Comments on Memoir Writing

Originally published Sept 2011 at


I commented today on the post
In Defense of Memoir: Once More Into the Fray « From BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog
Write Hard, Write Smart.

I enjoy good works of serious fiction about families and the human condition and the complexities of relationships. I also enjoy good mysteries. No fiction book I’ve ever read has moved me as powerfully as memoirs do, though. This is because, even if some names are changed or events reworked slightly, I know the story is true in its essence. It is something that actually happened to a person brave enough to share personal experiences in writing, to put their words out for strangers to take in and pick apart and pass judgment on. I automatically feel more connected with authors of memoirs for this reason and admire them for their courage.

I know first-hand that feeling of vulnerability when you launch a book into the world. There’s no way of knowing how it will be received. I knew mine would face some criticism. I was okay with that. It was still worth it to me to tell the story. No matter what, it was my story about a part of my life. No one else lives in my skin with my heart and my brain so no one else can tell the same story or stories.

Even if someone else has experienced similar circumstances, our perceptions or which parts stand out will differ. That can be said of every single person on this earth. I believe everyone has a story worth sharing. We can all learn from each other. We all have wisdom gained through experience. I tell my counseling clients this a lot when I’m talking with them about their life stories/narratives. Same goes when I give talks at churches or to other groups. I encourage people to think about the parts of their lives where they’ve learned important lessons or grown as a person, as well as times that were happy or funny. I stress that those stories are stories no one else could tell the same way. I talk to them about the power of the words they choose and the emphasis they place on certain events and the meaning they make of those events.

If someone doesn’t like memoirs in general or certain ones in particular, they can choose not to read them. Personally, I don’t read celebrity memoirs. I’d much rather read about “regular people” and what they go through. The exception would be if a celebrity writes about life before they became famous maybe. If the writing isn’t good, that should be addressed because its not good writing, not because of whether its memoir or fiction.
Carmella Broome
Author of Carmella’s Quest: Taking On College Sight Unseen (Red Letter Press 2009)

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