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. [Read more…]
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 been the least bit changed by even the newest of new media. It’s also advice I give you openly and freely knowing that I can back it up with some solid examples. [Read more…]
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 form. [Read more…]
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 included graphic artist, an SEO content and marketing manager, administrative assistant in media and housekeeping supervisor. Well, yeah, Dave, I am all of those things. In fact, I need to be, as does anyone who wants to successfully answer the call of how to become a writer, particularly one who works at home (thus, the housekeeping expertise, of course). [Read more…]
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 good critics on television, movies and theater — you know, those people you see at the theater with the reporter’s notebook in their laps. You might wonder why I emphasize the last items – the reviews. Why? Because in any good critique of art will include a discussion of “What is this about?” that dreaded question all editors ask of their writers, all writing coaches ask of their clients, and all writing teachers ask of their students. [Read more…]
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 it can be. I mean, you don’t want to make them crazy, right? I remember well the day my daughter told me I had to stop writing about her. It was hard, but I agreed. Kind of (you notice I’m writing about her now, right?). It may happen to you. You, too may be forbidden, so until then, let’s get writing about our kids, shall we? [Read more…]
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May, 12 2017
Hurricanes Finally Get Named for Men, As Well
It was on this day in 1978 that hurricanes also were named for men. Previously named only for women, this seems like justice, however late. What’s in a name? My sister has something to say about that, named as she is, for a racehorse. I told this story on NPR’s All Things Considered. Have a look.
May, 16 2017
It’s Fiddlehead time. Fiddlehead ferns that is, sold and eaten while they are still rolled up. Fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of a young fern harvested for food consumption. Called a fiddlehead because it resembles the curled ornamentation (called a scroll) on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a fiddle, it is It is also called a crozier since it also resembles the curved staff used by bishops, which has its origins in the shepherd’s crook. Got some food memoir? I lap it up, and write it down here.
May, 23 2017
The Father of Taxomony is Born
On this day in 1707 was the birth of Carl Linneaus, the man who created order out of chaos by creating a classification system for naming and identifying plants. I created one of those, though mine divides by people, asking if you are either a burger or a burrito. Check it out.
May, 27 2017
Rachel Carson’s Birthday
On this day in 1907 was the birth of Rachel Carson, one of the greatest advocates the earth will ever know. The New Yorker magazine took a chance on her, first publishing her in 1951 and in 1962 serializing Silent Spring, in which she took on the subject of the ravaging effects of pesticides. The book is still regarded as the cornerstone of the new environmentalism. She inspires me, and I might write a piece of memoir about reading that book or what she has meant to me. You? What creative inspiration does she provoke in you?
May, 28 2017
The Sierra Club is Founded
On this day in 1892, the Sierra Club was founded, making it America’s oldest environmental organization. Today, the Sierra Club has chapters throughout the United States and Canada that offer opportunities for local involvement, activism and outings. Begun in San Francisco by John Muir, America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, today the Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members across the country and is affiliated with the Sierra Club of Canada. Their mission: To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives. Today they are not only the oldest, but also America’s largest, most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, they are 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet. Check them out at http://www.sierraclub.org/
May, 29 2017
Wisconsin Becomes the 30th State
On this day in 1848, Wisconsin became the thirtieth state admitted to the Union. The “Badger State” was the last state formed in its entirety from the Northwest Territory. Live in Wisconsin? Have you visited and have a story you want to tell? Plan it, write it and send it along to your local public radio station or newspaper.
May, 31 2017
The Man Whose Name Went on a Dish is Born
On this day in 1852 was the birth of someone whose name you learned in 8th grade biology but whose life you may know little about. It’s Richard Julius Petri, German physician and bacteriologist, remembered for his name given to the Petri dish. This is a shallow, cylindrical dish made of plastic or glass with a cover, used for tissue cultures and to hold solid media for culturing and sub-culturing bacteria. In his later days he got a little full of himself, and had put on just enough weight so you’d notice it, and took to dressing in the uniform of chief army doctor whenever the opportunity presented itself. This prompted one observer to remark – and take note if you are dressing to impress – that the sash around his protuberant abdomen reminded him of the equator around the globe.