What is the Truth in Memoir | Can We Really Capture It? | Tune in to Find out

At the NAMW Telesummit Friday starting at 10 AM PDT, I get to talk with several fantastic authors and teachers. Their books have shaped my thinking toward more creative choices, and pushed me toward using language to carve out even deeper truths. The experts I get to hang out with are Jennifer Lauck, author of Blackbird and three other amazing and deep memoirs, including her last book Found. Dinty W. Moore’s collection of memoir essays Between Panic and Desire show us how we can weave small pieces into a memoir, while Robin Hemley’s Nola is another kind of weaving that examines the nature of memory and the sources of “truth” –whatever that is. The topic of the Telesummit is Truth or Lie: On the Cusp of Memoir and Fiction, and also features a panel of young memoirists who couldn’t wait for people to die before they wrote about their lives! And the best news: it’s FREE to everyone. Just sign up at the link below.

Robin’s memoir asks: whose version of “truth” is “real.” Can we trust memory, or do we create our story based on emotional need or unconscious beliefs?

Quotes from Nola:

How can one be objective about one’s family? How can one resist the urge to edit, to become the family spin doctor?

…There is no real past, it’s all a daydream is seems, or an endless series of clues and discoveries…

…everyone’s life is a kind of detective story, every clue of our forebears’ lives, every decision, missed opportunity…are part of the solution to our own existence.

To read more about the Telesummit, go to the National Association of Memoir Writers to sign up. You will receive a link to the downloadable audio after the conference is over.

Robin will talk about “The Trouble with the Truth,” which is the troubling and challenging issue for all memoir and nonfiction writers. His introduction to the teleconference:

Any time we set down to write the truth of our lives we have to face the fact that there is no single truth to our lives.  To make matters more complex we’re different people at different times in our lives and we show different faces to different people.  The portrayal of an “authentic” self is something most memoir writers strive for, but there are always details we omit or exaggerate or forget, or hidden agendas even we aren’t aware of as we’re writing.  While we don’t want to lie, we also have to understand that what we aspire to write is closer to art than a court room transcript.  It’s not all about content.  There are aesthetic concerns as well.  Above all, you have to remember that once an event has passed, it’s gone forever and words can’t recreate the event.  They can only create a semblance of the event. 

We’re so lucky to be able to meet with people you normally have to pay hundreds of dollars to see, so join us for Free! See you there!

Writing a Memoir Means Selling Yourself!


Writing a memoir means digging deep into your soul—doesn’t it? Writing is a solitary act, right? Yes to all that. I’m the first one to tell my students to keep their work private for a while, though maybe you’ve decided to show it to your family.  

Good luck with that, but it’s just the beginning of how you’ll be putting yourself and your writing out into the world. A memoir is different from journaling—you’re writing a story, not just writing from an internal place where you don’t have to create a world that makes sense.

The Basic Three Things Needed for a Good Memoir

You have to write so the reader understands you; as you get to the later stages of writing your memoir, you need to see it objectively, targeting your audience and your readers—who will someday become fans.

Your writing creates ripples in the world once you move out from your private writing space.  As you probably know by now, your memoir needs to deliver

  • New information to the reader—knowledge that alters the reader’s view of life.
  • A new experience—which means feelings, insights, and ahas.
  • These experiences need to be in story form—shaped for the reader—each chapter with a reason to be there, a point or a theme to be understood.


Beyond Writing—Finding Success with Marketing, Social Media, and Publicity

Penny Sansevieri, guest speaker for the National Association of Memoir Writers upcoming Telesummit says, “Memoir writing requires more than writing skills. To become a successful author, you need to understand how the media works and what you need to do yourself—no matter who your publisher is.”

This means thinking outside of your writing cubicle—and seeing yourself objectively, and learning how to present yourself and your work so others can benefit from what you have to say.

There are so many ways now to share your nuggets of wisdom—the internet is our best friend when it comes to getting the word out. Now social media helps us shape our message in sound bites or the well-known “elevator speech” that you learn to give at conferences to get the attention of agents and publishers.

 In one sentence you say what your book is about. For instance, for Don’t Call Me Mother, I would say, “I was the last of three generations of mothers who abandoned their daughters. It’s a story of how I broke that pattern and found forgiveness for my mother.”

I had variations on that speech but it summed up the essence of the book. Another student is writing about how giving up her daughter for adoption changed her life-what she did to forgive herself and make amends with her daughter.

You have to think: what am I offering the reader that can help them in their lives? What is the overall theme and message of my book? This is the question you have to answer for each chapter as well.

If you’re like most writers, thinking about publicity and marketing is the last thing on your mind while you’re writing, but along the way you do need to start learning, taking workshops, reading about how to think about ways to sell yourself.

I’m looking forward to hearing Penny speak more about these skills at the NAMW Telesummit October 21—Truth or Lie: On the Cusp of Memoir and Fiction. Sign up here.

Join me there for a great day. It’s Free for all.