Monday, January 11, 2010

Writing Your Memoir: You can never be too young

It is never too early to write your memoir. A memoir, unlike an autobiography, focuses on a particular time period or theme from your life. In this creative non-fiction genre, you have the freedom to focus on the craft of your writing. For example, you can offer the reader a non-linear narrative like Nick Flynn does in Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. Or, you could write a lyric essay as Deborah Tall does in A Family of Strangers.

Anyone can write a memoir. Remember the classic movie A Christmas Story? It was based on a book. Unlike an autobiography that is usually told by a public figure, a memoir is a more intimate story of a life that can be of interest to the reader for a myriad of reasons. For more information on the difference between the two, I recommend that you look at the definition in the trade magazine Writers Digest.

I have decided to write a memoir. Often writers won’t share their current project with you, but within the context of this blog, I wanted to share it. Here, where I focus on how writers write and helpful tips from a writing teacher, I will periodically share issues that arise as I work on this large project. I have written and published creative-nonfiction essays before, but I mostly write poetry. This will be the first long-form project that I’ve tackled.

The project began last month when I started a series of essays on being Italian-American. After watching the MTV show Jersey Shore (can you imagine all of the ideas and new pieces of writing it has prompted?) I’ve been thinking about my identity as an Italian-American. The Italian-American presses and organizations have been railing against how the show stereotypes and discriminates against Italian-Americans. I do not feel as though I’ve ever been discriminated against as an Italian-American. Older relatives have, but not me.

My identity as an Italian-American stregthened later in life, when I studied abroad and mastered the language. I would like to take this idea further in my memoir and focus on this in-between space: American, Italian-American. I hope to learn more about myself in the process and share a universal experience through my particular experience.

I encourage you to take up your pen or start typing notes on your own life. There is the saying that you should write what you know. I would argue that you write to learn. You never know what you’ll uncover. Finally, you’ll have the stories written down for future generations.

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