What is a memoir?

How to be a memoir Rockstar — the ultimate memoir writer’s toolkit

what is a memoir?

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“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
— Dr. Seuss

“Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, “We *told* you not to tell.” But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”
— Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

Perhaps you thought it would be easy…writing your life’s story, or just one small part…

After all, you know all the characters so well. Hey, you even get to be the protagonist!

You don’t even need to dream up a plot; you have already lived the vivid details. You just need to write it all down, right?

But when you start writing your memoir, you find it is, well, hard. REALLY hard.

You wrestle with:

What is a memoir, exactly?

Which point of view to use?

Do I start in the past or present?

Why does my narrator sound: snarky | whiny | apathetic?

How do I keep from hurting the ones I love?

How do I remember what was really said?

So many unanswered questions!

Sorry, I don’t have all the answers but I have rounded up this ultimate list* of those who do.

For the most part, this list consists of what is a memoir and “how to” write a memoir, not actual memoirs.

Please comment below if you see one that I have missed! And, please comment on your favorite memoir writing book on the list!

*Thanks to Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Selig for their list contributions.

“Harry Bernstein was a total failure when he wrote his bestselling memoir, The Invisible Wall. His prior forty (forty!) novels had been rejected by publishers. When his memoir came out, he was ninety-three years old. A quote from him: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book, God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”
— James Altucher (Choose Yourself)

what is a memoir?

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The ultimate what is a memoir “how to” list:

If reading a few from this list doesn’t help you learn what is a memoir, or how to start, well, I’m guessing you need to turn to fiction!

Speaking of fiction, don’t miss out on our Signed Outlander Easton Press giveaway!