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eyeemfiltered1424964651142…the world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new-needs-friends… not everyone can become a great artist but a great artist can-come-from-anywhere.

 

-Anton Ego

Memoir? Why not?

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You cannot be truthful if you are not courageous. You cannot inquire into reality if you are not courageous. Hence courage comes first and everything else follows. OSHO

Documentaries are becoming more and more popular. Reality TV is making everyday people famous for who they are, however sick and twisted their life may be. Everybody seems to want to write their memoir. My story, my blog, my vlog… why not? So many stories lay buried behind lifeless eyes that have begun to rot beneath the ground.

We should tell our tales. Anyone can write my life story but only I can express my point of view. Only me, myself and I, can recall it all in a split  second and see where “karma” has kicked my butt. See where God has spared my life even when it made no sense to do so.

I love that people want to share their lives. I troll Facebook and like my “so called friends” status when they share about losing 10 pounds and finally being able to walk for 10 minutes. How did she gain so much weight? Why is she homeless living with her family out of their caravan and how do they do it. How does she go on when her husband goes to jail? Why are they still together in what seems like a very tough situation? Maybe someday she will come out of it and share it with the world.

I know I will buy the book. Why not?

Mary Karr

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Which tells you first off why I chose to write The Liars’ Club as a memoir instead of fiction: when fortune hands you such characters, why bother to make stuff up?
                       

The Cross and the Memoir

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David Wilkerson’s THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE is a book that does not call itself a memoir but clearly is a great example of a well structured memoir story. There are many self help Christian books that give you a structure of here are some lessons learned from God juxtaposed with a true story from the author’s life. Mr Wilkerson’s book is written more like a novel. A good page turning novel that opens your eyes to how God works in his life. We see the bigger picture of his failures and his victories and how every decision led to the creation of Teen Challenge. God is an active character in this Christian novel. At least that is what the author believes. Some people may not believe in God so they don’t see God working in their life. They see fate or what ever else they care to lable it.

I bring up this story because when you sit down to write your memoir you may have to think about what role your beliefs will play in your own story. In my memoir God also plays a role in my story. Being raised Catholic you are told that God exist so I viewed life from that central belief. Suicide was always on my mind as a teen but so was the fear that if I killed myself I would go straight to hell. There is even an incident that occurs when I felt that God actually kept me safe from harm.

The Cross and the Switchblade is a memoir about one thing: how I came to be used by God to create a human recycling program called Teen Challenge. From sentence one we are thrust into THAT story. Not a story about his childhood or marraige or much else but just THIS adventure. If you believe in God it might be a good story for you. If you don’t then the story will be far fetched. Either way its a great example of a memoir that is written like a good novel.

My memoir is NOT trying to be a Christian memoir at all but God is in it. As He was and still is in my life.

The Solace of Memoir

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When I was in high school I signed up to participate in a therapy class. Like most of my peers I was there for the easy grade. It took a long time for anyone to really say much although the teacher did her best to get us to open up about anything serious. We were instructed not to speak outside of class about any thing that was shared inside of our group. But this was high school and people knew that gossip spread like wild fire. Nothing very personal was ever truly shared that is until the end of the semester when a girl decided to drop a bomb on us.

She began to cry even before she started speaking. Nobody had a clue what was coming nor were we equipped to handle such honesty.

She spoke about being molested… by her father. How it had been going on for years. I can still remember her face. The tears. Her mouth clenched with the pain of confession. I remember how uncomfortable I felt. Looking around everyone seemed to be feeling the exact same way.

She was very brave to share her secret with all of us. I hope that the teacher was able to help her. I wonder sometimes what became of her. Her countenance was etched upon my brain that day. I doubt I could ever be that bold. I can only write and confess my sins to God.

After the only mother I had ever known died before my eyes on the living room floor sprawled across our hideously green shag carpet I felt compelled to write and write until my tears left dried tracks on my cheeks. I was thirteen years old and I needed to tell my story or I would inevitably commit a fatal sin. I wanted to die but God wanted me to live or so I sensed at the time. I felt what ever God is all around me but only writing brought solace.

Only then did my pain mitigate enough to be able to share my thoughts. It became therapy for me long before I had ever heard of the word memoir.

Memoir can also be used to express the joy in life as well. To write about the utter joy that life can bring from seeing how the whole picture fits together.

Memoir: Endless possibilities

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When I decided to write a memoir I had a certain idea of what a memoir was. I’m sure we all have our own expectations as readers when we pick up a book labeled “memoir”. I know I do.

As I’m sure Oprah did. I didn’t like how Oprah publicly flogged James Frey in front of millions of people. I don’t believe it was Frey’s fault though. Oprah made a huge mistake that made such an event possible. She neglected to define what memoir was for herself. She neglected to examine the vast possibilities of memoir.

When I decided that I wanted my book to be categorized as a memoir I quickly realized that I needed to make sure that my definition of what a memoir was fit into that genre. I needed to define it for myself. There are some books that actually have the word memoir on its cover. That makes it easy. But some books don’t say memoir like ‘A Million Little Pieces’. That can make things a little foggy. We all need to define memoir for ourselves before we flog someone for not meeting our expectations. I like that memoir authors’ seem more up front and open about the idea of their books having embellishments and not being as accurate as a bio.

The movie Great Expectations with Ethan Hawk defines Memoir in its first few lines for me: I’m not going to tell my story as it happened, I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.
Not verbatim.

Memoir: a Truthful Lie?

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How much of a memoir can be a bold face lie before someone labels it fiction? Perhaps Oprah knows. Does anyone recall ‘A Million Little Pieces’ ? I wasn’t into memoir then like I am now when Oprah busted James Frey for recreating his version of the truth. Nobody dupes Oprah and simply walks away with it. I guess she felt cheated. When people read a memoir they do believe what they are reading actually occurred.

Unless you kept a detailed diary of everything that happened or recorded conversations with people while you were talking with them you may, as a writer, have to make some stuff up. Some facts should be left alone: You might not recall the weather the day you lost your virginity but you better remember who you were with.
When writing a memoir you might believe that doing research is unnecessary since every memory is entirely in your head. Cross referencing your memories with someone who was actually there is always a good idea.
I was talking to my younger sister (who refuses to even look at my memoir because of personal reasons) about our childhood and she made me realize that my memories are not always entirely accurate. She was also able to jog my memory about events and people that I had forgotten. I have had writers block with my memoir lately and I believe it’s because I’m doing to much big picture thinking and not enough writing down what I do vividly remember. It’s impossible to recall every minute detail but I can piece it all together by remembering the most important moments. Hopefully Oprah won’t have my story fact checked. Then again the publicity might be worth it.