Sunday, April 19, 2015

Where Do You Begin?

I began a short memoir for Dropped Threads II with my father teaching me to ride a bicycle when I was ten years old. (See audio, below.) Try not to begin your memoir at the moment of birth. Instead, choose an event or experience that will set the tone for your life story and provide the reader with a sense of what is to come. In the Canadian memoir Mamie’s Children: Three Generations of Prairie Women (short-listed for a Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction), author Judy Schultz begins in 1990, with the scattering of her mother’s ashes in a clover-smelling field in Saskatchewan. The book then travels back in time to the 1880s and tells the story of Shultz’s grandmother Mamie and her life on the grasslands of the Canadian prairie. Memoirist Wibke Bruhns opens her book My Father's Country: The Story of a German Family with the adult author examining two photographs of her father that she discovered encased in a locket.

When you prepare to write your memoir, make a list of some of the pivotal moments of your life. They may be as simple as a bike ride, or as complex as a marriage breakdown or immigrating to a new country. Dive into these moments—-discover the key elements that changed the course you were on. How did they affect you? The people around you? What incidents stand out in your mind? What was the setting like—-the smells, colours and sounds? In what ways were these incidents reflective or not reflective of the person you became? Choose one of these stories to open your memoir. In the next few blog posts, we will explore the many ways you might structure and write the rest of your life story. We will also look at the ways in which you might find your own distinctive voice as a memoirist.

Listen to "A Place on the Pavement."

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