Sara Kirschenbaum
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A Good Memoir

Posted Tuesday, Aug 02nd, 2011 at 1:21pm

I recently returned from a wonderful writing workshop in Freeport, Maine. My group was led by Ann Hood. She was wonderful! I learned so much from her and the others in my group. The conference was in a handsome stone house with beautiful grounds.


Here is the group of fine writers: writers

Here are some notes from the first day. She told us ten qualities of a good memoir:

  1. Has focus that is razor sharp. Every page reinforces that focus.

  2. Does not have filler. Details add to the focus. There are no accidents in memoir - it is all crafted.

  3. Does not report, record or list events. Must write in scene. Every recollection must pay its way by adding to the focus.

  4. Has a container - a time frame.

  5. Has well-developed characters - can the reader see the narrator? Does the reader see the age, weight and details of the characters. Jettison unimportant people. Utilize the people you choose to keep. Name them.

  6. Has a clear setting in time and place.

  7. Has an external conflict (plot).

  8. Has an internal conflict that is linked to the external conflict.

  9. Is not revengeful. Is not whining. Consider your motivations for writing it.

  10. Has a So-What. There is a reason the writer wrote it and the reader wants to read it. A larger resonance.

Ann said that she has all ten points figured out before she begins to write! I was alarmed to realize I did not have them all clear in my mind with my completed Home Sweet Nuthouse memoir manuscript. Back to the drawing board! This is just the feedback I have been looking for.


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