Tuesday, April 16, 2019


First Memoir Book birth to marriage
In 2004 I belonged to a memoir writing group at the C.H.Booth Library in Newtown, CT. The group was comprised of about six women. Each had a different story to tell; each had their own particular style and voice. Without saying we understood what was shared stayed in that room. 

It is now fifteen years later and I've successfully convinced the Central Rappahannock Regional Library to start a memoir writing group. The library has a growing Inklings Writing Group, Fiction Critique Group, Poetry Writing Group and Science Fiction Writing Group. Each of those has between four and ten participants. When the Memoir Group did a soft launch to a limited audience, seventeen people immediately signed up. I missed the first session held in March, but attended the second one in April. Ten women attended and it was the most inspiring meeting. The librarian in charge did an amazing job of laying down the ground rules. Besides the "stays in the room" rule, she explained the critique as the "sandwich effect." First a positive comment, then suggestions/questions on how the piece could be improved or clarified, and finish with another positive comment, i.e. "Love your piece. Can't wait to hear more."

I've found that a level of trust has to be gained before I will share my work. With this group I jumped right in. I felt secure as did others as they shared some of their most emotional events. I left the session energized, so much so that I purchased a colorful 3-ring binder, section dividers, developed a draft table of contents of writing prompt ideas, chose a title and photo for the front of my binder. 

I pulled out my notes from November 2004 and will share them at the next session. Some of those memoir writing notes are: Writing journal for ideas, images, dreams. Make a timeline of your life, starting at birth to present day. Note major events. What are you passionate about? What event happened in your life that "changed everything." Think of themes-jobs, houses you lived in, sibling relationships. 

Consider the scenes that make up your life. This can be in the form of a table of contents as I have done, or an outline that you can drill down on as memories come flooding back. 

I'm capturing memories of fifty years ago, so my first draft was just that. It took time for more memories to come back that provided more detail for my piece. I revised my memoir piece several times and it will probably be revised even more as details come to mind. I next have to see if I've saved photos/postcards from our life in Chicago and our California trip.