Anyone interested in writing a memoir was given plenty to think about at our monthly "Spirit of the Hills" writers' meeting on Saturday. Our speaker was Pat Calder, one of our own group and someone who taught creative writing for thirty years.
Pat shared with us some of what she had learned from a workshop on memoir writing that was presented by Judith Barrington, as part of the San Miguel Writers' Conference in Mexico in February of this year.
The most important thing, we were told, was to get the memory down. Just write! The art comes later, in shaping it. If part of the memory has become lost, keep writing around it. You may find a new memory. The more you write, the more you will remember.
Someday I may decide to write my memoirs. I've been collecting anecdotes in a file for years, fleshing them out a little whenever the spirit moves me in that direction. These stories from my life aren't in any chronological order, as they would be if I were writing an autobiography. Yesterday I learned that memoir is driven by theme, rather than by a sequence of events.
Defining a theme could prove to be difficult because, to this point, I've gone off on all sorts of tangents. A reader might find that boring. I can see now the importance of narrowing it down, in "finding the linkages that give resonance to the chaos of life."
Judith Barrington says there's no such thing as a fictionalized memoir because memoir is true. She says that the best way to learn how to write memoir is to read the good ones. We came away with a list of recommended titles. Right now, I'm going to track down a copy of Barrington's Writing Memoir: from Truth to Art.