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Archive | Gathering Information for Your Memoir

What are you going to write about? Before you can start to write a memoir you must do some gathering of information.
Some of that information you already know and you have to look inward to connect with it again. This info can be collated with that greatest of memoir-writing tools, the Memory List.
Other info is beyond recollection and memory. You have to do some research to gather this material. It is cultural and political and historical information that is beyond recall but which is very important in creating context for a memoir. This context is your setting.
By clicking on the links below, you will learn what you need to write a more meaningful memoir, where to go to find it and how to collect it and use it.

formal research

You Need Formal Research

Interviewing family members and friends is clearly a form of research, but interviews alone are usually not enough to give your stories the depth they require. For that, you need formal research.

best interview practices

Best Interview Practices for Writing a Memoir

Can you assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories? The problem with this assumption is that memory isn’t always as reliable as you may want it to be! What are the best interview practices to find out if your memory is spot on?

writing prompts

Instead of A Writing Prompt – Five Tips for Creating a Memory List

As people are writing a memoir they will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back? Should I use writing prompts or is there something instead of a writing prompt?”

There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of life writing successful. That tool is not a writing prompt: it is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of life writing as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of such a list. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.

Let me tell you about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories).

Your Memory List is always a work in process because the more you remember and jot down, the more you’ll recall. You will return to and rework your list again and again as you write your life stories. In short, it will serve as an excellent writing prompt without being a writing prompt.

1. The Memory List consists of short memory notes (three to five words is sufficient) of people, events, relationships, thoughts, feelings, things—anything—from your past.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Gathering stories at family events

5 Steps to Gathering Stories at Family Events

Gathering stories at family events—interviewing—is one of these basic steps you can master for writing your memoir. Following these basic steps, anyone can succeed at writing interesting and meaningful memoirs.

As a memoirist, you must always double-check the information you already have, and seek new material to flesh out your stories. Reunions, weddings, funerals, birthday and holiday celebrations rate well on both of these tasks: scattered relatives, each of whom has a piece of the family history to share, are in one place at one time. Gathering stories at family events is an opportunity not to be missed.

Gathering stories at family events

When it comes down to it, people love to tell their stories. The family historian’s job is to ask the right questions to get to the heart of the story. Here are five simple guidelines, extracted from both Turning Memories Into Memoirs and The Photo Scribe to facilitate gathering stories at family events. These suggestions will streamline the process for would-be lifewriters: [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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family stories

Mine Your Family Stories

There is a rich lode of stories that you can tap into quickly both for their historical content and for what they tell you about how members of your family wanted their young to be. These are “family stories.” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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jog your memory

(More) Better than Prompts: Five Tips to Help You “Jog Your Memory”

When starting on a memoir, it can be difficult to remember all the stories and memories you would like to include. You naturally want to jog your memory.

When you are intent on writing “from the inside out” as we at The Memoir Network hope you will, there are some useful techniques you can use—to add to compiling your Memory List and perhaps even to stimulate it.
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memoir writing support

Ten Questions On Memoir Writing

Questions On Memoir Writing

The following interview with me appeared in the Nov. 19, 2010, Oral History Education blog, and was later published in 2013.  Over the years, these questions on memoir writing still rank as some of the most common questions I receive, and I have to say, the answers haven’t changed either–enjoy!

1. How did you get started in your profession of memoir writing?

I started writing autobiography-based fiction. Some of these have won literary awards, and, while I like that, I feel the most satisfaction from helping readers who are stimulated to tell their own stories after reading my work. This happened in 1988 when my first collection of short fiction, What Became of Them, came out.

After I had read for a group of senior citizens, I was overwhelmed by their eagerness to share their stories with me and each other. That’s how I began helping people to write their memoirs.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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twowomen

Memoir Interviewing

Memoir interviewing is an integral piece of research. Although you may assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories—memory isn’t always as reliable as you want it to be. Interviews with relevant family members and friends can supplement your memory and broaden the perspective of your memoir.

How To Prepare For Memoir Interviewing

1) Select whom you will interview.

If your time is limited, or your family is large and offers many choices, it will be all the more important to identify a manageable number of knowledgeable relatives and friends to interview.

For example, Aunt Mary tends to talk endlessly—all afternoon if you let her. Her conversation seems to have little content as she wanders from one topic to another. Aunt Jane, on the other hand, is an incisive person whose intuition is always informing her about what things mean. Her many observations and reminiscences are usually interestingly told. Furthermore, they are consonant with your other research.

Can there be any doubt whom you will interview first—Aunt Mary or Aunt Jane? (Being nice to lonely Aunt Mary is a work of charity and it should not be confused with collecting information to write your stories.)

Another example: Cousin Luigi married into your Irish family. He is a dear old man and you love him very much, but his tales about his Italian family are irrelevant to understanding the history of your Irish ancestors. Cousin Luigi’s are not the accounts you need to collect.

2) Ascertain who else is likely to want to participate in the interview—and decide whether that person may or may not sit in.

An unexpected, or inappropriate, person can blur the focus of your interview.

For instance, your aunt by marriage, sitting in on the interview, may find what you are doing so interesting she begins to talk about her life experiences and, in doing so, may not allow your uncle (your mother’s brother) much time to talk about his childhood relationship with your grandparents and your mother. Your aunt’s experience, however interesting, will not provide the information you need to understand your grandparents and parents.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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eye glasses

Looking for the Right Details

I’ve been thinking again of looking for the right details to enhance your memoir. Of course, details are crucial in the what of a memoir as well as in the who, the where, and the when. They are the facts of your memoir, but there is an expanded role for details in memoir writing. Here […]

not telling the truth in a memoir

The Importance of Facts in Memoir Writing

The importance of facts in memoir writing The importance of facts in memoir writing such as dates, addresses, names, and relationships, are one of its special feature. Memoir writing cannot, without deleting from its value, omit dates and specific identification of locales, names of individuals and their relationships to one another. Memoir writing is factual writing: […]

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