Really Useful Links for Writers: Memoir

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Paul FitzSimons

As you’re reading this, I’m crying into my cornflakes. Because, as of today, 1st May 2014, I can no longer say I’m in my thirties. I’m 40.

Actually, no. This isn’t going to degenerate into a Cosmopolitan-esque article about my life either (a) being over or (b) just starting. It’s (I hope) about half-way through and I’m okay with that. So it’s not actually true, there is no soggy cereal in my bowl this morning. I tend to feel the same way about landmark birthdays as I feel about New Year resolutions (see my previous Useful Links column on the subject) – life is too short to worry about them. Of course, the real reason I don’t worry about landmark birthdays is probably that I actually share my birthday with my sister (who’s 39 again today) and she doesn’t seem too bothered about them – so thanks Sam and Happy Birthday!

One good thing about life-landmarks, such as graduating from University, hitting 40, retiring, is that they sometimes elbow us into action – change career, travel the world, (buy a Porsche). And over the years, I’ve been cajolling some of the more accomplished or entertaining people in my life to try writing – or more specifically to write their memoirs. And, in the hope that they’re reading this and thinking ‘Hey, maybe I should write about that time I toured with The Stones’, I thought I’d take a spin around the internet and see what memoir-writing help there is out there.

Reader’s Digest has been the reading-material-in-bathrooms of record since the 1920s. It now also has an online version, on which memoirist Jeanette Walls offers some excellent advice on how we might tackle writing our own story. She suggests that we don’t, in fact, have to be at the end our life to justify writing a memoir, nor do we have had to be dealing with extraordinary or heart-breaking experiences on a daily basis. One of the most attractive aspects of a memoir is that it’s relatable and, although nobody will read a book about the author eating toast, how the writer deals with traumas and triumphs, especially when their the same as our own traumas and triumphs, will definitely make interesting reading.

The ‘Dummies Guide To’ series also takes a look at memoir writing and does exactly what we might expect – takes the subject and dumbs it down, giving us – as they call it – ‘a cheat sheet’ for how to be both author and subject. It includes tips on the difference between a memoir and an autobiography and suggests what a reader looks for in a memoir.

Speaking of things that do what you’d expect them to do, the Memoir Writing Club is just that, an online club for memoir writers. Founder Irene Graham offers courses, workshops and a network for memoir-writers to meet on line to share and chat about their work. For anyone writing or thinking about starting a memoir, The Memoir Writing Club looks like a good place to start.

Another online memoir writing course comes to us from the Bantry-based Fish Publishing. This eight-module course is designed to help us develop our ability to write based on personal experience and with literary purpose. It focuses on elements of the genre including characterisation, plot, dialogue and description that we can build upon.

For those who prefer to be able to look the writing tutor in the eye, the Irish Writers Centre on Parnell Square will host a 6-night course (Tuesday evenings for 6 weeks), covering all elements of memoir writing. Ivy Bannister, who wrote the memoir ‘Blunt Trauma: After the Fall of Flight 111’, [quite brilliant – ed] takes us through the fundamental questions that drive us towards writing about ourselves. This course deals with defining story, identifying key scenes, getting characters from our heads on to the page, and recreating atmosphere.

“A memoir is an invitation into another person’s privacy.” – Isabel Allende

Keeping Us Entertained On The Toilet Since 1922.

Reader’s Digest tells us that a memoir might not just interesting or entertaining for reader, it might also be therapeutic for the writer.

“Writing about your life is also about coming to a fresh understanding of it at an age when you probably think you know yourself pretty well.”

http://www.rd.com/advice/great-tips-on-how-to-write-your-memoir/#ixzz30O8bi9qk.

Dumb And Dumber.

The Dummies Guide To Memoir Writing has some surprisingly clever advice.

“Writing a memoir means you’re author and subject, researcher and storyteller, narrator and audience.”

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/memoir-writing-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html

First Rule Of Memoir Club…

This online club for memoir writers offers courses, workshops and chat rooms for writers to network and talk about their work.

“We nurture creativity, enhance writing voice and show you how to focus, structure and create story from life experiences.”

http://www.thememoirwritingclub.com

Catch Of The Day.

The Fish Publishing Company are running an eight-module online memoir -writing course.

“Each module focuses on an element of memoir writing and the exercises that follow are designed to isolate and work on that particular writing muscle.”

http://www.fishpublishing.com/memoir-writing-course.php

More A Face-To-Face Kinda Thing.

The Irish Writers’s Centre hosts a 6-night memoir-writing course with tutor Ivy Bannister.

“Where do I come from? Who am I? Where am I going? These are the fundamental questions that drive us towards writing about ourselves and our experiences of life.”

http://www.writerscentre.ie/html/courses/Summer_2014/writingmemoir_bannister.html

(c) Paul FitzSimons

About the author

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editorpaulfitzsimons.com

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