whole truth because we are afraid of exposing ourselves or fear what others will think of us. We embellish a detail or two. Or we paint ourselves as better than we actually were.

No two people ever agree completely about the past. Even brothers and sisters who were next to each other growing up argue about basic matters, such as how they were treated at home. Memory is indeed a tenuous possession.

No record of the past is ever a complete or objective record. Narratives are selective and inevitably inclined toward a particular view. This is just as true of memoir as of larger historical stories. But memoir does not pretend to be historically accurate. It depends on the memory of an individual (accurate or not), and it is based on emotional truths.

Those issues are examined in the following links.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

 

https://www.salon.com/2013/10/22/donna_tartt_the_fun_thing_about_writing_a_book_is_that_it_really_is_a_different_life/

Donna Tartt: “The fun thing about writing a book is that it really is a different life”

Transmuted on the page, the past can take a variety of forms and reflect many possible events, only some of which ever took place. The truth sometimes lies in what did not happen.

 

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/19/with-a-little-help-from-my-friends/

With a little help from my friends

There’s more than one kind of truth in our stories. Every element can be represented accurately or falsified – sometimes with unexpected results.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/slaverys-shadow

Slavery’s shadow

Looking for truth in any historical narrative is difficult, but especially so when the parties at the heart of a story lack the tools to express themselves. But some stories are too important not to be told.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/john-cheever-at-sing-sing

John Cheever at Sing Sing

Writing the truth is not always comfortable, and reading the truth can be an ordeal in itself. When a reader accuses a writer, even one who is renowned, with having danced around the truth, the writer is forced to have an answer.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/when-dan-brown-came-to-visit

When Dan Brown came to visit

A touching glimpse into the way we embellish memories to create a past in our minds that is much more impressive than the events themselves were. As the author says, “It’s not just that the passage of time distorts what you remember; it’s that the present reshapes the past.”

 

https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/a-problematic-genre-the-war-on-terror-kill-memoir/

A problematic genre, the “kill memoir

Braggadocio is not a requirement if you want to make a killing as a memoirist. It is more important for your book to tell truths about life than “the truth” about any particular incident.

 

https://lithub.com/all-about-my-mother-brandon-taylor-on-love-rage-and-family/2/?single=true

All about my mother: Brandon Taylor on love, rage, and family

A beautifully crafted, evocative short memoir about the author’s relationship with parents. The essay gives the impression of being artless, but it touches the reader deeply as it deals with how memoir dances around truth and fiction.

 

http://therumpus.net/2018/07/why-writing-matters-in-the-age-of-despair/

Why writing matters in the age of despair

Our words matter, our stories matter, perhaps more when we cannot see the reasons why.

 

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2013/03/01/were-all-jonah-lehrer-except-me/#.W2qDdHuqPtR

We’re all Jonah Lehrer except me

It is not always easy to be faithful to the stories of our lives. First we must mine deeply enough inside ourselves to find meaning and truth; then we need to muster up enough courage to be honest with ourselves and our readers. This essay speaks to neuroscientists about uncovering the truths of the brain, but it is equally relevant for memoirists discovering new truths about themselves .

 

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/our-hunger-for-the-obscene-details

Our hunger for the obscene details

The devil may be in the details, but as memoirists we must decide which parts of the devil to expose. It is not only an information issue, or a moral issue, or an issue that controls our healing. This gets to the heart of our humanity.

Telling stories (5)

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dorit-sasson/the-key-to-selfpublishing_b_4867679.html

The key to self-publishing your memoir: Be confident with your story!

Life is not a competition. We all have the same starting point and the same end. But there are stresses in between, and showing our naked selves to the world brings out a batch of them.

 

https://fs.blog/2014/02/the-structure-of-a-story/

The structure of a story

All narratives have beginnings, middles, ends. They also have context, either a unique life situation, a crisis, or a series of recurring everyday hardships. This is what usually grabs and holds the reader.

 

http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2014/02/interview-elynne-chaplik-aleskow-memoirist/

Interview: Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, memoir writer

Everybody has stories to tell, but we all have different ways to exploit and mine those stories.. Our uniqueness comes from how we fashion our narratives.

 

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2014/01/23/changing-our-stories/

Changing our stories

Whether we present our life narratives as fiction or memoir, their overriding basis does not remain static. As we change, so will everything about our writing: the approach, the technique, the attitude.

 

https://www.salon.com/2014/01/10/open_letter_from_dani_shapiro_dear_disillusioned_reader_who_contacted_me_on_facebook/

Open letter from Dani Shapiro: “Dear disillusioned reader who contacted me on Facebook”

An articulate reminder that memoir is not the story of a life. It is far more limited than that, a story from a life. But it is first and foremost a story.

 

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/a-life-made-of-stories/

A life made of stories

We tell stories for a variety of reasons: to impress others, to create an image that we (and the people around us) can believe, to make sense of the past, to recover from traumas. We must be selective when we create these stories, but not all of our omissions can be denigrated as errors of omission.

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-housden/the-dare-of-memoir_b_4460912.html

The dare of memoir

Your life is a congeries of stories. When you set out to write memoir, your job is to come to grips with one of those stories, then to write about it in such a way that it will make sense to others. Easier to theorize about than to do.

 

https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/12/24/a-gift-to-give-writing-your-memoir/

A gift to give: Writing your memoir

What we’re dealing with here is not somebody else’s job but your own life. The memory of us will be gone in a blink unless we tell the story – and that the story doesn’t have to be fancy.

 

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/wolf-wall-street-jordan-belfort-682968

Real-life ‘Wolf of Wall Street’: ‘It was awful what I did, but I was on massive amounts of drugs’

A life is the beginning. The story grows out of it, then it becomes a narrative to polish, then somebody else takes over and decides that it will make more money if it’s told differently. Soon, what actually happened can almost seem irrelevant.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/books/review/the-faraway-nearby-by-rebecca-solnit.html

Fruit of knowledge

Our lives are unique and our perspectives are unique, but we can share them through our stories. We can come to understand our own lives better by reading the insights of other people, especially in the thoughts that remain after they have survived experience.

Facing hard truths (4)

Any memoirist who is going to be honest must ultimately come to terms with some of the facts of life that have always been avoided. These could include the reasons relationships failed, or the fact that the author was at fault in some old matter. Those old facts may become apparent only when a memoir is being written.

Putting facts down frankly and openly also means confronting the possibility that somebody might actually read the truth as perceived by the author. This takes courage. It’s one thing to admit something to yourself; it’s quite another to make the admission public.

Hard facts are what distinguish some of the most effective memoirs from others. They lend an edge to what might otherwise be a bland book.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/05/11/1523586113

Memories of unethical actions become obfuscated over time

Abstract of a study that describes a self-perpetuating cycle of self-puffery, the human tendency to create our past with selective memory, and then to pat ourselves on the back when we recall that re-creation.

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-strauss/writing-taboo_b_4247417.html

Writing taboo

Writing life stories is often more revealing than entertaining, something that takes more courage than stage presence. If a story is to jump with life off the page, a writer must first overcome a fear of blood and sweat. Those things belong on the page; they are what readers will take away.

 

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/516056/deleting-memories/

Deleting memories

A skeptical look at those who would tinker with memories, as unpleasant as they may be.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/our-hunger-for-the-obscene-details

Our hunger for the obscene details

The devil may be in the details, but as memoirists we must decide which parts of the devil to expose. It is not only an information issue, or a moral issue, or an issue that controls our healing. This gets to the heart of our humanity.

 

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/08/03/does-literature-help-us-live/

Does literature help us live?

So many more writers seem to have exposed everyday problems than solved them that we are left with a cause-and-effect conundrum: Do depression, cynicism,  and despair make a person become a writer, or does writing for a living make a person depressed and cynical?

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/theo-pauline-nestor/why-do-we-need-divorce-me_b_2161011.html

Why do we need divorce memoirs anyway?

An article offering some perspectives on the pain of separation, the need to revisit trauma, and the sometimes transformative power of reliving the most heartbreaking experiences.

 

http://time.com/5362824/classified-childhood-memoir/

How to write a memoir when parts of your childhood are classified

This unusual item deals with how to tell a life story when outside forces want parts of it to remain untold. The author, who grew up and worked at a weapons development facility, must reconstruct the past even though some of the details are still classified military information.

 

https://www.channel3000.com/madison-magazine/arts-and-culture/should-you-include-the-dark-stuff-in-your-memoir/158572165

Should you include the “dark stuff” in your memoir?

There is an emotional trajectory to every story in every life, and a memoir that fails to illuminate all facets of that trajectory tells only part of the story.

 

http://narrative.ly/mourning-my-only-brother-and-then-learning-i-had-another-all-along/

Mourning my only brother… and then learning I had another all along

A short memoir about family secrets and redefining life and death after the revelation.

Motivation to tell life stories (4)

First-time memoir writers usually need a reason to sit down and write. And once they have begun, they need encouragement to keep on writing. Few are as inspired as Walt Whitman, who said the “sun-rise would kill me, / If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.” People who have that kind of fire and drive do not need web sites like this one.

Everybody who writes life stories has personal reasons for telling the world about the past. These links show multiple dimensions of the topic. There are more reasons sprinkled throughout this web site.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/11/11/243960103/a-reluctant-reader-turns-ya-author-for-tough-teens

Sometimes the ‘tough teen’ is quietly writing stories

Reading expands our world, transporting us to times and places we could never reach on our own.  As writers, however modest, we can take others into new worlds as well. By sharing our lives, our dreams, our experiences, we can give them new meaning and inspire others .

 

https://forward.com/articles/183398/judith-levys-best-selling-series-inspires-grandpar/

Judith Levy’s best-selling series inspires grandparents to record life stories

Everybody has stories to tell, but not everybody has the confidence to tell them. Here is a tool that can help.

 

https://invisiblechildren.com/blog/2013/08/13/live-a-life-focused-on-involving-yourself-in-the-stories-of-others/

Live a life focused on involving yourself in the stories of others

Writing is a reflection of life, but it can also serve as an inspiration for other lives. We never know who will find new life by reading our story.

 

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/06/national/censored-at-first-memoirs-penned-by-teen-nagasaki-a-bomb-survivor-revived/#.W15nm3uqPtS

Censored at first, memoirs penned by teen Nagasaki A-bomb survivor revived

We are all witnesses to history. Significant events can eventually be forgotten if we do not chronicle what we see. We owe it to posterity to tell our personal stories, and not just because they are stories.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/books/review/deadlines.html

Deadlines

Memoir appeals to a variety of readers because they can see themselves sharing the experience of the writer. And no experience is more likely to be shared than death.

 

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/archive/mike-gilson/why-you-should-never-forget-importance-of-memory-29201852.html

Why you should never forget importance of memory

If we need more reasons to grab the moment and to imprint today on our minds, here are some.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/doris-lessing-and-the-perils-of-the-pseudonymous-novel

Doris Lessing and the perils of the pseudonymous novel

This object lesson on the iffy judgment of publishers’ editors should give a great deal of encouragement to writers who have not found a market.

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/theo-pauline-nestor/why-writing-memoir-might-_b_2664914.html

Why writing memoir might actually make you happier

Of course, lots depends on how you define happiness, but this should be enough to get anybody started.

 

https://katu.com/news/local/recollect-studios-portland-woman-creates-website-to-preserve-loved-ones-memories

Recollect Studios: Portland woman creates website to preserve loved ones memories

Everybody has stories to tell, but some people have no incentive to tell them. It is up to others to capture them, even it takes a long series of conversations, so that the past is not lost.

 

http://msbookish.com/tss-the-memoir-project-by-marion-roach-smith/

[TSS] The memoir project, by Marion Roach Smith

Reflections on an inspirational book about memoir writing, which begins with the premise that writers can move forward more steadily with a narrower focus, if they do not get hung up on not being able to write about their whole life.

 

https://www.salon.com/2012/06/08/is_there_any_reason_to_read/

Is there any reason to read?

If literature is cultural memory, and if we all have a unique perspective on what is happening around us, for memoirists a follow-up question to the title of this article would be: Is there any excuse not to write?

Life stories and truth (4)

Garrison Keillor said, “You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.”

When most of us tell our stories, we try to describe events exactly as they happened. We want to express some measure of truth about the past. Unfortunately, many things keep us from doing this. Most important are the filters that influence our perception and our memories. Years have intervened since the event, our attitudes have changed, we see life with a more mature perspective. And there are more negative filters as well: We hesitate to write the whole truth because we are afraid of exposing ourselves or fear what others will think of us. We embellish a detail or two. Or we paint ourselves as better than we actually were.

No two people ever agree completely about the past. Even brothers and sisters who were next to each other growing up argue about basic matters, such as how they were treated at home. Memory is indeed a tenuous possession.

No record of the past is ever a complete or objective record. Narratives are selective and inevitably inclined toward a particular view. This is just as true of memoir as of larger historical stories. But memoir does not pretend to be historically accurate. It depends on the memory of an individual (accurate or not), and it is based on emotional truths.

Those issues are examined in the following links.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/game-show-champion-arrested-for-murder-over-detail-in-memoir-w441806/

British game show champion Joseph Connagh arrested on suspicion of murder over detail in his memoir

There is understandable concern over how much truth to reveal in a memoir. Here’s a new reason for concern.

 

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/mosman-daily/author-patti-miller-conducts-course-called-telling-the-truth-about-the-secrets-of-writing-a-successful-memoir/news-story/6b388eb1148eb30e56aa4256aa4c222f

Author Patti Miller conducts course called Telling the Truth about the secrets of writing a successful memoir

We all have our own version of the past. If we are compelled to publish it to the world, we should be clear about our motives and be ready to accept the consequences of what we are saying.

 

https://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/09/03/how-photographs-can-boost-the-memoir-genre/

How photographs can boost the memoir genre

It used to be said that pictures do not lie. But that was to disregard the way people cut unwanted relatives out of their wedding pictures, and to discount the possibility of tampering with photos. Now pictures are no more certain a record of the past than slightly fictionalized memoirs are. This is a look at the uncomfortable relationship between words, images, and the truth about what happened.

 

http://westallen.typepad.com/brains_on_purpose/2012/04/how-do-psychics-and-tyrants-sleep.html

How do psychics, bullies, and tyrants sleep well at night? Dissonance theory

We have to live with ourselves, so we fabricate a past that agrees with the way we see ourselves.

 

http://religiondispatches.org/famous-mormon-fictionalizes-life-stories/

Famous Mormon fictionalizes life stories

Memoirists must be clear about why the truth matters when they tell their stories to others. How much should trust be a part of this discussion? If our reason tor talking about our life has more to do with inspiring the listeners than reflecting what happened, are we justified in stretching the truth?

 

http://www.casualoptimist.com/blog/2014/02/18/content-analysis-of-the-memoir-by-tom-gauld/

Content analysis of the memoir by Tom Gauld

A cartoon worth keeping in mind. Mark Twain said the difference between fact and fiction is that fiction is limited to what is possible. Writers have to keep that in mind: tell the truth, but skillfully enough to keep the reader’s interest. Write a good story but don’t insult the reader.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/fashion/Family-Secrets.html?_r=2

Secret histories

No matter how hard we try to tell the world who we are, we do not always know everything about where we came from and what made us. Telling the truth is tricky when we do not know the truth. And the story we tell ourselves can be flawed because we are missing some important information.

 

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/content/348325/memoirs-allow-speculation-and-imagination-not-invention-author/story/

Memoirs allow speculation and imagination, not invention: author

This writer begins with the premise that we can never be sure of every detail of the past. He goes on to justify, possibly even encourage, bending the truth in memoir, saying that a writer can make the genre as imaginative and speculative as fiction.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/business/media/if-a-story-is-viral-truth-may-be-taking-a-beating.html

If a story is viral, truth may be taking a beating

Sometimes a story is just a story. We can enjoy it for what it might say about the human condition, but we shouldn’t draw conclusions about individuals without digging deeper.

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/01/life-keeps-changing-why-stories-not-science-explain-the-world/283219/

‘Life keeps changing’: Why stories, not science, explain the world

There are many ways to understand the puzzle called life. If we look for Truth, we may trip over a variety of truths on the way. Or we can seek out the ambiguity and accept the mystery.

Telling stories (4)

Somewhere in the short stories of Voltaire is a woman who claims that everybody who has lived a certain number of years – I think she said forty  – has a great life story to tell.

Every life is unique, and everybody negotiates unique events in a unique way. The perspectives we bring to experience and the perspectives created in us by experience give us the raw material for fascinating narratives. We all sprout the seeds for more than one memoir.

But as every novice cook knows, ingredients alone do not inevitably result in a delicious product. Effective memoir, interesting stories, require skill and technique.

A secondary but equally important aspect of the subject of life stories relates to the stories we tell ourselves. How we see the world and our place in it is shaped and colored by our self-concepts and our attitudes. These are as important to our story as the events we survive

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jun/14/1?newsfeed=true

Memory is still the domain of the arts

A psychoanalyst contrasts memories associated with stories and those not associated with stories, and finds that stories capture the past more effectively.

 

https://www.vox.com/culture/2016/10/11/13186490/when-in-french-lauren-collins-review

When in French is a thoughtful memoir about falling in love in a foreign language

Memory reminds us where and who we have been, but we must convert that past into language before we can tell our story. Expressing our memories in another language could even alter what we remember.

 

http://publishing.artshub.com.au/news-article/features/writing-and-publishing/emma-clark-gratton/is-your-life-interesting-enough-for-a-memoir-252244

Is your life interesting enough for a memoir?

Everybody has something to say, and everybody’s life has lots of interesting incidents, but publication requires another part of the equation: how well the story is told.

 

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/09/wisdom-in-the-age-of-information/

Wisdom in the age of information and the importance of storytelling in making sense of the world: An animated essay

If you can’t count it or document it, some people believe, it doesn’t matter. But stories exist to show what really matters.

 

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/10/11/alice-munro-on-stories/

Nobel Laureate Alice Munro on the secret of a great story

Lots of tantalizing suggestions for memoirists here, and inspiration for any writer who finds that stories keep changing.

 

https://heroesnotzombies.com/2008/01/30/the-importance-of-story/

The importance of story

To understand the essence of what we are, we organize the past – the people who influenced us, the events that impressed us, the ideas that changed us – into a story. To convey our essential self, we tell that story.

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/iyanla-vanzant-how-to-rewrite_n_2371928.html

Iyanla Vanzant: How to rewrite your life story (VIDEO)

You can’t tell others your story until you have consciously told it to yourself. The story we tell ourselves determines how we confront the world, so it makes sense to pay attention to what we believe about our self today and about our journey to becoming that self.

 

http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/2013/02/revising-life-stories-neural-pathways/

Revising life stories & neural pathways

We are always in the process of telling ourselves stories about what we are experiencing. Writing a life story involves amalgamating the hundreds of narratives we have incorporated. Changing the story as we go along will inevitably have an effect on what we eventually tell the world about ourselves.

 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2013/02/21/our-life-based-on-a-true-story/

Our life: Based on a true story

Effective memoir requires more than the events we recall. We must impose meaning on the past – and how we do that depends on our view of ourselves, our temperament, our personal myth.

 

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/in-your-light-we-see-light-inspiring-stories-that-moved-hearts

‘In your light we see light’: Inspiring pro-life stories that moved hearts

There’s no way of knowing what others will learn from the example of our own life. But first we have to tell our story.

Motivation to tell life stories (3)

First-time memoir writers usually need a reason to sit down and write. And once they have begun, they need encouragement to keep on writing. Few are as inspired as Walt Whitman, who said the “sun-rise would kill me, / If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.” People who have that kind of fire and drive do not need web sites like this one.

Everybody who writes life stories has personal reasons for telling the world about the past. These links show multiple dimensions of the topic. There are more reasons sprinkled throughout this web site.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

https://behlerblog.com/2013/08/05/memoirs-answering-the-tough-questions/

Memoirs: Answering the tough questions

Memoir is never just a list of experiences, as interesting as those might be. It also involves an intensely personal response to events, emotional awareness, and a readiness to expose our deepest selves to the world.

 

https://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/local/memoir-helps-author-alex-witchel-hear-her-mom-again/SWisNJuLEfVeNjlN7l2mgN/

Memoir helps author Alex Witchel ‘hear’ her mom again

Sometimes you write because it’s the only way to make sense of life. And when that happens there is no alternative to honesty. You may find your true voice when only the truth is worth writing about.

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2016/11/02/next/wasnt-she-something-mainers-explore-the-legacy-of-memoir/

‘Wasn’t she something’: Mainers explore the legacy of memoir

These reflections from a group of people writing their life stories give potential memoirists lots to ponder.

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-31/mark-colvins-memoir/7954598

Light and shadow: Writing a memoir to understand a father

Of all the reasons to write your own life story, the need to understand yourself may be the best. Not far behind is the need to understand the people you have known. (Self-justification may be the worst reason.)

 

https://theconversation.com/from-malala-to-zayn-malik-why-you-are-never-too-young-to-write-a-memoir-65739

From Malala to Zayn Malik: Why you are never too young to write a memoir

We all have memories that are worth recalling. Some memoirs can benefit from the perspective of youth, when the distancing filter of years has not yet set in.

 

https://www.writeraccess.com/blog/a-free-marketplace-of-ideas-reflections-on-blogging-expertise-and-first-person-narratives/

A free marketplace of ideas: Reflections on blogging, expertise and first person narratives

There are hundreds of reasons to write about the past. The benefits of writing memoir go far beyond a need to display expertise and the exercise does not require writing skill. But the author of this article gloms onto one or two reasons to write first-person narratives and dismisses them for all but the most skilled and expert writers.

 

http://www.sharonherald.com/news/local_news/dying-writer-pens-memoir-for-her-family/article_6f091ff6-c4ab-57cb-95e2-f4fcb1e4db6b.html

Dying writer pens memoir for her family

The motivation behind the writing of this memoir is unique. But it points to the need to write our stories while we have intact senses and a healthy body.

 

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/04/14/tell-me-who-are-3-reasons-to-share-your-story.html

‘Tell me who you are’ – 3 reasons to share your story

A reminder that memoir is not a listing of events and achievements as much as a chronicle of motives and lessons learned along the way.

 

http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20160529__Lancaster_County___A_convicted_killer_s_memoir_-_but_much_is_missing.html

‘Lancaster County’: A convicted killer’s memoir – but much is missing

In all stories, but especially personal stories, motivation is a key ingredient. The author of this essay contends it should have been made more clear to the reader.

 

https://krpooler.com/memoir-writing-tips/7-memoir-writing-tips-for-writing-with-intention

7 memoir writing tips for writing with intention

It can be hard to start telling your story. You need a reason to do it, and a passion to act on that reason.

Telling stories (3)

Somewhere in the short stories of Voltaire is a woman who claims that everybody who has lived a certain number of years – I think she said forty  – has a great life story to tell.

Every life is unique, and everybody negotiates unique events in a unique way. The perspectives we bring to experience and the perspectives created in us by experience give us the raw material for fascinating narratives. We all sprout the seeds for more than one memoir.

But as every novice cook knows, ingredients alone do not inevitably result in a delicious product. Effective memoir, interesting stories, require skill and technique.

A secondary but equally important aspect of the subject of life stories relates to the stories we tell ourselves. How we see the world and our place in it is shaped and colored by our self-concepts and our attitudes. These are as important to our story as the events we survive

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

http://stevenmmoore.com/writing-intense-quiet/

Writing intense quiet

Memoir is not science fiction (or, as cynics would have it, it normally is not), but narrative is narrative regardless of the medium, and these observations by a science fiction writer have a lot to say to memoirists about telling stories.

 

http://westallen.typepad.com/idealawg/2012/09/life-story-is-as-much-as-process-as-a-product.html

The recounting of your life story is as much as process as a product: Why I won’t use the fill-in-the-blank books

Writing about your own life can bring you dozens of unexpected rewards. Here is a look at some of them, as suggested by people who have devoted their energies to telling and studying life stories.

 

http://madeline40.blogspot.ca/2013/02/writing-life-stories.html

Writing life stories

A memoir cannot be a spur-of-the-moment project of an afternoon. To assemble full life stories a writer needs the qualities Melville prayed for in Moby-Dick: time, strength, cash, and patience –  not necessarily in equal portions, but at least sufficiently to sustain enthusiasm and to keep the material alive.

 

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/04/17/neil-gaiman-the-moth-presents-all-these-wonders/?mc_cid=bf344a7af3&mc_eid=30ab6787c9

How to tell a true tale: Neil Gaiman on what makes a great personal story

Some opinions from a master story teller that are crucial for any would-be writer of life stories. The final link in the essay takes you to some more of Gaiman’s valuable advice.

 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/ct-prj-the-telling-zoe-zolbrod-20160510-story.html

Memoir ‘The telling’ makes sense of Zoe Zolbrod’s childhood sexual abuse

The reviewer points out a crucial fact: “that no matter how inherently interesting or momentous a true story is, if its author can’t tell that story well, then the resulting piece of memoir will not amount to much.”

 

http://observer.com/2017/03/sense-of-an-ending-movie-review-jim-broadbent/

http://nationalpost.com/entertainment/movies/the-sense-of-an-ending-goes-mawkish-on-screen-utterly-betraying-julian-barnes

‘The sense of an ending’ is a powerful, moving portrait of memories past

‘The sense of an ending’ goes mawkish on screen, utterly betraying Julian Barnes

Two reviews of the same film about memories. They should make you wonder whether the reviewers saw the same film, just as our arguments with brothers and sisters should make us wonder who saw what.

 

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/jul/26/film-captures-fullness-of-life-as-much-as-death/

Film captures fullness of life as much as death

The details we put into a story can be as important as any other element. If we tell a story effectively, no paraphrase can do it justice.

 

https://www.timesleader.com/features/614988/out-on-a-limb-write-your-own-memoir-record-your-own-story

Out on a limb: Write your own memoir, record your own story

Some basic tips to help writers with dozens of life stories focus on the factors that will make a single story interesting.

 

https://theoutline.com/post/5541/unconventional-wisdom-you-should-not-write-a-book?zd=1&zi=vj2h2654

No, you probably don’t have a book in you

Publishing and writing are two different games. There’s lots more to getting your story out into the world than having had what you, or anybody else, thinks was an interesting life or an unusual experience.

Facing hard truths (3)

Any memoirist who is going to be honest must ultimately come to terms with some of the facts of life that have always been avoided. These could include the reasons relationships failed, or the fact that the author was at fault in some old matter. Those old facts may become apparent only when a memoir is being written.

Putting facts down frankly and openly also means confronting the possibility that somebody might actually read the truth as perceived by the author. This takes courage. It’s one thing to admit something to yourself; it’s quite another to make the admission public.

Hard facts are what distinguish some of the most effective memoirs from others. They lend an edge to what might otherwise be a bland book.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

 

http://www.compulsivereader.com/2013/02/02/interview-amy-friedman-on-shame-the-power-of-memoir-and-inner-truths/

Interview Amy Friedman on shame, the power of memoir, and inner truths

A perceptive interview with a writer who has thought at length about the fear of facing the truth and the consequences of overcoming that fear, writing frankly, sharing that truth with the world.

 

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/kevin-myers-why-i-wrote-about-my-adolescent-homosexuality-1.2914192

Kevin Myers: Why I wrote about my adolescent homosexuality

Some of the hard truths we must face are not about the world outside us but about the person we were as we developed. They take a special kind of courage.

 

https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Whether-You-Should-Self-Publish-Book-42312797

Self-publishing a memoir about my mental health was the scariest thing I’ve ever done

An intensely personal look at the hurdles that face an author who wants to describe personal difficulties in print, and at the implications of putting a personal story into the world.

 

https://modernloss.com/write-the-tough-stuff/

How to: Write the tough stuff

Your memories are your own, and you must express them. How do you do it without offending others?

 

https://www.salon.com/2016/08/12/my-husband-wouldnt-read-my-memoir-it-is-just-too-painful/

My husband wouldn’t read my memoir: “It’s just too painful”

Audience is a prime consideration for publishers, as it must be for writers as well. But the author’s direct audience includes first readers of a memoir. They are sometimes as familiar with the material as the author is, and less willing to engage emotionally.

 

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/life/health/how-to-turn-those-negative-memories-into-positive-ones-34856189.html

How to turn those negative memories into positive ones

One of the hardest aspects of memoir writing is being honest with yourself. This gets complicated when your inner self wishes a different past than you actually lived.

 

https://krpooler.com/memoir-writing/the-pen-is-mightyhow-to-be-brave-while-writing-your-memoir-a-guest-post-by-linda-wisniewski

The pen is mighty: How to be brave while writing your memoir: A guest post by Linda Wisniewski

Telling the truth is sometimes hard, but the truth might never be known if you do not tell it. Here are some helpful reminders.

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/brooke-warner/how-not-to-get-sued-for-y_b_12035000.html

How not to get sued for  your memoir

Some practical advice from a man with experience at staring down the legal consequences of memoir writing.

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronald-alexander-phd/mindfulness-practice_b_4047094.html

How to mindfully transform a painful memory

In trying to retrieve the past, we can be sabotaged by pains that have limited and defined us for years. Facing down those pains can change our sense of who we are and effectively make us stronger as we move forward.

 

http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/lamb-of-gods-randy-blythe-learned-a-lot-about-discipline-while-writing-memoir/

Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe learned a lot about discipline while writing memoir

To write honestly about the life you have lived, you must be willing to expose your inmost secrets to your public self. This kind of writing is not for the timid. You can’t make everything up as you go along, as in fiction.