Writing the Literary Memoir

For a couple of years, Luisa attended summer writing workshops at Cannon Beach, Oregon. One of the workshop presenters was poet and author, Judith Barrington. The first book of Judith’s that I read was Lifesaving: A Memoir. This powerful story of a young woman coming to terms with the accidental death of her parents was published in 2000.

memoir writing tipsWhen, several years later, I was ready to write my own memoir with a focus on how my daughter’s life and early death affected me and my family, I returned to Barrington. I reread Lifesaving and also read her wonderful volume: Writing The Memoir: From Truth to Art, which highlights the memoir writing process. This is an essential volume for anyone serious about becoming a memoirist. The chapter titles give you an idea of what’s inside:

  • Getting started
  • Finding form
  • Telling the truth
  • Using fictional techniques
  • Expanding your language skills
  • Developing sensory detail
  • Writing about living people
  • Placing your story in a larger context
  • Getting feedback on your work
  • Steering clear of common pitfalls
  • Legal issues pertaining to memoir
  • Guidelines for critique in writers’ groups

I returned many times to both volumes during the four years it took to write my memoir.

Thank you, Judith!

Are you thinking of writing a memoir? Have you read Judith Barrington?

Non-Fiction Memoir Book Reading and Radio Distraction

Maybe I put radio on too high a pedestal.

These days, I listen a lot to National Public Radio and Pacifica.  Both of these networks feature shows that interview writers and I’m always impressed with how sophisticated and confident these folks sound.  Later this month, I’ll kick off a series of public readings from my new non-fiction memoir, Sometimes I See You.  Of course I’m proud to have the opportunity to share my work, but at the same time I worry.  I worry that nobody will show up. I worry that if people do show up they won’t like what I’ve chosen to read or that I won’t be able to answer their questions.  I compare myself with the writers I hear on the radio and come up short.

It’s neurotic, but it nags at me.

Non-Fiction Memoir AuthorAs a kid, I couldn’t get enough radio.  There were all the cowboy, detective and science fiction shows like Suspense, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Flash Gordon, The Green Hornet, Have Gun Will Travel, The Shadow, Bulldog Drummond, and Boston Blackie.  Most of these were on evenings or weekends.  When I’d stay home sick from school and was tired of reading, I’d listen to the day-time soap operas such as Just Plane Bill; Ma Perkins; One Man’s Family; Our Gal Sunday; or The Romance of Helen Trent.  Then there were comedies:  Jack Benny; Red Skelton; You Bet Your Life with Grouch Marx; Fred Allen; George Burns and Gracie Allen; and Archie.  And, there were kids’ shows (Let’s Pretend, Buster Brown, the Sunday Comics) and the quiz shows and . . . it goes on and on.

In my teens, radio was all about music.  KFWB, Los Angeles . . . Channel 98! was my station as I carried my new transistor radio around West LA or lay with it on the beach at Santa Monica.

Radio still has power over me.  Shows like This American Life; Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me; Fresh Air; and Snap Judgment are favorites.

Now that I’ve taken my mind off the first reading of my new memoir, I wonder what’s on?

Is radio an important part of your life?  Do you have fond memories of radio shows from your childhood?