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Alysia Cohen

on 14 January 2015

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Transcript of Memoir

A memoir is a form of non-fiction writing that focuses on a persons memory of a certain event, or time period that occurred in their life

factual and truthful
analysis of characters
Reflection on ones past
What is a Memoir?
History of Memoirs
371 AD -
by St. Augustine

15th Century - Margery Kempe wrote first memoir written in English

Late 16th Century
"a narrow examination of thy selfe and the course of thy life," (Perkins, William)

18th Century -
Spiritual renewal

"serve as politically meaningful testimony to systemic crimes against an entire people" (Mendelsohn)

19th and 20th Century - Memoir writing continues to grow as a very popular writing style and different sub-genres develop
Why are Memoirs Important?
Primary source of events in history
Insight into an individuals life allows us to gain perspective
Allows ordinary people to have a voice
Relate to personal situations; contribution to a greater cause
Memoir vs. Autobiography
focuses on one key event or life choice, starting at any point in the authors life.

focuses on an individuals entire life, written in chronological order

Alysia Cohen
Memoir Writing for Dummies
Celebrity, political or public figure
Rise to power
Disability (mental and physical)

Memoirs in the 20th Century
Well-known Memoirs
“A Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, this is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it, it’s honestly sharing what you think, feel, and have gone through. If you can do that effectively, then somebody gets the wisdom and benefit of your experience without having to live it.”

- Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

“Writing memoir is like preparing yourself to go to confession. . . you have to examine your conscience.”

- Frank McCourt, author of
Angela's Ashes

The Two Yous
A memoir is written by someone in the present who is reflecting on past experiences

Remembering self
= author in the present

"If I'd only known what I knew now"

- adds perspective

Experiencing self

author in the past

- initial reaction

Shows the growth of the author

Structure of a Memoir
Associative - scenes are linked to by a quality or emotion
memory arises from triggers and cues allowing the flow of the story to be more "natural"

Chronological - events unfold in linear time

Circular - a key incident serves as a starting point of the story, which the writer returns to constantly

Collage - juxtaposes discrete events against on another
reader fills in the gaps , thus making meaning by connect events that may seem unrelated

Locational - uses place or setting to ground various segments of narrative

Parallel - contrasts two time periods or people, creating deeper meaning

Literary Devices
Imagery - details of our 5 senses (sound, taste, smell, sight) that allows the reader to better understand literature

Milieu - an environment/setting

Metaphor - connects two unrelated things, creating a relationship (deeper meaning)

Leitmotif - complex metaphor layered into the story that builds association around a person,place, or thing

Point of view - expression of ones opinion/view on the events that occur

Style - refers to the technique of writing (tone, word choice, syntax)

Symbols - a word or object that represents a larger meaning
Derives from the French
mémoire translates to memoria, meaning
Autobiography or Memoir?
What is the Role of a Memoirist?
Your life does not have to involve some sort of struggle/hardship!
The technological boom in the 20th century influenced the way authors shared their personal experiences
Work Cited
Mendelsohn, Daniel. "But Enough About Me." The New Yorker. 25 Jan. 2010. Web. 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/01/25/but-enough-about-me-2>.

Miller, Lynn, and Lisa Cook. Find Your Story, Write Your Memoir. Madison: U of Wisconsin, 2013. Print.

Kita, Joe. "How to Write Your Memoir." (2009).

Zinsser, William. "How to Write a Memoir." The American Scholar. Phi Beta Kappa, 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
Consider the Following
Your memoir should be a story of events/experience that relate to a universal theme
When you’re truly honest and revealing about yourself, it creates a sigh in other people. . . They realize they’re not alone, they’re not a freak: Someone else has felt the exact same way or lived their dream. If you’re going to skimp on the truth, then you’re doing a disservice. Honesty is not only a gift to other people—it’s a gift to yourself.”

-Lorna Kelly, author of
The Camel Knows The Way
1. "I quickly realized the crime I had committed and began to feel consumed with guilt . . . I went home and contemplated how I was going to tell
. I knew I had to tell him or else the guilt would eat me alive"
2. "How on Earth could I have been so stupid? So stupid to tell him the truth about what had happened. I thought being honest was the best thing to do but I was so wrong."
Experiencing Self or Remembering Self?
Apply Your Knowledge
Write a 6 word memoir
1. Choose a unique experience in your life
2. Identify conflict and theme

3. Stay on topic
4. Be truthful
5. Retrospection
Questions to Help Start Your Memoir
What experiences in your life have shaped your character?
How do you want to be remembered?
Why do you want to share your story?
If you could tell one story about your life, what would it be?
How will readers benefit from your story?


"After Harvard, had baby with crackhead." - Robin Templeton

"Nobody cared, then they did. Why?"- Chuck Klosterman

"I asked. They answered. I wrote." - Sebastian Junger

"Extremely responsible, secretly longed for spontaneity."- Sabra Jennings

"Almost a victim of my family" - Chuck Sangster

"Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult." - Linda Williamson
Consider the Following
Must be written in first person
choose an event/time period
Be honest
Include a universal theme
Full transcript