“As I near age 80, I feel that the story I have carried in my heart since childhood should be written,” begins a letter to the Chicago Tribune published last week. The letter goes on to summarize the writer’s happy childhood, which takes a total of eight paragraphs.
It’s nice that a major newspaper gives people the opportunity to relate their memories, but this also made me sad. The letter-writer is 80 years old and bursting with the desire to share the story she has carried in her heart all these years. So why has she waited until age 80? You can never be sure that you will be physically and mentally capable of sharing your story if you wait. Also, why limit your reach to one letter in one newspaper when you can write a book to have forever or list on amazon.com?
One of our WriteMyMemoir authors who asked us to publish his memoir started out last summer with 20 books. He’s already twice asked us to print up 20 more, because people see the book and want a copy for themselves. It’s so special to have a memoir available! As the New Year approaches, think about what you want your life to represent. You can shape the concept people have of you by crafting it in a memoir, and you don’t have to wait until your golden years or limit yourself to eight paragraphs when you have a whole book in you to write!
December 27th, 2011 by admin
We’re all so mobile these days! Many of us have moved several times since birth and today live nowhere near what we’d identify as our hometown. As seniors, we often relocate to wherever our children’s whims have taken them! Maybe as you write your memoirs, it’s time to go home again.
“If you are tracing your family’s history, few activities are more thrilling than traveling to your ancestor’s village or gravesite,” claims the “senior travel” section of about.com. “Standing where your forebears walked long ago is an amazing experience.” Calling this research a “genealogy vacation,” the piece has a few suggestions:
- Schedule enough time to just wander.
- Make sure to soak up the culture by doing things like eating in a family-owned restaurant, attending a worship service, visiting the area’s historical museum and chatting up the locals.
- Talk to everyone about your memoir. You may find someone who knew your family or who has a colorful anecdote to share about the town.
- Take a GPS or map so you don’t get lost! If the townspeople do not speak in your native tongue, also bring a good dictionary for their language.
- The obvious: take tons of photographs.
- The not-so-obvious: keep a journal of your experiences and a written log of the photos, in order.
Next week, between Christmas and New Year’s, is a great time to schedule this genealogy visit. You probably have some time off work, and the town will be decorated and cheery.
December 20th, 2011 by admin
Let’s examine a few more celebrity memoirs for inspiration in constructing a first sentence or two. Michael J. Fox begins his 2002 memoir: “I woke up to find the message in my left hand. It had me trembling. It wasn’t a fax, telegram, memo or the usual sort of missive bringing disturbing news. In fact, my hand held nothing. The trembling was the message.” Readers know that Fox will receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, but the beginning still is poignant and compelling.
Each chapter of the 2011 memoir of Dancing With the Stars professional dancer Cheryl Burke is named for a type of dance, which Cheryl uses as a metaphor for something in her personality or experience. She begins Chapter 1: “The freestyle dance is not restricted by any conventional steps or choreography. It is simply a dance in which the dancer can showcase whatever movement or emotion seems appropriate.” So you don’t have to begin with something personal. This is a little different way to begin a memoir.
Actor Alan Arkin chose a more traditional, straightforward two sentences to start his 2011 memoir: “My father said that at the age of five I asked him if he could keep a secret. He said yes he could, so I told him I was going to be an actor when I grew up.”
These authors zeroed in on an essence—ultimately the theme of the book. If you can identify what that is for you, the first sentence of your memoir will write itself.
December 13th, 2011 by admin
The opening sentence of a memoir is such a brain-freeze that many people give up the goal of writing an autobiography simply because they cannot come up with a satisfactory first line. Even country crooner Willie Nelson resorts to launching into his life story, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes, with the cop-out, “They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part.”
Fortunately, other celebrities make up for Willie’s appalling lack of originality. Consider this Chapter 1 first sentence: “My father was a very wise man who hated dishonesty more than he hated stupidity.”—from Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining, by television’s Judge Judy Sheindlin (written with a co-author).
Judy’s opening is followed by an anecdote from her youth that not only gives an example of how her dad chastised Judy when she tried to spin a bit of a tall tale, but also reveals her father’s influence on her own moral development as well as explaining the origin of her autobiography’s title. From there, Judy jumps to her first day as a judge, because her career is the focus of this memoir. The transition is deftly achieved, but there’s still a formula to it that you can borrow: begin with a statement that gets the reader curious, offer a pertinent anecdote and then make the connection to what you really want to talk about. More celebrity first-liners next time. Tune in!
December 6th, 2011 by admin