Having trouble fending off your memoir doubts? Worried your memoir is “navel-gazing”? 

In the best possible ways memoir is not just about you.

When I first began drafting what would become my memoir When She Comes Back one of my biggest hurdles was thinking of my story as worth telling or necessary. The world is often such a heartbreaking place that contemplating our own distress can feel overwhelming and less crucial by comparison. Back before I embarked on this memoir life I often asked myself why I should add my voice to the myriad books already written. But these many years later I have answers I didn’t then. Here are a few I want to share with you.

Memoir for empathy

Engaging our emotional curiosity while writing memoir even without the promise of concrete answers or closure keeps us open and searching and alive. The more emotional room we make to understand the behavior of others as well as our own, the more emotional room we have available to us. There’s no limit to the compassion in the world and memoir has an expansive effect. When we read and write memoir we tap into curiosity and our capacity for empathy grows.

Memoir for survival

Memoirists have lived through illness, the death of a loved one, adverse childhood experiences, the failure of a marriage, the discovery of the most dangerous family secrets, the loss of homeland. Then they do the hard work of reckoning on the page for the reader, excavating their patterns and relationships to better understand what these events have meant and how they have forever transformed the memoirist. When we read and write memoir we uncover past injuries, discover clues in our behavior, and learn more about what matters to us. Facing the most difficult truths about ourselves we become stronger; we can begin to heal. To read and write memoir is to bear witness to how we survive.

Memoir for readers

Adult nonfiction has been the most popular book category based on unit sales for many years and within that category on Amazon the most popular genre is currently Memoir & Autobiography.  Readers care about people and are interested in their narratives whether they are famous or not. They want to read real stories by writers they can relate to. When readers encounter memoir they see that they are not alone, might be inspired try to better understand the loved ones with whom they have conflict, find the courage they need to change their lives. Writing memoir is not only for the memoirist, it is a generous, brave act.

This is the first of many Memoir Moments that I’ll be sending you. Feel free to share Memoir Moments with writers and readers who you think would appreciate memoir inspiration and craft advice and if someone sent this to you, you can subscribe here and get future installments directly to your inbox.

Upcoming event!

I’m excited for this upcoming book event at Third Place Books in Seattle, at Seward Park on 2/27/24 at 7:00! I’ll be in conversation with Suzette Mullen whose new book is The Only Way Through is Out, a coming-out and coming-of-age story, as well as a call to action for every person who is longing to live authentically but is afraid of the cost.

The event is free and here is more information:

On Let’s Talk Memoir

-Kelly McMasters joined me to talk about her memoir-in-essays The Leaving Season, writing about our children, and the elusiveness of “home”. Listen here.

-Eileen Vorbach Collins is on the show this week for a conversation about putting child loss into words, reflection, change and growth in memoir, and when she knew her book Love in the Archives was ready. Listen here.

Coming up!

-Rosa Lowinger joins me for a conversation about her new memoir about growing up in Cuba, her career in art restoration, and her new memoir Dwell Time.

-Jane Wong joins me for a conversation about her new bracing and poetic memoir Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City.

Recent appearance

I had the chance to talk with Lisa Cooper Ellison on her podcast Writing Your Resilience about abandonment in childhood, generosity and context in our work, publishing with small presses, and the nature of reconciliation. Lisa is warm and insightful and you can listen to our conversation here.

I’ve got lots more fun stuff coming up including a Memoir-Ask-Me-Anything announcement in March. Stay tuned!

Thank you for being here.