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Memoir Examples | Learn by Example

Updated on May 18, 2013

Learn by Example

How do you write a book about your life? Where do you begin?

Memoir examples are the best way to understand the genre. You may not have time to read a full fledged book but you can get your memories flowing by reading short, personal memoir examples like this one that tells you a little about me.

There are tons of memoir essays (short stories) on the web. Look up and read a few and then write your own. Examples make it easier!

*Preface - This is my recollection of an event from 30 some odd years ago that forever changed me. Can you relate?

Mom had the task of delivering the news to me.

"Well, I can't believe it, but your father will soon be an official member of the U.S. Navy... again" mom said.

My palms were wet, bile rising in my throat. The interior of the roomy, two-toned Dodge suddenly seemed claustrophobic.

Mom gave me a cursory, sidelong glance, then continued, "... and we got his orders today."

Memoirs of a Navy Brat - A Girl's Adventure During the Depression and World War II

To write memoir, you need to read memoir. Choose a story that covers a viewpoint or aspect that you can relate to. Remember, writers have to be readers!

Memoirs of a Navy Brat: A Girl's Adventure During the Depression and World War II
Memoirs of a Navy Brat: A Girl's Adventure During the Depression and World War II

I can relate to this book. The world was different in those times but the feelings were the same. It helps to read other memoirs that deal with the same feelings and incidents even though the circumstances are different. Learn by example -- read memoir.

 

My throat muscles constrict, fighting the nausea. I knew it going to happen, but chose to play ostrich. I wanted to attend one high school, start to finish. In my adolescent mind, as long as I ignored the possibility, I wouldn't have to deal with it. It made perfect sense to me.

Thoughts, questions and cuss words were swirling in my brain, fighting to be the first out of my mouth. I needed to come up with some sort of coherent response. A response my mom was obviously waiting for. Of course, it needed to convey the time honored, teenage attitude of indifference.

Humor, I can deal with this and still come off 'cool' if I inject a little humor. I pull my bugged out eyes back into their sockets, take a deep breath and say,

"Where are we going - Gilligan's Island?"

People always say:

"Start at the beginning".

Not so.

The beauty of memoir is being able to start at any moment in your life.

"Glad I could oblige"

Mom twists to face me; her mouth gaping open. Then, to my utter horror, she completely dissolves into hysterical laughter. In that moment, my only rational thought was, "Glad I could oblige. "

We're sitting at the stop sign at the end of the road we live on. Thank God we weren't holding up traffic. Mom was taking me to cheerleading practice when she makes this life changing announcement. I sit there, watching and waiting for her to regain her composure and let me in on the gag. Finally, she wipes her tears of laughter, takes a few cleansing breaths and continues her foray into ruining my young world.

"Actually" she says, "you're very close. We'll be stationed on Guam..."

Satellite View of Guam - Courtesy of NASA

guam usa satellite
guam usa satellite

A shiver runs down my back, though the temperature in the car is fine. My mind is racing with the impact of her announcement. For the first time in my life, I'm speechless; no witty comeback, no sassy retort, nothing.

As I gawk at my mom, a hint of recognition is teasing my brain. Then, my junior high geography class comes back, full tilt! An island; it's an island somewhere between Hawaii and Japan. And, if memory serves, a very small island!

Mom, oblivious to my comatose state, carries on with her one sided conversation. She suggests after practice we look up Guam in our well worn set of encyclopedias.

You see, it's October, 1979. No internet, computers or cell phones.

Tumon Beach, Guam, USA

tumon beach, Guam, USA
tumon beach, Guam, USA

There is a natural reef surrounding the majority of the island. This makes the beaches shallow and full of shades of blue and green. Shell hunting is awesome!

Image Source: jetalone on Flickr under the Attribution 2.0 CC License

Did you enjoy the short story?

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My Last Sunset on Guam - 15 years old on Guam

my last sunset on Guam
my last sunset on Guam

This is a photo of me enjoying my last sunset on Guam. From here, we went to eat at a pizza parlor and then on to the airport to begin our long journey back to the states. We flew from Guam to Honolulu to San Francisco to St. Louis to Evansville, IN before we were finished.

or rather, the beginning. A whole book could be written about these 15 months in my life... and maybe it will be.

The challenge is to capture in words all the emotions swirling like a whirlpool -- I was scared, sad, angry but at the same time excited, wondered what it would be like, how my life would change.

How did I feel about -- saying goodbye to family and friends, the 43 1/2 hour trip from Seattle to Guam, my first impressions of my new island home and so much more. This is all material for a book, if I so choose.

I bet you have experiences, emotions and situations that would make a wonderful book, article or history for your family.

We all have a lifetime of stories.

Which one of yours wants

to be told first?

What About You?

Would you consider writing about your life experiences? (a book, article or essay)

For sure, I have lots of stories to tell!

For sure, I have lots of stories to tell!

Submit a Comment

  • David Edward Lynch 4 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

    Yes I'd like to write about some of my life experiences.

  • rattie lm 4 years ago

    Indeed! And I love how you began your story! It's so nice to feel a person's shock and then be assured that the blanks are actually going to be filled in.

  • DecoratingEvents 5 years ago

    Thanks Virginia. That means a lot!

  • Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

    I've been working on it. Wish I could use dialog the way you do. Very effective to bring your memories to life.

  • hartworks lm 5 years ago

    I've already done it, with a book about our experiences running a small llama ranch (see my llamas lens for a link to the book, now a free pdf) and later I've done a lot of blogging about living in Mexico and other things.

    I love it! Much more fun than making things up to write about.

  • William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

    Absolutely. And you have inspired me to take the next steps! ;-)

  • Country Sunshine 5 years ago from Texas

    I have thought about it quite often, but have never known where to start. I like the idea you have here, of just starting at any point in my life. Thanks for the tips!

  • Gala98 5 years ago

    I've been told I have lots of stories & I've already shared a few in my lenses. I write from what I know so yes, I guess I could do a deeper telling of some events.

  • TeacherSerenia 5 years ago

    Yes. Like you I was also dragged off to a foreign country when I was 12 years old - but I was away for 3 years. Hated every minute of it. .

  • Laurel Johnson 6 years ago from Washington KS

    Yes, I considered writing about my life and did in several books.

  • irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

    I did - irenemarias story lens

  • fantasticallyfi 6 years ago

    I wouldn't rule it out but I think experience is key.

  • Yawapi LM 6 years ago

    I've collected reams of stories from older relatives. I love turning those memories into stories (with permission of course!)

  • rlivermore 6 years ago

    I'd like to do something like this someday, for sure!

  • Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    I think I'm beginning to share some 'life experiences' here on Squidoo in small articles (lenses). Hopefully, my (grown) children will find this a nice way to 'remember' some special and/or interesting times we all carry in our memories.

  • thesuccess2 6 years ago

    Yes I guess we all have something to say. I think I'm a great observer of the human species.

  • 'Vikk Simmons 6 years ago from Houston

    Maybe one day.

  • Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

    I guess that's what I've done on Squidoo.

  • JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

    Yes, those first few words are the hardest ... but I want to give it a try.

  • rlivermore 6 years ago

    I would love to do this. I think we all have interesting stories to tell and I think that something valuable happens in the process as we think through and communicate various experiences of our lives.

  • Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

    I have stories, I'm a good writer. Still, it's an intimidating thought to say the least.

  • Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

    I lead a family memory writing group. At times, I think my memories are pretty mundane, but still feel it is important to put them down on paper. They may never make it into a book, but I'm busy putting other family members' memories into self-published books.

  • Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

    Yes! Do you think "Memoirs of a Mouse" would sell?

  • ohcaroline 6 years ago

    Yes, I have some experiences that I will someday share in a book...when the time is right.

  • capriliz lm 6 years ago

    Actually, I am encouraged by your example to do just that.

  • Lynne Schroeder 6 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

    Definitely. I know that I will one day.

  • Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

    I would need at least 3 volumes for all my stories at least ;-)

  • hayleylou lm 6 years ago

    My life has been full of ups and downs and battles, one day

  • TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

    I know exactly how you feel. and yes I have lots of stories to tell. Thats why I love Squidoo.

  • tssfacts 6 years ago

    Yes, it's one of my goals for 2011.

  • Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

    I have told some of my life stories here. But others, I would have to go under an assumed name. There are good and bad memories, like most people have.

No way. I'm too shy or don't think my stories are interesting.

Submit a Comment

  • Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

    No, I think I'll stick with Status Updates, Tweets, original song lyrics and Christmas missives.

  • anonymous 5 years ago

    I don't think so, but never say never!

Research for your memoir

Lou Willett Stanek says in her book titled "Writing Your Life - Putting Your Past on Paper",

"If you were to write an autobiography, you would have to spend a lot of time at the courthouse, looking up the date your great-grandfather was born, what year your father bought the house on Elm Street. The research for a memoir can be done in an easy chair. Close your eyes..."

Sit back in your easy chair and close your eyes. Think back in time. What specific experience from your life comes to mind...

Your first date?

Your high school graduation?

The kindly neighbor lady that fed you homemade cookies and milk?

The time you were almost fired from your job?

When you moved from the only home you'd ever known?

When someone close to you passed away?

The time you first felt you were really on your own in this big world?

"Writing Your Life"

It's not hard. Allow your mind to wander and follow the movie in your mind.

Memoir Books to help you along... - We all need help, now and again

The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story
The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story

Linda Joy Myers walks you through how writing your story can be a healing experience and allow you to move forward.

 
Old Friend from Far Away: How to Write Memoir
Old Friend from Far Away: How to Write Memoir

Natalie Goldberg's best selling book guides you through prompts to loosen your writing muscles and lots of good writing advice.

 
Writing & Selling Your Memoir: How to Craft Your Life Story So That Somebody Else Will Actually Want to Read It
Writing & Selling Your Memoir: How to Craft Your Life Story So That Somebody Else Will Actually Want to Read It

Writing a memoir is one thing. If your audience is the world, you need to approach it in a certain way. This book explains it for an amateur writer.

 
Writing the Stories of Your Life: How to Turn Memories into Memoir
Writing the Stories of Your Life: How to Turn Memories into Memoir

Again, taking some disjointed stories from your life and turning them into an interesting book takes talent. This book helps guide you on the journey.

 
How to Write Your Own Life Story: The Classic Guide for the Nonprofessional Writer
How to Write Your Own Life Story: The Classic Guide for the Nonprofessional Writer

Another guiding book for aspiring memoirists. Memoir is not autobiography - learn the difference.

 

Purple Star Award!


Very honored to receive a Purple Star on January 20, 2011

Image Credit: Stars | Forward this Picture

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Memoir Examples

Learn by Example

My daddy always says you learn best by example. I hope this short memoir example helps you!

Thank you for stopping by!

Do Come Back and See Me Again!

~ DecoratingforEvents ~



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What's Your Story? - We all have a story to tell...

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    • KateFeredayEshete profile image

      Kate Fereday Eshete 3 years ago from Ethiopia

      I'm writing my memoirs and it's taking me a long time. Reading this lens, with all the super book recommendations, is a great motivator. I have lived in the Ethiopian Highlands since 2002 and I have had many adventures. Thanks for an informative and helpful lens.

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 4 years ago

      Thank you for a little nudge in the right direction ;-)

    • al-parks profile image

      al-parks 4 years ago

      Hi there, I have also published my story - Bloody Hell, What's an Alpaca? and I have recently joined squidoo, still getting to grips with it, it is very time consuming :)

    • Judith Nazarewicz profile image

      Judith Nazarewicz 4 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks so much for sharing, your writing is so vivid, just love it!

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 4 years ago

      Fabulous page and well-deserved purple star, too! Great story.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Really enjoyed your story. Thank you! I really appreciate your lens :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      great examples thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      debbymakarius 4 years ago

      I really loved your work. Very muck liking it. Especially the images which attracts me the most. Just dropping by to say take care and more power. Hopefully you can visit my lens too dear. Thanks again!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 4 years ago

      @anonymous: So glad you liked it! I really loved the way Ms. Stanek encourages you to close your eyes and drift through your memories. Lots and lots of story ideas come to light that way. Good luck with your students and I hope they have fun!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you. I teach 8th grade language arts and we will be reading examples of memoirs and writing memoirs. I really like the quote you used from Stanek's book. I need to buy the book, but for now I will use the quote in my study guide.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      This is an interesting lens topic. I don't read much in the way of biographies, but I know it's a genre that's popular with others. The beauty of memoirs is that anyone can write about any experience as if they're the expert. There's no limit to the stories that can be told.

    • profile image

      SquirrelWhispers 5 years ago

      Memoirs of a crazy squirrel! Now that would be fun to write :) Wonder if my friends would recognize me and my stories.

    • poorwendy lm profile image

      poorwendy lm 5 years ago

      Wow. Now I'm inspired to start my own memoir. I like the advice on how it doesn't have to start from the beginning because I wouldn't know where to begin. If I were to just write, then I'll get something done.

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 5 years ago

      The great thing about memoirs is that, while my own life may not be that exciting, the places I sometimes visit really are.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for sharing. I'll want to come back to this lens! ;-)

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 5 years ago from Texas

      The majority of articles I have written so far are personal stories. I see how I could eventually put them all together for a memoir. I love the way you bring the reader in with your words. It makes me want to know more about your trip!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved this lens, and am dying to know more about Guam!!! I completely understand why your mom laughed at the Gilligan's island comment!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 6 years ago from Washington KS

      Loved the lens. Very intriguing and made me want to know more about you, which is one indication of a well-written memoir.

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

      I do a lot of writing in Swedish. The magazines publish my stories =)

    • fantasticallyfi profile image

      fantasticallyfi 6 years ago

      Wonderfully engaging and personal. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      This is a terrific lens -- loved your story about how you found out you were moving to Guam -- and your reaction! What a shock that would be at 14! :) Congrats on well deserved honors you have achieved with this lens! Happy Valentine's Day!

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      Before the Internet when you went to places like Guam you were totally cut off - for good and for bad. I'd like to write one day about my arrival alone in foreign a country the shock and the excitement.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Congratulations on being featured by the SquidTeam's Best of Standout RocketMoms

    • JulietJohnson profile image

      JulietJohnson 6 years ago

      Really super lens - great story telling and a well-deserved purple star. My father was a memorialist, sitting on a tiny island off the West Coast of Scotland. He had a good time turning people's memories into an epic story of their life. AND, he found a source for a leather bound version of same that cost on $7,500 for 10 copies... back in 1992. Can you imagine?! LOL

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 6 years ago

      Great lens, congrats on the purple star!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Congratulations on your Purple Star!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @Sylvestermouse: You are so sweet and it is much appreciated! (I knew you'd like the sparkles, LOL)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Congratulations, my sweet friend, on that little, well deserved purple star! Love that sparkly one you added too. LOL

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks Kimberly! I know what you mean. I don't mind moving, under most circumstances either!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is funny. I was a Coast Guard brat and I remember wanting to just stay in one place for more than two years. Now I can't wait for an opportunity to move again!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      You seem to be an expert. Well written. Thanks for the ideas.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      very nicely done

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @BarbRad: Ah, Barb! Thank you for your interest! I am working on a book. Wish I had more time!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @JoyfulPamela2: Thank YOU for the angel blessing! Much appreciated!!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @GiftsBonanza: Am working on it! Thanks for reading!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @JanieceTobey: Thank you Janiece! Glad you enjoyed it!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Awwww, that means a lot to me! Thank you.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @Ann Hinds: Thank you for your kind words! I agree, Virginia is great!!!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      You'd better write that book soon, because I want to know about that time in Guam.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Thanks for sharing your interesting story and for the writing tips! *SquidAngel Blessed* =D

    • profile image

      GiftsBonanza 6 years ago

      Certainly sounds exciting - would love to hear more!

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 6 years ago

      Wow.... I really enjoyed reading your story! Very well written!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You are a very gifted writer, I would buy your book :)

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      Between you and Virginia, I could write memoirs all day long. Great story, I would love to hear more about your life on Guam.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @Sylvestermouse: Thank you Cynthia! You are so right! Slices, portions, pieces that you want to share is what you share -- nothing more! Good luck!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: How sweet you are Virginia! I use yours for my memoir prompts sometimes too! We think alike!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      I really appreciate your examples. These will be good for my memoir writing group.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      This is fabulous! I need to read this lens before I write every new lens. It "refreshes" me and my reason for writing. It reminds me that it really is ok to write about me and my life and that I can tell any "section" of it that I want to and omit any section that I need to in order to not hurt others.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Perfect way to start memoir - illustrated in this example.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      I like the way you approach your writing. It's very fresh. Keep it up.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @capriliz lm: Still, today, my mom can't figure out how I came up with Gilligan's Island as a guess. I blew her away. Of course, the ironic part was that I was KIDDING and she wasn't! LOL

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 6 years ago

      Mandee, I always enjoy reading your pages. I love the story you just wrote. I keep thinking about your Gilligan's Island and Guam.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @LisaAuch1: Lisa, you are so kind! I really appreciate it. I will say "right back attcha"!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @hayleylou lm: Thank you Hayley. I always do a double take when I see your name. My daughter's name is the same though spelled differently: Haley Louise!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @Adriana Daniela: Thank you!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @tssfacts: My published book is a ways a way yet but I will make sure you get a copy! LOL

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      @SandyMertens: Thanks Sandy! You crack me up!

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      Always a pleasure reading your pages! you write with such ease and beautiful style, it makes readingso easy.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      Really enjoyed your story

    • Adriana Daniela profile image

      Adriana 6 years ago from New Market

      I'd love to, some day, be able to write my life's story. Great lens!

    • profile image

      tssfacts 6 years ago

      Great job of putting your thoughts on paper er I mean lens. Can't wait to read your published book. Your tip-bits are great so I know a book would be too.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Like your memoir lens and the little stories. Often I have thought about this, but I would have to Hollywood it up a bit.