New Ideas for a New Group: Memoir

As you know from last week, I’ve been thinking about writing a memoir for some time, maybe putting some of my mom’s memories in my collection of stories.
This morning Ann Dee and I sort of chatted about starting a group that gets together and shares bits of memoirs we have written.
If we do this, we can share some insight on what we learn, here, as we go.
So here’s a definition from
Mem-oir    [mem-wahr, -wawr] Show IPA


a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation.

Usually, memoirs.


an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography.

the published record of the proceedings of a group or organization, as of a learned society.

a biography or biographical sketch.
1560–70;  < French mémoire  < Latin memoria
2a. journal, recollections, reminiscences.
While we can’t all be in a group together–you know–meeting physically–we CAN focus on memoir here, twice a month, with writing exercises and etc.
What do you think?
Would you like to play?
Let’s Start with Some Good Reading
Here are some good memoirs, just for the fun of it.
Of course, we have to go with Stephen King’s memoir and book on the craft of writing called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I love this book! It’s smart and funny and revealing. And it teaches good writing, too.
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
My friend Lance Larsen (keynote at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers []–this keynote is open to the world, free of charge. Come to it. Lance is a great writer and will give us some terrific pointers on writing like  poet.) told me for years to read Zippy. One day at a garage sale I saw a copy of the memoir for .75 and I couldn’t believe it. That is SO MUCH for me to spend on a book. But I remembered Lance telling me to read Zippy. So I circled the memoir (laying on a blanket–the book, not me) and finally decided since Lance said I should, I would buy and then read this. I did. It’s great! Well worth .75 (though I wish I could have gotten the book for a half dollar instead.)
Angela’s Ashes by  Frank McCourt. I loved just about everything about this book. I loved the voice, the way McCourt puts the words on the page, how he paints a picture. I didn’t love the end of the book, but that is just me.
So, if you wanted to play the memoir game with us, I would start with these three titles. And I know Ann Dee has HER favorite books. She may share.
Many of you know that I am a Latter-day Saint. For those interested, here is a quote by Elder B. Henry Eyring. He’s talking about writing a journal or a memoir. He says, “My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies.” (
It seems when I have sunk as low as I can go, when I tell Heavenly Father, “I am done!” He answers me.
If I write a memoir, it will be for the spiritual times, and the funny times and the heart-breaking times.
For me.
For my girls.
My girls always tell me to be happy. And I try.
Maybe a memoir will help them understand me more.
For sure, a memoir will help me understand me more.
And maybe it will help me become a better writer.
And that’s a good goal.


Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Exercises, writing process

9 responses to “New Ideas for a New Group: Memoir

  1. Juliette

    I’m really interested in writing memoirs, too! I started writing one and I’m thinking of starting another, too. My two most favorite memoirs are The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas. I need to read Angela’s Ashes and Zippy.

  2. Amy

    I’ll add in my favorites:
    Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls (What a writer!!! Although, I have to admit I found Glass Castle to be too much for me.)
    Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody (how that boy survived to adulthood, I cannot guess!)
    Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (she makes me cry–in a good way)

    The ‘Life sucks and that’s all there is to it’ style of memoirs kill me off. Must be my Children’s lit brain, I can’t deal with the tough stuff very well. Don’t get me wrong, I relish a traumatic drama, ala Bridge to Terabithia and Star Trek Death of Spock, style. When the going gets tough I have to have humor and hope.

    • CLW

      Yup, I liked Glass Castle. I thought she was a bit of a whiny bird, actually.
      Looks like I will have to find Father and I Were Ranchers. Maybe I can get is at a GS . . .

  3. Rebecca Birkin

    I haven’t read Zippy, but I read the sequel, She Got Up Off the Couch. Reading Haven Kimmel is as entertaining as reading fiction.

    I agree, I like books that aren’t just life sucks and then . . ., but reality combined with hope.

  4. sueburton

    I’m interested in memoir. Beth Kephart has a book coming out in August on the subject. I suspect it costs more than 50 cents. I have too many reading and writing interests, but would like to do some memoir writing.

  5. Couldn’t agree more about Stephen King’s ON WRITING . . . and I LOVED both of Jeanette Walls’ books! As of now, the memoire I’ve thought of writing is “My Spiral Life,” and is based on my teaching for 100 years. (I’ve written a longish “essay” of sorts, of about a dozen pages, a little under 3,000 words.) Well, maybe not quite a hundred years . . . but when you’ve done high schools and even a little junior high or middle school in addition to universities, it FEELS that long! Yet, through them ALL, I’ve had happy, sad, exciting, pathetic, heart-wrenching, thrilling experiences. And I love it SO much, I’m still at it in a more minor way! I’ll start looking for those other titles—I’ve heard of ZIPPY, and I think I’ve got BIRD BY BIRD somewhere.

    Also, I have a slightly cut version of an extensive questionnaire a professor/friend at BYU used to give his students for interviewing “old folks.” It’s a great place to start!

  6. Kelley Paystrup

    Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, The Irrational Season, and Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage are all wonderful memoirs. I loved them. I also loved her Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Yes, I’d like to join you in writing some memoir. So far the only place I’m published is in online magazines and in a BYU collection of essays and anthologies about American poets of the 1920’s, but it’s not because I don’t have a story to tell. Maybe I can finally gain some courage.

  7. i love this idea, and now have such a long list to read from y’all!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s