The Magnificent Memoir

Day 13 – “M” Memoir 

I never enjoyed reading memoirs in my younger years. I always viewed them as a type of non-fiction, and my overly imaginative, childhood self was not interested in reading anything resembling reality. Throughout college, I started reading autobiographical pieces, essays, and other non-fiction work from a first person perspective, and decided to give memoirs another shot. I have read a number over the years, some of my favorites being Wild (which I talked about in my Liebster Award Nominee post) and The Glass Castle, and have since grown to love a well-written memoir.

I do freelance writing on the side and, until recently, I had been working on an autobiography project for a client. He set me up with his clients, people who wanted an autobiography written based on their lives. Through a series of interviews and multiple conversations, I gathered enough material to write short bios for these individuals and their families. Hearing their stories, having them open up to me in such a real and honest way, and creating this little book that their families would be able to read and treasure for generations to come made it such a rewarding experience.

As part of this project, I was asked to write up my own autobiography to use as a marketing tool; to show potential clients what they would be getting. It wasn’t anything huge to speak of, averaged about 100 pages, and was self-published; but I wrote it, it was published in some capacity, it was shared, and it was read. I have a number of copies for my own personal use, and being able to look at that piece of writing is simply fantastic!

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An autobiography I wrote as part of a freelancing project I was working on last year!

This project helped me grow a strong appreciation for memoirs and autobiographies. It is incredibly difficult to be completely honest and forthright in this style of writing, knowing that everyone who reads your book will know all your dirty secrets. I certainly left out quite a bit in my bio, which made me realize that for an author to not care about being so vulnerable takes a tremendous amount of courage which I greatly admire.

I highly doubt that I will ever have a memoir published; if it ever happens it would obviously be much later in life. I have found that after writing this bio, and having written fiction based on personal experiences, I certainly prefer the latter. I enjoy taking these experiences, these observations, and tweaking them as needed to fit the piece, to make it more entertaining and less obvious that I am the/a character in the scene.

What are your opinions on memoirs? Do you enjoy reading them? Have you ever thought of writing one yourself?

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20 thoughts on “The Magnificent Memoir

  1. I’m reading ‘Wild’ right now. I do enjoy reading memoir though not necessarily those about famous people – more ordinary people. I recently put together a memoir for a client who is 92 and wanted a book for her family; she has had such an interesting life and seen so much – more interesting than a celebrity!

    1. I couldn’t agree more!! One of the women I worked with on that autobio project grew up and had her children in Panama before relocating to the states. The strength of that woman and the stories she had to share… Remarkable!!

  2. ‘The Moon’s A Balloon’ which is David Niven’s autobiography is as good a book as anyone could ever read. And that’s coming from someone else who generally isn’t keen on them.

    1. I’ll check that one out! Memoirs are still hit or miss for me. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls that I referenced in the post was phenomenal. It is the one that got me reading and being appreciative of memoirs, but I’ve read a few that were just horrid. I’ve given a few celebrity bios a chance and….. *vomits* So terrible…

      I agree completely with Allison in that memoirs about “real people” are far more entertaining, engaging, and relateable.

      Great prose today by the way!! 🙂

  3. I can understand what you say about sharing your secrets in an autobiographical work, Christina. I’m convinced that many of these ‘celebrities’ who have them published leave out a great deal – and fabricate even more! I also think that a memoir, or autobiography, is far more meaningful from an older person – and probably an unknown one, as you mention. Interesting post … 🙂

  4. I used to teach memoir-writing and am teaching a “Beginning Your Food Memoir” class at a conference soon. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding to help people uncover memories and tidbits of their lives, no matter what age they are. My favorite is when a prompt results in something fabulously written that they didn’t even know they remembered. I still recall one woman’s description of swimming lessons when she was a child; the sensory details were vivid in her mind and on the page.

  5. I do enjoy a good memoir, but like you, I didn’t really start reading them until I got older. One of the most interesting ones I’ve read is Losing My Mind, by Thomas DeBaggio, who wrote about his early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was both fascinating and terrifying, given my own family history.

    Good luck with the rest if the challenge!

  6. I’d like to write a memoir, but I think I should wait until I’m a little older… my story is hardly over, haha!

  7. As you stated in an earlier comment, there are good memoirs and terrible ones. I became interested in memoirs of ‘ordinary’ people after my mom died and I realized that with each generation that passes, so much history dies with them. I started to write the story of my parents based on what I knew and remembered.

    I think everyone has a story that needs to be told.

  8. An interesting post. 🙂 I’ve never really been much of a reader of memoirs – like you, I’ve always preferred fiction – though I did read a few back in school. I might have to try a few more now I’m older.

  9. I worked on a creative fiction piece in a creative writing class that I took. I based the characters on my life. It took a lot out of me emotionally to look and write the story objectively. I was encouraged by some of my classmates to write a longer story. I have put the story aside for now and have chose to work on it a little at a time. It does take a lot of vulnerability.

  10. I view good memoir writing as good story telling. You have to capture and keep the attention of the reader as you do with fiction, but you need to stick to the facts, at least as far as you know or remember them. I recently sent a copy of the book I wrote about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa to my former wife who shared the experience. And then I held my breath. I am happy to report she has ordered several copies for friends and family. 🙂 –Curt

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