Should You Use Flashbacks in Your Memoir?

by Jerry Waxler

Read Memoir Revolution to learn why now is the perfect time to write your memoir.

One way to resolve the “where do I start” dilemma is to jump straight into the action, and then come back later to fill it in with flashbacks. Flashbacks consist of entire scenes, inserted out of chronological order. Even though life takes place in chronological order, flashbacks give you the freedom to jump straight into the thick of the action. In addition, they offer another stylistic benefit. They can increase the power of an otherwise boring scene.

Travel Memoirs and Flashbacks

In his memoir, Zen and Now, Mark Richardson retraces the path traveled by Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The miles of road streaming by provide Richardson perfect empty canvas on which to paint scenes not only from Pirsig’s book but also from other times in his own life. The weaving of time, thoughts, and place feels seamless, and the pages roll by with the same grace as the miles.

I’ve since read other travel memoirs that use this technique. Andrew X. Pham has plenty to say about other times in his life during his bicycle ride through Vietnam in Catfish and Mandala and Cheryl Strayed takes advantage of both of these benefits in her artful use of flashback in Wild.  She sweats and struggles with her backpack on a wilderness trail, and effortlessly integrates her remembered scenes to provide an ever deepening spiral of character development. Thanks to her impeccable stylistic control, and the neat trick of inserting the past scenes when nothing much is happening around her, Strayed uses flashbacks to her advantage.

However, even though the open road provides a blank canvas on which to paint flashbacks, not all travel writers use it in that way. Throughout Sam Manicom’s year-long motorcycle ride in his memoir Into Africa, he only briefly mentions that he grew up on that continent and provides no scenes from the earlier period, and Doreen Orion does not say much at all about her past during the road trip on her RV in Queen of the Road.

Flashbacks Require More Craft

Many memoirs follow chronological order because that’s the way life really happens. However, when you first start writing, your memory asserts its own order, or rather lack of it. During the research stage, memories jump around like lightening from one period to another, touching on a variety of scenes only tenuously connected to each other. When you first wrote this hodgepodge it might have made perfect sense. But readers won’t be able to reconstruct your life in the order that it actually unfolded.

Story reading is very different than memory, and so, a big part of the memoir writer’s job is to sort the raw material of memory back into the chronology of actual events. Gradually you will tease apart the causes and sequences of things, and present them in the most compelling possible manner. Good writers work hard so their readers can work easy.

However, as you develop your story, and continue to look for the techniques that will keep readers fascinated, you may decide the final version will benefit from a flashback, and that requires work to make sure the reader is oriented in time and space. You never want the reader to ask, “where am I again?” Such ambiguity disrupts their precious attention.

So how do you gracefully insert a flashback without disrupting the reader’s concentration and ensuring they know exactly where they are in time? If you on a hike through the wilderness, it could be easy for the reader to realize your childhood bedroom scene is a flashback. But what if your flashback scene is in the same place and with the same person? The two scenes could bleed into each other, leading the reader into ambiguity and confusion.

The movie Wayne’s World provided a comedic exhibit of how to make a clear transition. The characters signaled the return to an earlier time by making a silly noise, wiggling their fingers and shimmying the video. That exaggerated device highlights the importance of letting everyone know the timeframe is shifting.

For example a time shift in books often occur at a chapter break, or is signified with extra line breaks and printer’s marks. The first phrase of the first sentence should make obvious reference to the shift in order to acclimate the reader. For example the weather in one time frame is cold and in the other it is warm, or it could be a clear verbal signal. “Back in the earlier time, life was good.” You could even mention the date. Doing it right is crucial and it requires polish and skill to pull it off effectively.

Sometimes a jump in time can be signaled with a prop. So if you are touching a briefcase at the airport, waiting in line, and then you remember a previous scene. You jump back into that scene. Then, when you are ready to return, you feel the weight of the briefcase in your hand and hear the person at the counter asking if they can help you. One of the great ah-ha moments in cinema comes when Christopher Reeves’ character in Somewhere In Time travelled back in history to meet a lover. When he glances at a coin with a future date, the shock hurtles him out of the past and back into the future.

Perhaps You Didn’t Need to Go Back

If you don’t believe your earlier years would add anything to the story, don’t force yourself to include them. It may be that your story starts much later . Lots of excellent memoirs offer very little backstory. For example, in many memoirs about the period called launching, when the author is attempting to move out into the world, there is very little consideration of earlier years. Every ounce of their energy seems to be focused on the future.

  • Publish This Book by Stephen Markeley: A young man, just out of college tries to figure out how to earn a living as a writer.
  • Japan Took the JAP Out of Me by Lisa Fineberg Cook: A young newlywed moves with her husband to his job in Japan and must figure out life marriage and career.
  • Enough About Me by Jancee Dunn: A young woman enters the workforce and ends up interviewing celebrities. In her new role, she still must figure out how to be herself.

In every memoir, the structure is determined by the author’s best attempt to provide a powerful story and each author uses different devices. In Dani Shapiro’s launching memoir, Slow Motion, she does provide many important flashbacks of her earlier life. At the other extreme, backstory can be extremely brief. In Holy Cow by Sarah McDonald she mentions that she travelled to India because a stalker scared her away from her home in Australia.

Do Midlife Psychological Dramas Need Roots?

Many memoirs focus on challenges later in life, when events or psychological pressures cause us to rethink our direction. For example, in Accidental Lessons, David Berner tells about his midlife crisis, during which he drops out of his successful career and marriage and attempts to reinvent himself. He writes the whole story from the point of view of a middle-aged guy in a junior position as a school teacher, and offers hardly any glimpses of his earlier life. I found the book engaging, and psychologically compelling. In her midlife course correction  Sonia Marsh tackles the world head-on, and tells about her move to Belize in her memoir Freeways to Flipflops. The journey is told with very few flashbacks.

Other writers who experience a shift in awareness later in life choose to start their story from many years earlier. For example, when John Robison realizes in midlife that has had Asperger’s syndrome, it helped him understand himself. In his memoir Look Me In the Eye, he starts from childhood and describes his whole life in chronological order. When Boyd Lemon retires, he wants to make sense of the mess he made of his three marriages. He organizes his memoir Digging Deep as a series of three long flashbacks, remembered from the present.

Writing Prompt
The decision about how you structure your story will be influenced by your creative approach to the dramatic arcs of your life. Explore the possibilities by writing one or more synopses, as if you are writing a blurb for the back of your book, using third-person so it feels like you are talking about someone else. Experiment with a variety of approaches. For example, write a blurb about a memoir of your childhood. Write one about the journey of launching into adulthood. Or write about some other powerful event or period that you feel might be story worthy.

As you proceed in your memoir writing journey, hone these blurbs. A side effect of refining them will be an improved understanding of your whole project and will help you find your way amid the complexity of memories.

Notes

This is the third part of the series about how to structure a memoir.
How Should I Begin My Memoir?
One of the most puzzling questions about how to structure a memoir is “Where do I begin?”

How Much Childhood Should I Include in My Memoir?
Since memoirs are a psychologically oriented genre, we want to include enough background to show how it all began. But how much is the right amount?

Should You Use Flashbacks in Your Memoir?
Flashbacks provide important background information, but you need to use them carefully so you don’t confuse your reader.

More Tips about Constructing the Timeline of a Memoir
The timeline of a memoir contains the forward momentum, and the laying out of cause and effect, so it’s important to learn the best techniques for laying it out.

Beware of Casual Flashforwards in Your Memoir
In real life, we can’t know the future, so to keep your memoir authentic, try to avoid sounding like a prophet.

How a Wrapper Story Helps You Structure Your Memoir
When you try to tell your own unique story, you might find that you need an additional layer of narration to make it work. Here are a few examples of writers who used wrapper stories.

Telling a Memoir’s Backstory by Seesawing in Time
If you want to tell about the childhood roots of your adult dilemmas, you could follow the example of these authors who wove the two timeframes together.

For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my book Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.

How Much Childhood Should I Include in My Memoir?

by Jerry Waxler

Read Memoir Revolution to learn why now is the perfect time to write your memoir.

When you start writing your memoir, you might not know how much of your childhood to include. However, don’t let that uncertainty slow you down. Gather anecdotes with an open mind, recording any scene that feels like it “wants to be told.” The material that pours on to the page during your research phase could influence the final decision about how to structure the book.

Material about an early period might turn into a memoir itself. It might provide important flashbacks. Or even if you don’t use it, these old scenes will provide rich background to help you make more sense of your character.

In addition to writing your draft material with an open mind, read memoirs with the same flexible approach. By reading voraciously you learn the range of life experience that each author chooses to include. You learn what sorts of memoirs you love to read.

As an aspiring memoir author, you look past the content of each memoir to its structure. How did the book start, and how did the initial scene (or at least chapter) relate to the character’s main challenge? Did it grab your attention? How would you apply the beginning and ending of the memoir to your own memoir in progress?

After you’ve read a variety of memoirs and answered these questions, you will develop a “vocabulary” of memoir structures that will give you ideas about how to construct your own. For example, in this post, I’ll focus on the amount of childhood that is included in the memoirs I’ve read.

Start from Childhood

Some of the most successful bestsellers in the Memoir Revolution were about growing up. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club and Jeannette Walls’ Glass Castle all were on the New York Times bestseller list, and they all began in childhood. One reason their stories grabbed so much attention was because these children endured abusive, chaotic situations. Our hearts go out to Frank McCourt as he wanders the street hoping to find a piece of coal that might have spilled off the delivery truck so he could heat the house for his mother and siblings. We want to send in Social Services to protect Jeanette Walls, whose parents moved for no reason, choosing poverty over work.

Less prevalent are books about childhood without gut-wrenching danger. The key to storytelling is creating and resolving conflict, so if there is no monstrous father in the picture, or rockets smashing into nearby apartments, (Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filapovic) the story’s conflict must come from other aspects of the human drama.

No matter how cushy our material circumstances, we all had to grow up, and in our own way, each of us knows the emotional dangers and hardships of that process. Our attempts to find safety and wholeness amid these ordinary challenges can provide an excellent story.

Memoirs about Non-horrific Childhood

Laura Shane Cunningham, author of Sleeping Arrangements lost both her parents, a profound loss that was softened by the care of the two compassionate uncles who raised her. Her unusual freedom and attempts to find emotional wholeness makes a great story. Even more normal was Haven Kimmel’s life in a small town. In her memoir, a Girl Named Zippy, she energizes the reading experience with a terrific, ironic humor.

Tell About Childhood as the First Installment

A Girl Named Zippy was Kimmel’s successful first memoir. Her second memoir She Got Up Off the Couch essentially continued the story from where the first one left off. This strategy of writing sequential memoirs has been employed by some very successful authors,

Frank McCourt followed his smash hit Angela’s Ashes with a second memoir ‘Tis and a third, Teacher Man. Mary Karr, after the Liar’s Club, moved on to the next phase in her life in the memoir Cherry, and then recounted her long struggle with alcoholism in Lit. Harry Bernstein wrote three books about his life, starting with Invisible Wall, about being a child in England before World War I. His second was The Dream about being a young immigrant to the U.S., and his third was Golden Willow about the span of life that took him into his 90s. For each of these authors, the book about childhood was the first installment in a much longer work which added up to a de facto trilogy.

Late Childhood: Transition into Adulthood

Early childhood might feel like the most psychologically important period, when you are learning to be a person. It is also might seem too far away from your adulthood or your memories might be too vague and unrecoverable, or too “normal.” However, there is another segment of Coming of Age that creates enormous psychological pressure for many of us. During the period called “launching,” we leave our dependence on our family and enter the adult world. The challenge is that we are making decisions that will affect us for the rest of our lives, but our adult minds are not yet fully developed. The launching process can make a fascinating, high energy, dangerous story, as evidenced by these:

Girl Bomb by Janice Erlbaum. Desperate to get away from her mother’s boyfriend, Erlbaum hurled herself out on the street unprepared to care for herself. She lands in a girl’s shelter for a year in a great example of trying to grow up too fast.

Dopefiend by Tim Elhajj. His entry into adulthood was derailed by addiction to heroin, so when it’s time for him to take a stand and launch himself into the adult world, he starts out with enormous disadvantages

Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro made it all the way to college drug free and then lost her way. This is one of the best “derailed launching” books I’ve read.

Publish This Book by Stephen Markley. When he gets out of college, he has to figure out how to make a living. “I know,” he thinks, “I’ll write a book about writing a book.” It’s a fun read and at 26 years old, he happens to be one of the youngest memoir authors I’ve covered.

Japan Took the JAP Out of Me by Lisa Fineberg Cook. She marries a schoolteacher and leaves her life as a spoiled Los Angeles party girl. In Japan, she learns to be a housewife and an expat at the same time. This is a later period in launching when she has her first taste of adult responsibility.

Tell the Whole Thing in One Book

Coming of Age stories don’t necessarily end at age 18 or 20. After all, this is simply the prelude to the rest of life, and often the story of childhood merges into the next leg or two of the journey. Even though Glass Castle is famous as a Coming of Age story, with many mesmerizing scenes of Jeanette Walls’ childhood, the book doesn’t end when she moves out of her house. It ends well into Walls’ adulthood when she attempts to make peace with her parents.

Even if your childhood doesn’t have sufficient drama to make it a story in its own right, you may have a sense that it is part of your “story that must be told.” If you keep coming back to that period of your life as an important aspect of the character you need to portray then challenge yourself to find a way. Memoirs, like any creative work, allow room for your own approach. It may take you longer than you originally hoped, but over a period of development, you gradually see how to knit the whole thing together. And as you creatively knit together your memoir, you will also knit together the fragments of your life, allowing you to see the whole thing in one story.

Consider Susan Gregory Thomas’ compelling memoir, In Spite of Everything. The book offers a terrific example of a story that starts with childhood and keeps going. Her childhood seems like a magical, storybook life, disrupted by the tragic breakup of her parents, a nightmarishly chaotic adolescence, through her college years, her young married life, and then to the heart-wrenching breakup of her own marriage. She keeps this long journey fraught with compelling tension that carries the reader all the way through.

In the next few posts, I continue to dig into more of the structural decisions that will help you turn your manuscript of life events into your compelling story.

Notes

This is the second part of the series about how to structure a memoir.
How Should I Begin My Memoir?
One of the most puzzling questions about how to structure a memoir is “Where do I begin?”

How Much Childhood Should I Include in My Memoir?
Since memoirs are a psychologically oriented genre, we want to include enough background to show how it all began. But how much is the right amount?

Should You Use Flashbacks in Your Memoir?
Flashbacks provide important background information, but you need to use them carefully so you don’t confuse your reader.

More Tips about Constructing the Timeline of a Memoir
The timeline of a memoir contains the forward momentum, and the laying out of cause and effect, so it’s important to learn the best techniques for laying it out.

Beware of Casual Flashforwards in Your Memoir
In real life, we can’t know the future, so to keep your memoir authentic, try to avoid sounding like a prophet.

How a Wrapper Story Helps You Structure Your Memoir
When you try to tell your own unique story, you might find that you need an additional layer of narration to make it work. Here are a few examples of writers who used wrapper stories.

Telling a Memoir’s Backstory by Seesawing in Time
If you want to tell about the childhood roots of your adult dilemmas, you could follow the example of these authors who wove the two timeframes together.

For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my book Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.

Please Readers: What Do They Expect From Your Memoir?

by Jerry Waxler

Read Memoir Revolution to learn why now is the perfect time to write your memoir.

Before a reader picks up your memoir, they have formed a mental image of what lies inside. The title is only one of the bits of information they consider. The cover image might contribute, although many excellent books have plain covers. Readers also consider the subtitle, the blurb, the book’s website, the supportive quotes  on the back of the book or on the bookseller’s page, and they may even watch the video trailer.

As an aspiring memoir writer, these outward facing flourishes might seem impossible to imagine. The books you buy appear to be far more polished than yours, which still seems somewhat vague. You know you want to write your story, and hope that someday it will be worth reading, but you don’t yet have a catchy blurb, and perhaps can’t yet even say what it’s “about.”

The important thing to remember when you compare yourself with published authors is not whether your life itself is more interesting than theirs. Keep in mind that by the time their book reaches the store, it has been through a journey, during which they and their publishers had plenty of time to refine their message. If you are just beginning the journey, naturally the end seems a long way off. Having said that, these authors had to start somewhere and so do you.

Even at the very start of your memoir-writing process, try to envision the way potential readers will view your work. The closer you get to actually publishing it, the more important this outward facing creative project becomes. Fortunately, we memoir writers are also readers, so to figure out the mind of a prospective reader, we can learn a lot from our own process of searching for a book.

To help you develop your message, look at the books you’ve been reading and summarize the message that grabbed you. For example,

—    After scanning the title and blurb for David Bellavia’s House to House, I expected a heart-thumping account of urban fighting in Iraq, and that’s what I got.
—    When I started Matthew Polly’s American Shaolin, I was curious about his transformation from an intellectual college boy to a student of martial arts in the Chinese temple made famous by the Kung Fu television series. It fulfilled my expectations.

Themes like this seem to spring naturally from the events themselves, but there are many memoirs that probably felt very mundane to the author when they first started.  For example,

  • My reason for reading Seven Wheelchairs wasn’t that Gary Presley had polio but rather to learn how he coped with that condition.
  • Tim Elhajj’s Dope Fiend presented the climb of a young man from the quagmire of addiction back to competent adulthood.
  • Firoozeh Dumas’ Funny in Farsi is about  an immigrant Iranian in the U.S. I enjoyed accompanying her as she tried to develop a sense of American identity.
  • When I picked up One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman, I knew before I read the first page that it was about taking care of her husband after his stroke.

As you search for the compelling core of your own story, step away from the catchy blurb and think about what it would be like for an author to look back on a life in a wheelchair, or growing up in a minority culture, or taking care of a husband after his stroke, or recovering from addiction. “Who would ever want to read about me” seems like a natural first thought. Then, “But I really want to tell my story” is the compelling thought that took over in each of these cases and motivated the author to keep going.

At first, you might have a hard time imagining how to boil your own story down to such a catchy kernel. But it turns out that the kernel of your own memoir might be lurking beneath the surface, in the psychological drama that was taking place inside your mind and emotions. By searching through your dreams and setbacks, you discover the drama that was taking place on a psychological plane. Why did you behave that way? What made you do those things? How did you overcome the fears, self-doubts, and discouragement?

Revealing your interior life

Many memoirs develop the interior story and bring it out into the open. For example, Look Me in the Eye by John Robison is not noteworthy because of a specific set of circumstances, but rather because his experiences all took place within the mental context of undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. William Styron’s memoir Darkness Visible brought depression into the public view, and Kay Redfield’s Unquiet Mind did the same for Bipolar Disorder.

These special psychological states of mind go on for years or a whole life, but in fact, all of us have been thrown into dramatic and important states of mind at various times. For example, grieving can become an incredibly important journey filled with drama. Similarly, when a crisis occurs in our lives for any reason, we must dig for courage, and attempt to overcome fears and discouragement. Such states of mind are ordinary in the sense that they happen to everyone, and extraordinary in the sense that they push us to the tipping point between courage and despair. Such states are worth writing about:

Grieving

In grieving, we must somehow reclaim our sense of poise in a world which is now missing one of its most important features. By reading memoirs of such experiences we can learn how the author coped and increase our empathy and understanding of that process.

  • Robert Waxler’s Losing Jonathan, cowritten with his wife, chronicled the loss of the author’s son to a drug overdose, and the subsequent journey of grieving and healing.
  • In Kate Brestrup’s Here if You Need Me, after losing her husband in a freak auto accident, the author had to go on a long journey to understand not only her loss, but the very meaning of life and death.

Adapting to Midlife or other major changes

When you grow older, you realize that your self-image needs to adapt to new realities. A similar self-examination can take place when diagnosed with cancer, or anything that causes you to reframe your sense of self.

  • In My Ruby Slippers, Tracy Seeley is bounced out of her comfort-zone by a cancer diagnosis and goes looking for her roots in Kansas.
  • In Queen of the Road, psychiatrist Doreen Orion turned fifty and with her husband went looking for her new identity on a road trip through the United States.
  •  In Accidental Lessons, David Berner realizes that his successful career as a broadcaster is no longer fulfilling. He quits and takes a job as a school teacher.

Of course there is more to every memoir than just the few facts on the cover. Sometimes the sheer beauty of excellent storytelling can turn what appears on the surface to be ordinary into an exquisite act of art. Theresa Weir’s memoir Orchard is about marrying a farmer and moving to a farm. On the surface these facts look stunningly ordinary. Inside, the author weaves these features into a beautiful, revealing glimpse into the heart of her individual life experience.

Writing Prompt
Write a blurb for your proposed memoir that would emphasize your search for psychological identity and wholeness. Did you want to achieve dignity, purpose, or courage? What obstacles did you need to overcome in order to achieve this goal? How did you grow? What lessons did you learn?

Notes
For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

Parent’s Memoir Part 3b, Guide for Ghost Writer’s Interview

by Jerry Waxler
This is part 3b of the essay, “Is this the year to write your parent’s memoir?” Click here for part 3a. In this final part, I give more tips to help you interview your parents so you can generate material for a compelling memoir.

Read how our collective interest in turning life into story is changing the world, one story at a time.

Go deeper with coded family anecdotes

You may already have heard some of the stories for so long, they acquire a rigid sameness, with details and phrases you have heard dozens of times. Use your curiosity to break through the crust of repetition. Ask about other parts of the situation, or where they lived during that time, or how old they were when this event happened, or which parts made them happiest.

For example, I remember my Mom told the story about Dad’s father standing up at their wedding and saying, “To the bride and groom, I give a car.” Her tone of voice when she mimicked him always sounded pompous.  I wish I had asked more about it. “That was an expensive gift. Were you surprised when your new father-in-law told you? Was he wealthy? Did many of your peers have cars? Did you have mixed feelings about accepting such an expensive gift from him? How were you making a living during that period?”

Here are more unasked questions:
—    “I heard that Grandmom spent her last years in bed. What sorts of situations did that lead to? Tell me about a time when you served her meals there. How did you feel only seeing her in bed?”
—    “I only knew Grandpop when he was retired. Show me a scene that will help me visualize him. What did you do with him evenings and on weekends? What was it like going to worship by his side?”

Write
What incident have you filed away under “I’ve heard that a hundred times.” Take a page from my unwritten book, and ask your own parents questions while there is still time. Write questions that would help you see it more completely.

Break taboos

Over the years, you have learned to avoid topics your parents prefer not talking about. In order to get the story,  you need to break these taboos. Consider James McBride’s memoir “Color of Water.” His mother had angrily told him to mind his own business whenever he asked her about his past. As she grew older, he realized her past was going to die with her and he grew increasingly insistent. He finally convinced her to talk. From their interviews emerged one of the hallmarks of the memoir generation. As a son, McBride was grateful, and as a reader, so was I.

When your parents express reluctance:

—    Let them know how much you want to understand their story.
—    Point out that no one is perfect, so there’s no point in pretending they were. Why not turn take advantage of all that experience and turn it into a good story?
—    There is power in revealing the truth. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about hiding secrets. And for another, when you share your hardships you also share the courage it took to overcome them. [For more tips about responding to their objections, click here.]

Review and Edit

After each session, you face the technical hurdle of transcribing it to typewritten material so you can edit. If you don’t want to type it yourself, consider hiring someone to do this tedious work. A good place to look for such resources is on the website of the Association for Personal Historians. (APH) [www.personalhistorians.org]. Some people have had success speaking into the software called Dragon Naturally Speaking which converts speech into text.
When you have the interviews in written form, you can weave the information into scenes that readers can enter. Insert new material into your chronological file to show how one situation flows into another, and also give you insights into what is missing. When you hit a puzzle, turn it into a question for further rounds of interviews.

Their character takes shape

When you remember things about your family, you are looking back to your own childhood point of view. To write your parents’ memoir, you need to see those events through their memories, not yours. Try to set yourself aside and listen to the way they explain it, even if it is substantially different from the way you remember it. In fact, this entire project is going to help you enter their frame of reference, seeing the world as they did.

Once they start talking, they may share reminiscences about things they had not discussed in years, joining you in bursts of collaborative energy. As you pull together scenes and link them together, their budding story gradually takes shape. How far this goes will depend on your artistic drive and tenacity, and on their willingness to explore the psychological and social forces that shaped them. The more you polish it, deepen it, and structure it, the more readable it will become.

Wherever you decide to stop, you will find that through the course of the project you have gained understanding, and helped them connect some of the dots in their own past experiences. What started as a literary or historical exercise ends as an opportunity to build intimacy and mutual respect. It’s true that writing a memoir takes time and to achieve your goal you must overcome emotional hurdles. But in the end, everyone wins.

Note:
If you don’t have the time and do have the money, you could hire a writer to do the research and create the book of their lives. To find a writer or videographer for your life story, contact Association of Personal Historians.
Notes
For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.

To order my how-to-get-started guide to write your memoir, click here.

Parent’s Memoir Part 3a, Guiding a Ghost Writer’s Interview

by Jerry Waxler
This is part 3a of the essay, “Is this the year to write your parent’s memoir?” Click here for part 2, Answering Parents’ Objections to Writing Their Memoir.

Read how our collective interest in turning life into story is changing the world, one story at a time.

Writing your parent’s memoir is a big project. To make it more manageable, break it into steps. First, write the old familiar anecdotes and place them in chronological order. Take your time, digging up the snips and glimpses you have heard over the years. Brainstorm with siblings, cousins, and with your parents to make sure you have everything.

Next, begin to work with your parents to develop the timeline. Ask them to go through the years and list the dates of important events: when were they born, changed schools, moved, married, had children, got their first job, or other any milestones they feel are crucial. As you put these events into your file, you can check to see if your anecdotes are in order. “Did that come before or after the move to the new home?” By the time you finish this second step, you will have a wonderful repository of what you know, and when it all took place.

Seeing these story fragments come together will stir new questions. How did they transition from one segment of their lives to another? What were the underlying emotional drivers? Who were the other important characters? What did places look like? To turn the fragments into a readable story, you will shift from a left-brain researcher to a right-brain explorer.

Interview Prompts

To learn who your parents were, you will need to learn a wider range of their experiences, such as jobs, sports, dating, illness, siblings, art, hobbies, and so on. Along with the factual information, you will need to learn about emotions, such as loves, fears, and hopes.
Don’t expect to find all this information methodically. Instead, start loosely, let them talk freely. During editing you can organize the material. This is the same method I recommend for writing a memoir. When you research your own memoir, stir up lively anecdotes by asking yourself questions called “writing prompts.” For example, you ask yourself to describe each of the houses you lived in, or describe situations when your hair or clothing style was especially important.

You can use a similar strategy when conducting interviews, asking stimulating “interview prompts.” For example,
—    “Tell me all about your education.”
—    “What was Grandmom like in the kitchen?”
—    “What was it like going out on dates in those days?”

“When did your hair became part of a story. Did it ever fall out, change color, or did someone say something flattering or rude about it?” You are likely to generate a fun, readable scene that will bring the past to life.

Growing your skill as an interviewer

Your style of listening plays an important role. Try to emulate your favorite television or radio interviewers. A good interviewer knows how to respond to the vagaries of conversation, steering between the extremes of too much and too little direction. If you exert too much control, you stifle authenticity and miss surprises. Too little direction allows disorganized, flabby rambling.
Strike a balance between these extremes. If they lead you into new territory, relax and see where they are heading. By staying with them, you can take advantage of potentially important inner associations. If you decide they are drifting away from useful material, for example philosophizing about the economy or complaining about the neighbors, you can gently steer them back to the task at hand.

Richer detail makes better reading

If your interviewee tends to speak in terms of ideas, summaries, and overviews, their memories won’t allow a reader inside their experience. To write compelling scenes, ask for more sensory information, dialog, and thought processes. “What did you see, hear, taste, touch and smell?” In addition to the senses, ask them about their introspective world. If they don’t tell you much about their feelings, ask follow-up questions.
—    What did you want?
—    What did you fear?
—    What got in the way?
—    What did you do in order to get back on track?

For example, if they say, “When we moved, I felt disoriented.” You could say, “Could you describe where you were and what it looked like.” It might take a few tries but eventually you could change this to, “When I walked into the new house, the painters still had their scaffolding up, the plywood floors were covered in splattered paint and cigarette butts. I started to cry.”

In Part 3b, I continue with suggestions for interviewing strategies that will generate a readable memoir.

Notes
For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

Memoir Lessons: Mysteries of emerging consciousness

by Jerry Waxler

Beth Kephart has a knack for generously sharing the way she sees the world, not only observing what goes on outside, but also letting us in to her inner world, as well. In fact, a good deal of the power of her memoir “Slant of Sun” lies in her obsession to know as much about what goes on inside her son’s mind as her own. Learning about inner worlds is a good reason to read “Slant of Sun,” and might be a good reason for someone to read your memoir. Here are two more lessons, from my series on things you can learn about memoir writing from “Slant of Sun.”

Emergence of Language and Self-awareness

Beth is worried about her son’s incessant pacing. In fact, she is terrified. Psychologists warn her that if she lets him have his way, the obsessions will take deep root and will control him forever. But when she tries to stop him from pacing he panics, fights, and struggles, desperate to continue. She doesn’t know whether to trust the experts or listen to her love. Later, when he is old enough to speak, he says to her, “I need to pace long enough to finish the movie that is playing in my mind.” His explanation relieves some profound desire to understand him. The first wave of relief is hers, but in the process, she gives the same gift to the reader. I am so grateful to him (and her) for helping me understand how such a compulsion could be explained in simple terms. It is a stunning example of the birth of a child’s language, the birth of introspective explanation.

Writing Prompt
Jeremy was using his words to explain his actions, and that’s what memoir writers do, too. Your whole memoir is an attempt to describe how your life works, from inside your point of view. Go deep and stay fresh and amaze your readers with descriptions of your inner life the way Jeremy explained his actions to his mom.

Spirituality of a child

Jeremy wants to see God, and cries and begs his mother to explain how this will ever happen. Then he realizes that he has upset her, and he switches from concern about himself to concern about her. The scene ends with him trying to console her, telling her that it’s okay if she doesn’t know the answer yet.

This scene made me wonder if children might be closer to God. After all, they did recently emerge into the world. Perhaps they remember a little about what it’s like over there. And if they do, then perhaps occasionally their mothers open up to that awareness, as well. In a beautifully written scene, Beth Kephart lets us participate in just such an event. When Jeremy shares his fantasy world with his mother, she leans in closer and closer, until for a moment she pops over into an altered consciousness. It’s a compelling instance of that transcendent state described in religious and spiritual accounts and in some memoirs.

Another glimpse of a mystical experience with a child is in Martha Beck’s “Expecting Adam” about her Down Syndrome son. In Matthew Polly’s memoir, “American Shaolin,” he explores the possibility that transported moments are more common than we realize. Memoirs could open a door to these hidden moments.

Writing Prompt
Write about an imaginative or transcendent experience, for example when you were a child or with a child. Such a scene might be hard to remember, since I believe most of us file them away in dark corners, with the label “never tell this to anyone.” Following Kephart’s example, retrieve one of those silent memories, and turn it into words.

In following blog posts I will continue the list of lessons that I drew from “Slant of Sun” and suggestions for you, as well.

Links
Visit Beth Kephart’s Blog
Amazon page for “A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage” by Beth Kephart

Here are links to all the parts of my multi-part review of “Slant of Sun” by Beth Kephart and an interview with the author:

Use this memoir as a study guide: lessons 1 to 3

Lessons 4-5 from Beth Kephart’s Memoir, Slant of Sun

Four More Writing Lessons from Reading a Memoir

Memoir Lessons: Mysteries of emerging consciousness

Memoir Lessons: Moms, Quirks, Choices

Lessons from Kephart: Labels, Definitions, Language

Memoir Lessons: Buddies, Endings, and Beyond

Interview with Beth Kephart

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

Lessons 4-5 from Beth Kephart’s Memoir, Slant of Sun

by Jerry Waxler

After reading Beth Kephart’s “Slant of Sun,” I kept finding more reasons to like it. Here are two more that can be used not only to appreciate her memoir but to give you tips to enhance your own.

Astoundingly cool word choice, and language arts.

I can’t say for sure why I fell so hard in love with Beth Kephart’s memoir “Slant of Sun” but certainly her language arts played an important role. How do you pick just the right word, or as the French say “Le mot juste.” (And while I’m thinking of it, why do the French have a phrase for everything?) Anyway, picking fabulous words seems to be a knack that has helped Beth Kephart convey her inner reality to her readers. And isn’t that exactly the challenge? We need to find the right words to tell our story, but which words?

Consider these examples:

“If I now walk the house at midnight among the tittering gossip of my obligations and fears, I also walk beneath a child’s artful dreaming.” Pg 29

Referring to the roots she has worked to develop for so long, she says, “And yet — finally sprouted with family — I have found myself longing for wind. Ungraciously longing to be swept sparse and stemless through the storm of the sky, to be dropped down rootless in a place I cannot name.” Pg 104

I know it’s not easy to develop this knack, but a book like “Slant of Sun” renew my determination to increase the freshness of my language arts. (By the way, the title itself is a double entendre (another French expression!) “Slant of Sun” and “Slant of Son.”)

Writing Prompt
Sometimes when writing in my journal, a turn of phrase pops out. I usually dismiss it as too outlandish for ordinary discourse.  Thanks to Kephart’s example, I see that well-controlled flights of word play can embellish prose and make it more exciting and entertaining. Consider looking at your own turns of phrase with the kind of freedom she does. What, if any of them, could be used in your outward facing material to offer the reader a fresh way to think about your situation. (Also, consider taking a poetry course to vitalize your relationship with words.)

Techniques: Pacing and suspense

Typically we associate suspense with thrillers or murder mysteries, but this emotion is crucial in all stories, which must draw the reader from page to page with a sense of anticipation. In many scenes in “Slant of Sun,” I feel an edgy concern to know what is going to happen next. I hear a door slam or a train go by, or Mom commands Jeremy to sit still while she tells him just one story. I worry how he will respond. What if her story can’t pull him away from his obsessions. What if he panics? She has turned her relationship with her son into a psychological thriller.  To find the answer, I must turn the page.

Writing Prompt
Suspense is one of the fundamental emotions of drama, and so as you develop your story, look for ways to play with suspense the way Kephart does. Pick a scene, and instead of jumping right to the outcome, build up to it. Remember how you felt while you were still worried, still anticipating. Did you discuss your fears with other people, or muse about the possibilities? Pause, anticipate, feel heart racing. Note the tension. Let my heart pound, too.

In following blog posts I will continue the list of lessons that I drew from Slant of Sun and offer suggestions for you, as well.

Links
Visit Beth Kephart’s Blog
Amazon page for “A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage” by Beth Kephart

Here are links to all the parts of my multi-part review of “Slant of Sun” by Beth Kephart and an interview with the author:

Use this memoir as a study guide: lessons 1 to 3

Lessons 4-5 from Beth Kephart’s Memoir, Slant of Sun

Four More Writing Lessons from Reading a Memoir

Memoir Lessons: Mysteries of emerging consciousness

Memoir Lessons: Moms, Quirks, Choices

Lessons from Kephart: Labels, Definitions, Language

Memoir Lessons: Buddies, Endings, and Beyond

Interview with Beth Kephart

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

Use this memoir as a study guide: lessons 1 to 3

by Jerry Waxler

In the memoir “Slant of Sun,” a mother notices her child is more withdrawn than other kids. He sits alone for hours arranging toy cars, and furiously resists new situations and people. Jeremy is Beth Kephart’s first child. She is madly in love with him, and thinks everything he does is wonderful, but soon she realizes he needs to move along.

Her journey to help her son enter the game of life abounds with courage, psychological sleuthing, and love. It is a warm coming of age story of two people: Jeremy’s development into childhood, and his mother’s maturity as the shepherd of her son. I learned so much from reading the book that I think it would make an excellent self-study or teacher-led training manual for memoir writers. In this and the following posts, I share 20 lessons I learned from the book, and offer suggestions about how you can apply these ideas to your own memoir.

Truth in memoirs, Part 1. Sincere voice

One of the reasons I dove so enthusiastically into Slant of Sun is because of Beth Kephart’s voice. All the components of her written voice, her choice of words, phrases, and sentences, make me feel like I’ve known her for years. If my best friend told me a story, I wouldn’t put up any walls of doubt. Nor would I resist this author’s story. Her ease and spontaneity draws me into her world.

Writing Prompt
An authentic, sincere voice is an important goal for any memoir writer. But voice is a subtle quality without specific rules. Here’s one exercise: write an anecdote as if you were telling a best friend. Or call a friend, and turn on the recorder while you tell them your anecdote. Then look for phrases in your speech that might add a sense of intimacy to the written version. Another exercise is to write the same anecdote in your journal as if it was only for you. Look for intimacies in your private version that might make the public version more personal and believable.

Truth in Memoirs Part 2: Messy Emotions and Self Reflection

Another way memoirs convince us of their authenticity is through a sort of organic messiness. When Beth Kephart shares her worries, confusions, thoughts and daydreams, she takes me deeper into her psyche than I would expect in a fictional character. Fictional characters are sometimes wonderful and deep, but I know they only go as far as the author’s imagination. Real characters go on and on, into the depth and breadth of real life. I want the memoir to let me see the lack of boundaries, to show me the infinitude of individuality. The entire book is one big example of this principle. Here are a couple of passages that show her humanity, sharing her motherly obsession about her son’s thinking process.

“when Jeremy stares at length at the pictures in books, at the fire trucks and, increasingly, at the cars on the floor, at the mix of light radiating in through the window, [I want to believe] it’s poetry he’s thinking about. Something too resplendent to share.” [Pg 51]

“Without an obsession he’s forlorn and empty. He gets tangled in his tasks at home. He forgets to look us in the eye. It doesn’t occur to him to start a conversation. He gives fewer lectures. He’s less engaged in what we’re saying.” [Pg 111]

Writing Prompt
Instead of trying to polish your emotions, reveal their rough edges. Consider times when you worried without basis, or did something that made you feel flaky. Share these errors with your readers. The imperfection or spontaneity of your inner reality helps readers relate to you. Counter-intuitive though it may be, your flaws can give your character more authority, rather than less.

Some astonishingly vivid, unique visual images,

Mother and son go shopping for a hat and Jeremy selects a big green one. He loves it so much he demands she buy it. Then he refuses to take it off. People comment on how inappropriate it looks. Someone points to the hat and makes a gesture pulling a knife across the throat indicating “kill it.” On the cover of the book, there is even a wonderful photo of a boy wearing a bright green hat. Another beautiful visual object in the book was a hand crafted wooden car. I can see its “buttery surfaces” in the palm of the kind man who made it for Jeremy.

Writing Prompt
Describe a particular object that had meaning for you.

In following blog posts I will continue the list of lessons that I drew from Slant of Sun and suggestions for you, as well.

Links
Visit Beth Kephart’s Blog
Amazon page for “A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage” by Beth Kephart

Here are links to all the parts of my multi-part review of “Slant of Sun” by Beth Kephart and an interview with the author:

Use this memoir as a study guide: lessons 1 to 3

Lessons 4-5 from Beth Kephart’s Memoir, Slant of Sun

Four More Writing Lessons from Reading a Memoir

Memoir Lessons: Mysteries of emerging consciousness

Memoir Lessons: Moms, Quirks, Choices

Lessons from Kephart: Labels, Definitions, Language

Memoir Lessons: Buddies, Endings, and Beyond

Interview with Beth Kephart

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

Stephen Markley Interview Part 6: Post-publication blues?

by Jerry Waxler

Writers who aspire to publish a book are eager to reach the finish line. Then when they cross the line, that particular race is over but life goes on and presents new challenges. I asked Stephen Markley a few questions about how what changed after he published “Publish this Book.”

Does writing a memoir limit your life?

Jerry Waxler: Your writing teacher didn’t want you to publish this book because he warned you that your first book defines you, and he said the memoir “wasn’t you.” Is this another bit of satire? I’m not sure how a memoir wouldn’t be you?

Your writing teacher’s advice is probably not that far off from one of the common fears I’ve heard from many aspiring memoir writers. They are afraid that if they write their memoir, it would mean their life is over, as if at the end of the memoir they are supposed to put down pencils down the way you would during an exam, and everything after that is cheating.

So what do you think, now that you’ve published it? Was the writing teacher right? Did it lock you into a direction you didn’t want to go? Was it the end?

Stephen Markley: I certainly hope it’s not the end. Look, I want from my career what every writer wants: the ability to choose whatever project interests me regardless of commercial relevance. Whether this will ever happen remains to be seen. I certainly found it was easier to publish a non-fiction book, so I can’t disregard that, but I do want to write fiction and follow my other passions and let my intellectual curiosity take me where it will. What my professor feared was that I would be essentially trapped in this young-guy-snarks-on-the-world shtick without any way of returning to some of that darker literary territory that I was writing when we first met.

To a degree, that trap has been sprung and I am caught in it, but I’m not worried yet. “Publish This Book” is partly an advertisement for books to come: it’s saying to readers, “Hey, here’s what I did with a memoir. Any interest in other genres?” To the extent that I get people telling me that they look forward to reading a novel, I think it’s succeeding in some small way.

Basically, I’ve resigned myself to being a writer with a small following. I doubt I’ll ever have the mainstream success of some of those big-timers who can throw together a book based on a reliable script every year or so. It’s just not who I am, and writing the same book over and over again does not interest me.

Marketing the book

Jerry: Are you really running around to colleges the way you planned to do in the book?

Stephen: Well, I just quit my job at Cars.com and plan to spend the summer out and about on the east coast driving around doing bookstore signings. Then in the fall, I’m going to go full bore at colleges again. My reasoning is that if ever there was a time to be young and unemployed and a little stupid, this is it. I’ll stay with friends, drink a lot, and kiss a pretty girl or two. I doubt I’ll look back when I’m fifty and wonder what would have been if I’d stayed in my cubicle making a reliable $35k a year.

What’s next?

Jerry: What are you working on for your next project?

Stephen: What I’m working on now is either an unwieldy disaster that I will give up at some point or an inspired fictional experiment. I feel the same way about it now as I did when I was at roughly the same point in writing “Publish This Book”: I’m not at all sure if it’s going to work, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun writing it. It’s about writing (again), but also about the current cultural and political epoch. I have a feeling almost everything I write for the rest of my life will in some way be about the past decade: the years 2001-2010 have just been too breathtaking in horrific and wonderful ways to not dedicate an entire branch of literature to them.

Mostly, I just want “Publish This Book” to sell enough copies and garner enough fans that I can write and publish for the rest of my life. It’s really rare to get an opportunity like this: to be young and single and unattached and constantly inspired and ferociously hungry. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get every idea I have onto paper. I sometimes blink and wonder if all this has actually happened for me. Only once, I spotted someone in public reading my book. It was on the Brown Line in Chicago, and I did a double-take when I saw the cover. I just wanted to walk up and hug her.

Notes

Visit Stephen Markley’s Home Page

To read my review of the book, click here.

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

To learn about my 200 page workbook about overcoming psychological blocks to writing, click here.

How to write a profile

by Jerry Waxler

Writing a memoir is hard work, and to keep myself motivated, I compiled a list of all the reasons for persisting. Of course, I improved my familiarity with the many parts of my past. That was the reason I started writing a memoir in the first place. Another of my original motivations was my desire to bust through my overwrought sense of privacy. As soon as I began to read my pieces in a critique group, I felt that people were interested and accepted me in ways I had not expected. As a result, I loosened up.

Each month, I found a new benefit for writing my memoir, until I began to joke that my mission was like George Washington Carver’s, who had done an exhaustive study of everything you could do with a peanut. I acquired items for my list in a variety of ways. Some I experienced myself. Others I learned by watching students in my workshops or groups. And some I speculated must be true. For example, I assumed that after I told my own story, I would gain the skills to write other people’s stories, as well. The benefit seemed self-evident, but I was not yet ready to test it.

Then, last year, David Bank asked me to write profiles for his organization’s website. Bank is the director of Encore Careers, a site devoted to helping people find new careers in the second half of their lives. My job would be to interview career changers and post their stories. The assignment gave me the chance to meet people and apply my writing skills.

The Assignment
One such career changer was Judy Cockerton. From her website, I learned that she was a Massachusetts toy store owner who sold her business so she could devote her life to helping kids in foster care. Before I called her, I considered my mission – to show readers her journey from business woman to social activist.

The Interview
During the interview, I asked her to walk me through the steps. As a social entrepreneur, Judy Cockerton spoke in urgent tones when she listed all the deficiencies in the foster care system. However, my job was to learn about her career change, so I steered the interview, asking for scenes that would evoke each stage in her journey.

The Beginning

From my work with memoirs I’ve learned the importance of the initial desire. Judy Cockerton’s desire was easy to find. She remembered the exact moment in her kitchen when she read an article in the newspaper about a child who was supposed to be protected by foster parents and yet had been forgotten. Her heart opened to the plight of these children, setting the stage for everything that followed.

The Middle
During the middle of any story, the protagonist must overcome obstacles. I found many such scenes in Judy Cockerton’s journey. She visited foster homes to learn more and quickly realized that since not everyone can take a child in, there are ought to be other ways for people to participate. She envisioned a community where people could live and contribute to the care of the children. Next she needed allies to help her implement her vision.

The End

Judy Cockerton was not finished helping foster kids so how could I provide a satisfying ending to the article? I called her back and asked “Tell me about a moment when you knew you were on the right track.” By this time the first Treehouse community had already been built and people were living there. She took me on a verbal tour of the place, describing the children playing, with adults and elders enjoying the multi-generational camaraderie. The mountains in the background completed the scene, which gave me, and hopefully readers, the thrill of her success.

Finished, or So I Thought

The structure of my article followed the structure of any good story. Start with a desire, overcome obstacles, and finally reach a conclusion. I was confident I had nailed this fundamental structure. But after I submitted the article, I realized I had one more lesson to learn. My editor, Terry Nagel, wanted me to move Judy’s success to the beginning. At first it didn’t make sense. You don’t tell the ending of a story first. It would break the suspense.

Difference Between Article and Memoir Structure
My editor insisted, and I kept seeking to understand how the suggestion would improve the article. After thinking about it, I saw what was going on. I was learning the difference between a book and an article.

Before I even the first page of a memoir, I have already become curious about the protagonist. Before I started Joan Rivers’ “Enter Talking,” I knew she succeeded at the end. Before I read Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea,” I read the book blurb and knew he built schools for kids in Pakistan. This preliminary information motivates me to read the book. But when I read an article, all I know is the title.

That’s why my editor was telling me to move Cockerton’s success up to the top. I needed to give the reader enough information to stir their curiosity. From article writing workshops, I knew that the second paragraph, or the “nut graf” as they call it in the business, is supposed to tell the reader where the article is heading. But until now the advice sounded like a meaningless formula. Once I tried it for myself, I saw how it worked.

Thanks to my study of memoirs, I was learning how to structure a life story. And now, thanks to the assignment from encore.org, I was learning how to apply these skills to describe the journeys of other people. This experience validated my claim that memoir writing results in broader writing benefits. And the rewards keep accumulating. Writing those profiles gave even more insights that helped me increase my range and learn new ways to turn life into story.

Note
Here are links to a few reasons for writing your memoir.

Refute these 14 reasons not to write your memoir
Ten reasons anyone should write a memoir

Here are links to four profiles I wrote about career changers for Encore.org:

Judy Cockerton, Toy Store Owner Transforms Foster Care in Massachusetts

From Basic Training to Training Teachers

Retired as a Nurse, Hired as a Nonprofit Leader

Media Executive Puts Her Experience to Work Para Los Ninos

Note

Encore Careers is a subsidiary of Civic Ventures, a community service organization founded and directed by Marc Freedman. Freedman is the author of “Encore, finding work that matters in the second half of life.” According to their About page, “Civic Ventures is leading the call to engage millions of baby boomers as a vital workforce for change.” Here is a link to an article I wrote after being inspired by Marc Freedman at Philadelphia’s Boomervision conference series.

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

To learn about my 200 page workbook about overcoming psychological blocks to writing, click here.