By the Wind Grieved

By the Wind Grieved
“O lost, And by the wind grieved, Ghost, Come back again.” Thomas Wolfe

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Expansion of the Memoir Universe

Where else could you find Audre Lorde rubbing elbows with John McCain?

Everywhere I turn memoirs are falling out of the sky. Not that this is exactly a new phenomenon. In 1998, in his book Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser observed that the last decade of the twentieth century--a decade graced by the publication of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life, Mary Kerr's The Liar's Club and Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life--was "the age of the memoir."

If Zinsser could claim then that "Never have personal narratives gushed so profusely from American soil as in the closing decade of the twentieth century," how much greater is that geyser of narrative now, facilitated as it is by the word processor, desktop publishing, CreateSpace, etc., etc., etc.

A recent article in the New York Times series for Baby Boomers, "Booming," illustrates how the appeal of writing memoir is growing in step with the new publishing options, and brings to mind another insight Zinsser notes in a later book, Writing about Your Life (2004).
"Whatever we call the form--autobiography, memoir, personal history, family history--writing about one's life is a powerful human need."
 And it is not a need with purely selfish ends, as Zinnser goes on to explain.

"Writers are the custodians of memory and memories have a way of dying with their owner. One of the saddest sentences I know is 'I wish I had asked my mother about that.'"

Of course, it's not only publishing options that have proliferated with the emergence of the Internet. Since hanging up my shingle as a memoir writer for hire, I have been exploring the myriad sites that have sprung up where memoir writers can find community and resources, engage in discussion, and share tips. The LinkedIn group Memoir Writers' Society is just one such online social network. Through it I have discovered a handful of great writers and bloggers that I would have been hard put to discover by trawling the galaxy of blogs out there on my own, as well as valuable insights on the craft.

Dare I say, the variety one finds on such forums also helps a newer practitioner of the genre get a sense of what works and what doesn't (what is truly "publishable" in the traditional sense and what is best suited to sharing with family.)

Another resource I dip into is the e-zine Women on Writing, a site that provides workshops and classes, contests, and analyses of current trends. Their blog The Muffin, launches blog tours of recently published, quality memoirs, a recent one being David W. Bern's Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons. If you have ever wondered just what a blog tour is, and how your book may benefit from one, check this out.

WOW also partners with some great groups and successful authors and teachers, such as Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., of the  National Association of Memoir Writers, to offer webinars on the craft. This Friday, November 21, try one for free as Linda and her partner, Brooke Warner offer 5 Ways to Fulfill Your Dream of Becoming a (Memoir) Writer. If you do, I invite you to share your impressions in the comment box for this post.

Of course, these few references do not even scratch the surface, and if the superabundance of resources makes your head spin, take comfort in the idea that there is no time limit on exploring. So, if you have a personal story inside your heart that has been rattling the bars of a self-imposed cage, I invite you to grant it parole. There has never been a time when so much support is available, and inspiration but a click away.

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