Writing a memoir involves a lot more than just telling your story. You have to be truthful and information-correctas this is not fiction. And in today’s political correctness world (and a few other things going on ), it involves so much more. I should have at least some idea of this as it took me 18 years to finish The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir. Hey, I was also writing other stuff then, too ,as for part of those 18 years I worked as a freelance journalist, editor and writing workshop instructor. Still do the latter two, but I also have written and published some personal essays and three books (so far) in my Beyond mystery series – the latter published by Blue Denim Press. And am working on the fourth Beyond mystery.
One thing memoir writing involves is research. And not just your family and friends if they are included in your memoir but historical and social history of the time you were writing in. You have to be accurate and you don’t want to mix up dates and information. Also family members may give you some background history, but it helps to do some checking elsewhere. For example, they may remember a family thing happening at such and such a time because it ties in with some event in the news. People’s memories can get foggy, so it is best to verify their time and date. They may be right about the family event date, but not the news event date.
One piece of research I did for The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir relates to a homicide of a 12-year-old girl in Toronto that affected myself and my best friend The Bully when we were 10, so much so that when we saw uniformed police snooping around on the street by our grade school the day after the story appeared in the newspaper, we asked them questions. To get the timeline on that I had to research online just when this murder took place. In my mind I knew my age but to narrow it down to month and even year, and more details of the homicide, required more research.
Another big research area I had to check out was CN railway history in Canada as my late father worked for CNR (as it was then called) as a timekeeper.
The problem with a lot of research is you can suffer from what I call “researchitis”. As a former journalist, that “disease” hit me hard.
That and a few other pertinent areas of memoir writing will be covered in a memoir writing how to that is being presented by my publisher Blue Denim Press and features two of their published memoir authors, Linda Hutzell-Manning and Sharon A. Crawford (me) spilling the beans about some of the behind-the-scenes of writing a memoir. Our memoirs cover completely different personal stories (as memoirs do), so the circumstances and research cover different, as well as some similar, areas (we do overlap for a couple of years so some news events are the same). One situation that comes up is do you use real names in a memoir? To find out, you will need to attend this free memoir writing presentation. Information is below:
You can get to the event here if you are on Facebook. If you can’t make it, it will be recorded and posted in YouTube a few days later. Stay tuned for updates on the YouTube postings.
Sharon A. Crawford