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Memoir Examples | Learn by Example
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!
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".
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
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
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Based on what you read so far, would you want to continue reading?
My Last Sunset on Guam - 15 years old 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!
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?
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
Linda Joy Myers walks you through how writing your story can be a healing experience and allow you to move forward.
Natalie Goldberg's best selling book guides you through prompts to loosen your writing muscles and lots of good writing advice.
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.
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.
Another guiding book for aspiring memoirists. Memoir is not autobiography - learn the difference.
Purple Star Award!
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Learn by Example
My daddy always says you learn best by example. I hope this short memoir example helps you!