Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing Memoirs Part 1--What is memoir? Why write one?

Our lives are filled with extraordinarily ordinary moments.  Our souls are illuminated by them.  Sharing them around the hearths of our hearts, we become tellers of sacred tales, artists of our lives.       
                                                                               ----Dr. Susan Wittig Alberta, Writing from Life

Welcome, Dear Writers. I am J Q Rose. I am delighted to be here with you today to share my passion for writing memoirs I have led workshops on life story writing since 2004. It is my mission in life to help people record their life stories for future generations. The precious gift of your life stories to your family will certainly become a treasured heirloom for future generations.

This four part mini-workshop is an overview for writing memoirs. The parts are scheduled only an hour between postings, so when your pen is on fire, you won't have to wait for the next part.  All of the June Writers Workshop blogs will remain up forever, so you have the opportunity to return to them at any time in the future for inspiration and review.

For this workshop I wish to stress that now is the time to begin writing your memoir. Do not put this off. No matter what your age, you will have a life time of stories to write, so start now! I included some quick “homework” assignments for you to begin your stories. If you care to try the writing exercises, please feel free to share them with us in the comments section.

What is a memoir or life story?

You may choose to write a chronological diary with only names, relationships, dates, and places. An autobiography is usually a chronological record of a life. A memoir or life story fleshes out your story revealing your memories, but also emotions. It gives life to people in your story much as you write characters in your novel. A memoir is a more intimate record of your life revealing true feelings. It may cover only a segment of your life and concentrate on one theme such as overcoming an illness,  discussing your career(s), or taking readers on your travel adventures. Only YOU can write your memoir.

Information in the memoir will depend on its purpose. Deciding whether you will give this as a gift to your family and/or to write for publication will affect the content you choose to include.

Why write a memoir?
So many of us question why anyone would want to read our stories. We just live such ordinary lives. We didn’t discover electricity, build a rocket ship, or discover the cure to a deadly disease.

1. No, we didn’t (or maybe some of you did), but each story you tell will be read with interest by your family members and friends. Each joy and sorrow you share with them will be a guide for their lives. They can find comfort and assurance knowing someone else can overcome difficulties, be gracious in situations, and find joy in living an ordinary life.

2. Writing your story helps you understand your life. Seeing it through the lens of time, people’s actions, emotions, and words become more clear to you than when you actually lived the moments.

3. You will preserve the family history as well as telling the “real” story of historical events and how they affected your ordinary life. Have you lived through the Vietnam War era, civil rights movement, Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King assassination, the first step on the moon, 9/11 tragedy?  Yes, you have stories to tell.

4. One of the best reasons to write is to have fun. You will be surprised how many family members will be willing to share memories with you. This is a great conversation starter and you will learn a whole lot about your family and friends by re-living the memories as seen through their eyes.

If you still feel unsure about deciding to write your life story, please download and read this free e-book from Women’s Memoirs entitled the Top Ten Reasons to Write Your Memoir.   

Please share with us why you want to write your memoir and what you plan to do with it. If you have questions about life story writing, please ask and I will address them in this mini-workshop.

J Q Rose is the author of the mystery-light horror novella, Sunshine Boulevard, published by Muse It Up Publishing.


jabberingjo said...

I started a comment, but it flew to outer space. I wondered what you do if when writing memoirs, siblings end up in hot debate as to whether the incidents you recount are actually true or a figment of your imagination?
Thank you J. rose Knith, Joan

jabberingjo said...

thank you J.Q Rose, for this workshop. I hesitate to write memoirs as my siblings and I remember things differently. Sometimes this results in hot debate.

Lisa Forget said...

Hi J.Q. Rose,

As traditions change and the history of families gets lost in the shuffle of this fast-paced life we live today, I've often thought I should write down what I know for my three daughters.

I'm happy that these workshops will remain available to us as I'd like to take my time with all of them - including yours - to refer to in the future, when I can dedicate more time to absorbing the information.

Thank you for this workshop!


J.Q. Rose said...

Jabberringo...yes, time clouds some of our remembrances. As a story is told over and over sometimes the teller adds his or her view of things and then it is changed again by the next teller. Since it is YOUR memoir, you tell the story from your point of view and your emotions. You may want to qualify the telling by saying this is how you remember it. Thanks for your comment(s). yep, they are both here!!

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Lisa, yes your 3 daughters would appreciate a gift of stories written by you. Don't wait to do it. Start now!! We all want to impart our knowledge gained from our life experience, but we don't want to sound preachy when we write for our kids. Although we know it all!! LOL I hope you will re-visit and take your time to work through the workshops. So much wonderful information here all month.

Unknown said...

Wow JQ, you certainly went all out today on a subject I would love to do yet find daunting. Given all you've shared I am now beginning to think I should take this on but I was thinking. Can I hire you to do it? Great job. You're obviously an expert.

Lawna Mackie said...

JQ I totally give you credit! The thought of writing a memoir would terrify me. I enjoy writing fiction because I can weave parts of my life in that I wouldn't want to share! LOL. I do have quite a few friends, however, that are thinking about writing memoirs, so I'll definitely being sharing this information with them. Thanks for such an interesting topic! I agree you are an expert!


J.Q. Rose said...

Karen--Thanks...I'd love to be your ghost writer for your life. I could put in some very interesting stories about you I bet!

J.Q. Rose said...

Lawna--now when I read your stories I will wonder...Did Lawna actually do that in her life??? Thanks for sharing the info with your writer friends. Maybe they will win you over to at least begin a memoir, then you'll get hooked!