Memoir Writing – Blissdom 2010 Session Notes

MEMOIR WRITINGSketch of Writers Hand

This Blissdom Blogging Conference Session was Saturday afternoon and taught by Catherine Connors @herbadmother (HBM), Megan Jordan @velveteenmind (VM), Tanis Miller @redneckmommy (RNM) and moderated by Michelle Mitchell @scribbit (SCR).

WHAT MAKES A MEMOIR DIFFERENT?

  • LENGTH – This category is full of diverse opinion. Per SCR short stories “posts” are a must. However, per RNM prefers to write long posts and sees no issue in doing so. One thing all of the panelists agreed on is quality! Poor writing on a short post will be forgettable and passed over. Poor writing on a long post can lose readers.
  • POINT OF VIEW – Memoirs are written in 1st person. Plain and simple.
  • EXPANSE – This will follow along the same lines as length and point of view. Since it is written in 1st person, the natural range of the story will remain close to the person telling it. However, verbosity can expand one’s expanse, so be aware.
  • STRUCTURE & ELEMENTS – Memoir writing has the same elements as other writing. Intro, setup, conflict, debate, confrontation, resolution, conclusion. Regardless of how you label the writing arc, it typically contains three main elements: tell them what your story is about, tell them what happened, tell them how it ended.
  • RESOLUTION – Memoirs needs to have resolution, but it may not always be tied up in a nice, neat package wrapped with a bow on one post. There is an option for ongoing stories that require several posts when the resolution takes place over time.
  • HONESTY – What is the truth? Each story is written from one persons perspective. Thus, the truth, as you see it, may be different than how someone else sees it. We each view life through a different lens. So who is being more honest? Who is being truthful? It is your reality, so the most important element here is being true to you and your story.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY IN WRITING?

VM – I always ask myself, “Can my readers find themselves in the post? Will my audience relate?” If not, don’t write it.

RNM – I don’t think about the readers much. I’m here to bring joy & make you laugh.

HBM – It’s difficult question to answer. More often than not, I craft a post to tell a story versus just puking on the page. My goal is to draw an audience in.

VM – Something interesting to note is people talk to me in person about the posts that no one comments on. They are memorable.

HBM – [I ask]Why is someone gonna want to read this?

SCR – I don’t write to please the reader. I write to give content resolution. It is a structure. The writing arc.

HBM – People ask me to wrap up some ongoing issues, but they are not resolved.

SCR – Conflict resolution doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It’s like a TV series, Lost – they are not getting off that island. Resolution is not always tidy.

VM – I write long posts, not as frequently. But I feel they can’t be any shorter.

DO YOU FEEL YOUR BLOG IS YOUR OWN?

HBM – Yes, absolutely, its space to tell my story, no reviews or giveaways.

RNM – I used to feel it is, but since the adoption process came in to play, I haven’t been able to write freely. I’ve had to be careful.  Before that I felt it was really my own. My family wasn’t happy with what I wrote all the time, but it is mine. I remain true to my story.

VM – My husband is an attorney and there are people at his firm that read it.  I can’t write what I want to about him. I have to be guarded in that respect. SCR guest posted on VM to write about her husband, another attorney, getting fired. She wrote about his ex-boss.

SCR – He didn’t want me to post it. I was not able to be free.

HBM – We have to be responsible with what we write personally because it affects others. When it concerns other, like my mother-in-law, I ask permission. I try to remain sensitive.

RNM – I give my kids & husband editorial control. My daughter has pulled some stories, but not my husband or son.

VM – My kids are young. I think about what will impact them later down the road. Successful bloggers can feel trapped by success at times by the expectations of readers or other situations.

HBM – Created Her Bad Mother’s Basement to post anonymously.

RNM – I had 2 different blogs early on because Attack of the Red Neck Mommy was about humor, my other blog was about my son’s death. I couldn’t handle it because it was too much. But I was schooled that I couldn’t combine both. Eventually I quit both & came back with only one. My readers accept her complete story, both sides.

WOULD YOU WRITE AN ANONYMOUS BLOG?

VM – No, I like writing, but I like the readers responses. I tried journalling but no one commented. Let’s face it we write to get comments, to interact.

HBM – No, I wouldn’t. I mean this is my story. I’m writing about motherhood and that involves my kids, but I’m not writing their story, it’s mine.

VM – I use a lot of metaphors when I write. Like, I wrote about baking pies, but my mom had to tell my dad that the post was NOT about actually “baking pies”. (chuckle, chuckle)

SCR – I have a hard time sharing things. I’m more reserved. But it’s me. It’s my story.

MEMOIR WRITING REFERENCES

Writing about Your Life by William Zinsser

Invention the Truth: The Art & Craft of Memoir by William Zinsser.

SUBJECTIVE SYNOPSIS

I was the mic wrangler for this session which made for interesting note taking. And while some dialogue is missing, the main points are captured. There was a lot of Q&A during this session. Many of those questions revolved around the same main topics:

  • Voice
  • Audience

Many of the answers came back around and boiled down simply:

  • Voice – Find yours, be true to it, don’t fear it or its creativity, respect its power.
  • Audience – Give them quality, tell them your story, be real, but be sensitive.
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