Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Memoir Project and Stuff

The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standarized Text for Writing and Life, by Marion Roach Smith 

I bought this book some months ago...after I borrowed a copy from the local library. I knew then I 'needed' this one in my own stash of good books.

As with most books I pick up, there usually is a timing as to when I I feel drawn to read it. When light bulbs begin turning on, if I can't seem to get enough of it, and if I'm underlining, marking and starring words and even whole sections, then I know it's the 'right' time. When I find myself skipping paragraphs and sections on the 'lookout' for something but not sure what, that usually indicates I'm not really in the space for the book and its message.

But this past week I felt drawn to my copy, delved in and found I could hardly put it down. Oh my, as it turned out, I came across clues, tips and advice that were perfect timing for the questions I was facing as I work away on my current writing project which is a memoir.

This morning I did a Google-search and was delighted to find a great interview Jeff Goins hosted on his blog a couple of years ago with the author Marion Roach Smith.

One question Jeff asked Marion was what typical mistakes does she see when she teaches writing.  Her reply:

Marion: The biggest mistake is to go too big too fast. It’s inevitable. Given the permission to tell one’s tale, most beginning memoirists attempt to tell us the whole tale, and in that, they crash and burn out.

Memoir is a genre, within which are many methods. I encourage mastering the personal essay, a piece of non-fiction of no more than 750 words. The essay is the single best way to understand one of the basic rules of memoir, which is to tell one story at a time. Master the essay and you’ve mastered the scene, as well as the intent of memoir.

Jeff ends the interview by asking how a person interested in writing a memoir actually begins the process...
Marion: The best place to begin is with a short personal essay on one topic, jumping in at the middle of the action. In other words, do not start with your height, weight and eye color, your birthday, or your address. Start where things are already heated up, where there is something at stake, so that the reader can jump aboard with wide-open interest.

I think that is a very good place to begin. Small steps. One short story at a time. 

Now for the whole interview, head over to Jeff's blog. On that note, I'm off...

This is my new life and I'm writing to find the right words,