By following the five steps, you can get unstuck and get your story told.
How to write memoir with Marion Roach Smith, author and teacher
By following the five steps, you can get unstuck and get your story told.
IF YOU CONTACT ME about my memoir coaching and writing instruction, and if you tell me the memoir topics you want to braid together in one book include love of food, the struggle to come out and be gay, and how to live with being bipolar, don’t be surprised by my reaction. I will say something like, “Sure,” “You bet,” or “No problem.” What I won’t say is that it can’t be done, because I happen to know that it can. In fact, not only can it be done, but it can be done beautifully, heroically and with terrific writing. How do I know? Because I had the great good fortune to work with David Leite on his just-published book, Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression, and that’s just what he did. [Continue reading]
THE BEST WAY TO GET A BOOK DEAL is to write something spectacular, publish it in a solid publication and attract a lot of attention. No, that is not written sarcastically or flippantly. It’s just good, solid advice, as well as advice that has not … [Continue reading]
WHAT IS A MEMOIR? I think of memoir as three-legged stool, designed specifically to hold up your story. In other words, it has requirements – four, to be precise: your story and three others – and learning them will allow you to write this wondrous … [Continue reading]
WHAT DOES A WRITER DO? Well, someone named Dave Johnson keeps sending me emails telling me about employers in my area who are looking for people like me, and it got me thinking about what I do, particularly after the most recent job offerings … [Continue reading]
LEARNING HOW TO WRITE MEMOIR begins with knowing what to read. And specifically, this means reading really well, since reading bad memoir won't help you a bit. But I also strongly suggest reading fiction and interviews, as well as reviews, especially … [Continue reading]
HOW TO WRITE ABOUT YOUR KIDS is a classic dilemma for many memoir writers. It’s one of the questions I get asked all the time in my classes and personal memoir coaching. And since I have a kid, and I’ve written about her, I really do get how tricky … [Continue reading]
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June, 1 2017
First of the Month
It’s the first of the month, a great day to turn over a new leaf and get to writing some memoir. What’s my advice? Be hospitable.
June, 6 2017
D-Day, 1944. What is a gnarlier topic than patriotism? Try writing a piece that uses one of your experiences in which patriotism is kind of off to the side, but tell it/publish it/read it on one of the big days like this, D-Day. Memoir is not about you, but is about something bigger. You are the picture in the frame. Want to see what I mean? Read this, a piece I read on NPR’s All Things Considered, that is about patriotism, but takes place on one of the funnier days in my life.
June, 7 2017
World’s Oldest Public Museum Opens
On this day in 1753, the British Parliament passed an act establishing the British Museum, making it the world’s oldest public national museum. This all began when King George II gave his royal assent to an Act of Parliament to accept the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, a London-based physician, following his death. In his will, Sloane had offered the British nation the collection he built over his lifetime. That collection housed 71,000 objects, mostly plant and animal specimens. In return, he asked a sum of £20,000 for his heirs (which today would be more than £2,000,000). The museum opened to the public on January 15th, 1759 at Bloomsbury. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today. Have a British Museum story? Here’s your news peg.
June, 8 2017
And You Think You’ve Got Stinky Flowers
On this day in 1937 a specimen of the world’s largest flower first bloomed in the U.S. at the NY Botanical Garden. The giant Sumatran Titan Arum, measured 8½-ft high and 4-ft diam, and while that may sound good, keep in mind that this specimen is known as “the corpse flower,” for its putrid smell when in bloom. The odor is released in pulses, attracting carrion beetles and other pollinators in the plant’s native Sumatra. It was there that an Italian botanist saw it in 1878. He collected seeds and sent them back home where they were grown; plants were sent to Kew Gardens in England in 1879. The US specimen flowered all those years later, and stunk up the place something fierce.
June, 9 2017
Birthday of the Father of American Horitculture
There is a basketball hall of fame, and boxing, so why not for horticulturalists? Located at saveseeds (dot) org, you can visit it which is where I found today’s birthday person, Peter Henderson, born today in 1822. Called “the father of horticulture and ornamental gardening” in the United States, and for good reason, he was the author of the first book written on market gardening in the United States, selling 100,000 copies and in 1871 established a seed company called Peter Henderson & Company, developing vegetables and flowers suited to American conditions. Using five-color lithographs in his catalogue, he revolutionized the way we shop for our gardens. He also personally answered every letter he received and in the course of 45 years in business, sent out 175,000 letters, two-thirds of written by his own hand. Got a garden tale? Here’s your news peg.
June, 10 2017
Got Ants? Read Up
On this day in 1929 one of the world’s great authorities on ants was born. That’s right: ants. His name, Edward Osborne Wilson, known as E. O. Wilson, he has pondered the question of any numbers and he has a theory. An American biologist who has spent his life conducting studies of the ecology and evolution of the ant, traveling the world, he has discovered several new species. Currently there are practically 9,000 species of ant. Wilson predicts that someday there will be 20,000 and that within these species there are over a million billion individuals.
June, 11 2017
All Hail the King of the Sea
On this day in 1910 was the birth of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a man who dedicated his his life to preserving the world’s oceans. Seeking a way to explore underwater longer and more freely, he developed, with engineer Emile Gagnan, the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, or scuba, in 1943, opening the world under the sea to human beings. Then, taking to the seas about the Calypso, long before most of us yet knew about the effects of pollution, over-exploitation of resources and coastal development, he drew our attention to the potentially disastrous environmental consequences of human negligence, doing so through more than 115 television specials and 50 books, opening up the oceans to millions of households.
June, 15 2017
It’s the time of year for weddings, which may mean that your anniversary is coming up. Every year on mine, I write something about combining my family’s New York City food traditions with those of my husband, a South Dakotan. Twenty-three years in, there is still more to tell, though this may be my all-time favorite.
Arkansas Becomes the 25th State
On this day in 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state. Have an Arkansas story? Here’s your news peg.
June, 19 2017
All Hail the Lady of the Harbor!
It was on this day in 1885 that the Statue of Liberty arrived at its permanent home in New York’s harbor. A gift of friendship from the people of France, the 151-foot-tall statue of liberty, created to commemorate the centennial of America’s independence, changed the status of the island whose history was not always that of a national monument. Quick, what’s the name of the island she sits on? Now Liberty Island, formerly known as Bedloe’s Island, after Isaac Bedloe, who had bought it in the 17th century. The Mohegan Indians called the little island “Minnissais, meaning Lesser Island. It has been known as “Great Oyster,” “Love Island,” “Bedloo’s Island,” “Kennedy’s Island,” “Corporation Island,” and “Bedloe’s.” Whatever you want to call it, all Americans call it home to our greatest monument to liberty.
June, 20 2017
West Virginia Becomes the 35th State
On this day in Naturalist history 1863, West Virginia becomes 35th state. Traveling there? Live there? Here’s your news peg.