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Writing a memoir

An Intriguing View of Memoir Via Fiction

by Matilda Butler on March 24, 2015

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #118 – Memoir Writing – Matilda Butler

Insights into Memoir Writing

Almost every day I’m focused on memoir writing — teaching, coaching, reading, blogging. But here’s my secret. I also love fiction, especially mysteries. There are many incredible female authors, new and old — Louise Penny, Susan Wittig Albert, Rita Mae Brown, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Kate Wilhelm, Janet Evanovich, Dorothy L. Sayers, Laura Lippman, Linda Barnes, Laurie R. King, Sara Paretsky, Nevada Barr (until she got too gruesome for me), Jacqueline Winspear, MC Beaton, Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Mertz, and the list goes on and on.

Another female author, Vicki Delany, has provided me hours of enjoyment with her Constable Molly Smith series. Recently, I was surprised to find that she has written other books. Her second novel, written long before the Molly Smith series, is a stand-alone, called Burden of Memory. When a title includes the word “memory,” the temptation is too much to resist.

Much to Be Learned

Sometimes I read fiction to see how story elements are handled, to learn more about story structure, to better understand character development, effective use of dialogue, and … yes, because fiction can be so much fun.

Well, guess what? Vicki Delany’s Burden of Memory is an exquisite read and has much to offer memoir writers. The story [no spoilers here] is about Elaine, who has been hired by Moira to write her memoir telling of her life as a nurse during World War II.

Many of the issues that we all face are brought to light in this book:

– What if the family doesn’t want the story told?
– Should some secrets be kept as secrets?
– How do you use letters (to and from Moira’s mother and grandmother, in this case)?
– What about the value of household records; what might be learned?
– How to get at emotions in addition to facts?
– And whose perspective controls the storyline?

And more. Much more. In the case of Burden of Memory, I happen to like the way the novel is structured. If you read it, see if it gives you not only an idea of a structure, but how one uses the structure to reveal the story in a way that might be more interesting than a straight chronological approach. Also, follow the structure and see how much is revealed before switching to a different time period. Is the reader left wondering and wanting more so that the structure helps to hold the reader’s attention? Consider how you might do this without confusing the reader.

So if you want a good read for just $4.99, I urge you to get the ebook version and see if it both inspires and informs your memoir writing life.

And, make a list as you read to note points that you can use in your own writing.

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Help for Writing Your Memoir

by Matilda ButlerDecember 2, 2014
Help for Writing Your Memoir

Women’s Memoirs recently talked with Judy Mandel, award-winning author of the memoir Replacement Child. Judy shares information on an upcoming memoir writing retreat.

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Overstory, Understory: Writing Prompt Worth Considering

by Matilda ButlerJune 24, 2014
Overstory, Understory: Writing Prompt Worth Considering

What’s your understory? Your overstory? Consider this new approach and then use the writing prompt to get you started.

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Memoir Review: Sue William Silverman’s The Pat Boone Fan Club is reviewed by Lanie Tankard

by Matilda ButlerApril 21, 2014
Memoir Review: Sue William Silverman’s The Pat Boone Fan Club is reviewed by Lanie Tankard

Lanie Tankard provides an intriguing look at Sue William Silverman’s third memoir: The Pat Boone Fan Club.

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Interview with Memoir Author Grace Peterson Reveals Importance of Taking Care of Yourself as You Write

by Matilda ButlerJune 19, 2013
Interview with Memoir Author Grace Peterson Reveals Importance of Taking Care of Yourself as You Write

Women’s Memoirs welcomes Grace Peterson. We think you’ll find her interview will help you on your own journey to writing and publishing a memoir.

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Memoir Review: The Shyster’s Daughter Reviewed by Tracy Kauffman-Wood

by Matilda ButlerJune 27, 2012
Memoir Review: The Shyster’s Daughter Reviewed by Tracy Kauffman-Wood

The Shyster’s Daughter by Paula Priamos is reviewed by Tracy Kauffman-Wood.

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Memoir Writing Tip: Memoirs Have Characters, Too

by Kendra BonnettFebruary 19, 2012
Memoir Writing Tip: Memoirs Have Characters, Too

If you want to engage your readers, bring the power of character to your memoirs. Real people are characters…in life and on the page. Learn from the masters of the craft: fiction authors.

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