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Writing My Memoir: Zero to Seventeen

Writing My Memoir: Zero to Seventeen / Life Lessons in Story

At the beginning, I was concerned about the way to write a memoir of my grandchildren’s stories. My three grandchildren and I had collected a memory list based on completing the sentence “Do you remember when…” Together we built a list of dozens of their earliest memories through their elementary school years. Then we wrote a short paragraph about each memory with the intention to write a children’s story book based on our memories.

I felt uncertain how to pull the grandchildren’s memory list into a story that read well and was looking for guidance on writing my memoir.

Synchronicity began. In our local paper I saw an article promoting an afternoon workshop “How to Write Your Memoir” offered by Myrna Cohn. I registered for the class immediately.

The day of the workshop I knew I was on the right path. How to begin writing my memoir? Start with building a memory list! I was ready to move forward with linking grandchildren memories into story.

Shortly after the workshop, Myrna offered a six-week memoir writing class based on Denis Ledoux’s book Turning Memories into Memoirs. My goal for this class was to complete all the lessons as assigned based on my own memories of growing up. I would get back to writing my grandchildren’s story after completing this six-week class.

At the end of the class on writing my memoir, I had composed stories about my first memory in the dentist chair, finding my dad’s class ring in the attic, buying blue shoes for sixth grade, meeting my lifelong best friend the first day of seventh grade and several others. At the end of each story I wrote a note to myself titled: Lesson Learned.

I assembled my stories in a roughly chronological order in a three-ring binder and put the binder on the shelf. Done!

A short time later my family came to visit and the grandkids asked how their story was coming along. Could they read whatever I had added to it?

“Oh, your stories are sitting in the binder on the shelf. I haven’t written anything for several weeks for your stories because I took a memoir writing class and I ended up writing about me instead.”

“Can we read what you wrote about you?”

“Really? You want to read about me?” Yes, they did.

After reading my stories all family members present sat me down, similar to an intervention, and convinced me to create a book from my stories.

“Mom! You can’t leave these stories in a binder on your shelf to be found after you are dead.”

“You have to publish this. You could help people with these stories. Other people need to hear these stories.”

“Write your book, Grandma, write your book! You can do it!”

That is how my memoir Zero to Seventeen began.


My best decisions were to hire an editor and self-publish. The result? I held my book in my hands! Reader comments: “I couldn’t put it down.” “I read late into the night.” “So much reminded me of when I grew up.” “I want to read your next book. Get writing!” So, I write on.

Do You Have a Story To Share But You Aren't a Writer?

We have helped many people whose lives demanded to be recorded but who themselves There is a difference between proofreading and editing.were not writers to create interesting and well-written memoirs.

We listen to you speak your story. We ask you a multitude of questions. Then we get to work writing. We come back to you with text and you make lots of corrective comments and we ask you a whole lot of new questions. Then, we go back to writing again.

Over time, your story develops into a memoir—one that you have shaped at every stage of the writing process.

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One Response to Writing My Memoir: Zero to Seventeen

  1. Christine Terp Madsen May 19, 2016 at 7:15 PM #

    This is a very encouraging article. I love the comparison to an intervention. Clearly you benefited from the methods that Denis and Myrna teach. How many revisions did you go through? That’s the fun part!

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