Preserving Memories and Writing Memoir…

Writing Wednesday


Wednesday is the day I share what I have learned on my journey to publication, marketing and publishing again. If you have any suggestions or questions please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Writing Memoir

I think it is so important for all of us to find a way to document our lives for those we are going to eventually leave behind. Not only our personal and family stories but- history. Our first- hand accounts of historical events and how we reacted to them.

The young people in our lives might not be interested now, but the day will come that they need to know.

Just think of the history that’s happened in our lifetime. My 21-year-old-grandaughter does not remember life without computers, the internet and cell phones. So much has changed.

My grandmother, before she passed away gave me a wooden box, a cigar box that is full of the correspondence between her and my grandfather starting when they were 14-year-old kids growing up in Philadelphia and spanning 75-years. This is now one of my most precious possessions. I’ve copied one of my grandfather’s letters below. It was written while he was working in a pharmacy out of town for the summer.



Many of us believe our lives are boring but the truth is everyone does have a story to tell. We all have that one thing that happened in our lives that changed our course in either a positive or negative way.

There are many ways we can record our stories. We can keep journals, writing our thoughts, memories and historical events in them as they happen. Or we could write a memoir.


What exactly is a memoir? Let’s start with what it is not. It is not an autobiography which is the story of your entire lifetime. Unless you are somebody famous that has many accomplishments to your credit readers will not be interested in your entire life. It also is not a biography, which is also the story of an entire lifetime.

Memoir is about a memory. That moment that the something that changed your life forever happened is where your memoir begins. You can add a bit of before story and some after story but that memory is the beginning.

What memoir is finally clicked with me when my editor said, imagine someone is taking a walk around the block and they see your house and walk up to look into your large picture window on the very day of your “what happened” What would that person, who is walking by your house, see? A memoir is about an event, an incident, something that changed you in a positive or a negative way. It explains how you dealt with the “it,” The author questions what happened, tells the lessons learned and where you went from that moment on.

The memoir can be written in first person from the author’s point of view. It can also be told as Narrative nonfiction which is written like fiction-in story form.

There is little dialogue.

Your readers should learn something and their life should also be affected in some positive and educational way.

Memoirs should never be about revenge and should not be a book length rant.

They are between 90,000 and 100,000 words.

When writing nonfiction it helps to start with an outline.

Make a list of any research you will need to do

If you are writing nonfiction, you need to write the truth. Real names and places should be used unless using them will cause great harm. If you are planning on using fake names and places consider telling your story as fiction, instead of non-fiction.

If it happened to you, it is your story and you own it and have every right to tell it in your way.

Start with an outline, a brief description of your story. The description should include the beginning, the middle and the end in a concise three paragraph’s. Next, write a paragraph or two on each chapter. Name your chapters and choose a title for your memoir. Nothing is written in stone, this is just the starting point.

I find it helps to have some photo’s and personal items that remind me of the time period I am writing about on my desk.

While writing The Stranger in My Recliner I kept a photo of Sophie, a few Peppermint Patties and a can of peas, all of which reminded me of her.


Once your outline is finished the next step is to write your proposal. Once your proposal is written you will have a solid foundation to write your book.

Happy Writing,




Dearest Peg,                                                                                                                                    Sunday August 5, 1933

I couldn’t find anything else to occupy my mind. So I’ve decided to give you a break and send you this sweet but short letter. Isn’t that nice of me.

If it happens to be real scorching hot tomorrow, and you’re through washing you can come over home, and we’ll go swimming. I am not so anxious to go unless it’s real hot, so don’t go to any trouble just for me.

I know how you hate to come over home anyway, and I can’t blame you. It’s the only chance I get to go swimming myself. If you’re over home before 6:00 I’ll know you are going. If not I’ll come over to your house about 7:30. I’ll leave at 6:30 so don’t come any later.

Is that okay with you? Did I hear you say yes?

Do you roll your own? Here are some papers.

Take these stamps down to Hodili, and get 15cents for car fare if you come over.

You are most likely having a swell time all by your lonesome today. I can imagine how much you are missing me and I feel terribly sorry I am not there to keep you straight.

With love,


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