Stepping Out in Memoir


Let’s face it—everyone has at least one memoir in them. In fact, each of us has countless large and small memoirs lurking in the back of our brains. The question is—how are you using them?

Defining Your Memoir

The old adage of “no man is an island” is especially relevant today. Every event in our lives constitutes a memoir. It’s true. A memoir is nothing more than an anecdote from your personal life that you relay to someone else.

stock-002-003Picture it: you’re sitting in a café with your friends, regaling them with the story of how you got home from the concert the night before. You use all the details: the series of crises that led up to you not having a ride home; the emotions that coursed through your mind and body while you trudged through the parking lot, looking for someone you knew to give you a lift; the creep that propositioned you along the way and then followed you. All of it comes pouring out while you watch the listeners’ reactions, interpret them, and feed more details to your audience.

The drama, suspense, and pacing of the storyteller has you in a vise grip. You’ve just composed your memoir of that one full memory and displayed it for the world.

Using Your Story

In the current publishing world, personal stories of all types are big business. Have you lost a ton of weight? Write about it and sell the story to a national health magazine. stock-002-011Did you suffer a life-altering crisis? That event, taken from all its angles, is good for several articles/memoirs for publication. What about the love of your life and its enduring quality and satisfaction?

What we do relates to other people’s lives—simply because they, too, have stories. And perhaps, because that’s true, memoir is making a comeback with a vengeance. And, of course, Facebook encourages it, as well.

Technology and Memoir

The advent of the ether zone (i.e. the internet and all it entails) has helped bring about a tsunami of venues that take memoir pieces, for both print and digital viewing. Every niche market has its own personal story needs. And these markets are hungry for memoir.

As of this writing I found possibilities tumbling over themselves to see new submissions of anecdotal pieces. My tip: equate memoir with creative non-fiction. Almost all venues I found who sought creative non-fiction take memoir.

The following are just some of the markets hot on the trail of writers’ lives.

  1. On the Poets & Writers Magazine website, I did a market search of Literary and Journal markets. When I filtered for Creative Nonfiction: Autobiographical/Memoir, I got a list of 159 proven magazine markets. If a writer can’t find an acceptable listing there, she/he hasn’t lived on this world.
  1. The Publishing Syndicate is a slightly different animal. The Syndicate works through established large presses to create memoir anthologies for mainstream publishing. They are always on the lookout for material for a number of subjects. Right now they have slots to fill in five separate anthologies. Their goal is to help writers publish and establish themselves. They publish the “Not Your Mother’s Book” series. The Syndicate also promotes memoir books written by their writer members. A little help with publicity never hurts anyone.
  1. Dream of Things is a publisher of anthologies on a wide range of subjects. Today they have story needs for six anthologies. Dream of Things also publishes individual author’s memoirs and publicizes them. Again, we have promotional help.
  1. The Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology series is recognizable around the globe. At present they have six books for which they are seeking submissions. Their guidelines are straightforward and workable.

‘But I don’t know how to write memoir…’

stock-002-007Don’t panic! Memoir is not so different than any other story. Put butt in chair. Bring up blank document. Hands on keys. Close eyes and picture yourself sitting with friends or family. Now tell them a story about something that happened to you on a specific subject (see any journal guidelines,) and type. Don’t open eyes until the story is complete. Now, revise and edit. You have a memoir piece.

There is also an educational resource that more and more people are discovering—the National Association of Memoir Writers. They have writing classes, seminars, regular free roundtable discussions, etc., all on memoir. They also promote members’ work in a big way. Members benefit from the expertise of those at the top, who are associated with publishing presses. One of those benefits is the privilege of rummaging through the education archive as often and for as long as the member desires. Not bad for a few bucks a year.

Of course, other venues exist that aren’t listed here, as well as other resources. I’ve listed those sources I use, since I know them best.

If you’ve never tried telling stories from your own life, why not take a stab at it now? You have nothing to lose, but you have the possibility to discover a new genre that excites and satisfies you. This could be what you’ve been looking for.

Whatever you choose, find something that you love to write about or which gives you peace. Happy writing.



2 comments for “Stepping Out in Memoir

  1. May 19, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Your suggestions have given me a wealth of ideas. Previously, I’d been told that memoir has to be about some kind of fantastic angle to the story, something unheard of, etc. The anthologies and magazine articles look like they lend themselves to the “ordinary” people. Thanks for sharing your resources.

  2. May 19, 2014 at 11:22 am

    You’re so very welcome, Alvarado. I’m glad that this has opened up possibilities for you. For a long time I thought my life story was too ordinary to interest anyone. Then, on day I took a real look at it from an “It’s a Wonderful Life” perspective. Everyone has experiences/life knowledge that can benefit others, if only by reminding them that they’re not alone. It seems a case of our seldom seeing that our grass is as green as that on the other side of the fence. Happy writing.

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