Memoir Specialist Lorene McCormick Burkhart Shares Her Valuable Memoir Tips and a few of her Great Southern Indiana Recipes
So you want to write a memoir about your life? Good for you! It’s a thought-provoking experience, somewhat like having intense therapy. But it can be fun, too. The hardest part is STARTING. Just getting that first sentence of your memoir down on paper. Here are a few suggestions to help “beginner’s block.”
First, think about why you are writing a memoir or autobiography. If it’s just for your family and will not be sold, you don’t need to worry about outside approval such as an editor. But whatever your goal, it’s taking that first memory step that counts. An opening sentence might be, “The day I was born was a hot, humid Midwestern summer day. My mother said. . .” (You can imagine the scene if you were born in July or August in the Midwest, adding the words “I suppose my mother might have said,” Or the opening sentence might tell about where you were born or “I was the third of four children.” Don’t concern yourself with style, just let what you say be your voice.
Another suggestion to writing a memoir is to think about the definers of your life that make you unique. In addition to where and when you were born, include who your parents are, your siblings, how you look, your basic personality. Funny, isn’t it, that we had nothing to do with any of those? Another way to connect with your past is to collect family photos, pull out the ones that you are in, and then put them in chronological order from baby to now. If you know when and where a photo was taken, write it on a Post-it and put it on the back of the photo. Next time you are with family members, share your key pictures and ask for their recollections. Take notes about what was said and who said it so you can go back for more info if you need it. Now you are beginning to see why writing a memoir about your life can be therapeutic as well as fun.
If you have old yearbooks, report cards, or other memorabilia, go through them and put markers on items that you may want to revisit. I was fortunate that I had all of my report cards from first grade through college. It was enlightening to scan through my list of subjects and grades to note patterns.
The main thing in the initial part of writing your memoir is to get into the comfortable feeling, the stream, the atmosphere, the flow of memory-assembling. These are tips to get you started. I’ll write another blog about next steps.
Lorene McCormick Burkhart’s memoir assembling resulted in two popular books:
An Accidental Pioneer: A Farm Girl’s Drive to the Finish
Home on the Farm: If Chickens Could Talk
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