The first time I taught Memoir Writing, I had my initial researches in hand which included the wealth of information from a Creative Writing textbook, Memoir Writing guides, actual memoirs, and Google. Still, that heap didn’t suffice, for I had an inkling that I was solely looking at the tip of its iceberg.
I dug deeper and grew more drawn into the art. I found Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir, Thomas Larson’s The Memoir and the Memoirist, and online Memoir Writing courses by Ariel Levy, Amy Bloom, Dani Shapiro, Gregory Pardlo and Said Sayrafiezadeh. Little by little, I was able to piece the facts together and unravel Memoir’s true beauty – which I can’t wait to share with you! For this article, we start with five interesting facts about Memoir.
1. Memoir is undefined.
Notice how bookstores place memoirs in these sections: Autobiography, International Biography, Real-Life Stories, Nonfiction. Truth is, Memoir is memoir. It isn’t Autobiography nor a Biography. It is a real story told creatively by the person herself; hence, it’s a creative nonfiction. Apparently, Memoir remains undefined, and therefore, it is free. It is still evolving.
2. Memoir welcomes anyone.
For you to write a memoir, all you need is a slice (an event, a moment, or an episode in the past) from your whole pie of life. If you’ve been alive, say, for 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60 years, just imagine how many slices your pie already has!
3. Memoir preserves the author and her experience.
Memoir allows you to pour yourself into the art. Memoir isn’t memoir if you record solely the facts of the event. The form requires you to express your observations, thoughts, and feelings about the event as creatively as you can.
4. Memoir gives the reader a real-life experience.
Reading a memoir usually feels like seeing the world through another person’s eyes. Most memoirs have images described vividly. This gives the reader a taste of the actual experience, an illusion of you being there. It’s like hiding in fear in the attic for Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, or chewing real Napoli pizza in Italy for Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, or sitting in a pool of blood after a miscarriage for Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply.
5. Memoir helps you gain self-knowledge and discovery.
Memoir isn’t merely a reminiscence of past events; it is a meeting between your past self and your present self. It tells how the present you looks at the past you. It is an exchange of views between – as Thomas Larson puts it – the “I now” and the “I then” regarding a specific experience. Through this form, meaning is found, purpose is realized, and peace is attained.