Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

A Memoir Boosts Your Personal Brand—Even When You’re Already Famous

Molly Shannon's memoir

So many of the famous people who have published well-written memoirs in the past five or ten years have gotten a boost not only in their bank accounts but in their “personal brand.” They become respected in a new way. One great example is actor Jennette McCurdy, who was only marginally well-known before her memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, blew up the best-seller charts.

Memoirs Create Closeness

It’s not just that these celebrities are adding an impressive credential—book author—to their résumés. When a celebrity’s book is compelling and sells well, it’s typically because the content is raw, honest, and revealing. The writing tends to be courageous, showing the author’s vulnerability and sharing failures and other low points. This all helps the person’s star rise, because readers/fans feel closer to them.

You wouldn’t think someone as globally famous as Bruce Springsteen would gain much from writing a memoir, but his critically acclaimed book opened him up in a way that even his most personal lyrics never did. An artist down a rung or two on the fame ladder like Dave Grohl, whose memoir has also received high praise, expands people’s perceptions of him.

The latest memoir author to fall into that mid-level of celebrity is Molly Shannon, whose very recent memoir, Hello Molly!,  tells of Shannon’s lifelong effects of trauma from losing her mother, sister and cousin in a car accident when she was a little girl. She also chronicles her rise to fame and dishes about lots of “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) cast members, but it’s that early episode that draws you in and makes you feel that you really know her. Book sales may very well have helped her to snag a hosting spot on this past weekend’s SNL, which in turn got her a visit to “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” One of the things Fallon pointed out was that Shannon’s book had just been made available in paperback.

You’ll Shine Up Your Personal Brand

Remember all of this as you write your own memoir. You’ll be a published author, so that’s an accomplishment in itself. But you’ll also establish a type of intimacy with every reader in a way that you cannot otherwise achieve—even in person. There’s just something about a candid, forthcoming memoir that goes deep into the heart. Write your memoir, and your personal brand will shine.

Yes, It’s Still a Memoir When It Includes Extensive Info About Other People in Your Life

Sam Neill memoir

Part of the buzz around actor Sam Neill’s new memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This?, comes from the information Neill shares about his friend Robin Williams. While Sam Neill is a pretty well-known celebrity, he enjoys nowhere near the devotion and popularity that Williams continues to have nearly a decade after his death.

Drop Names to Sell Books

Name-dropping is a good way to get your memoir noticed. Celebrities hang out together and are expected to share details they glean from their personal relationships with people who may be even more famous than they are. In Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe divulges liberally about his co-stars, including Tom Cruise, from the movie “The Outsiders,” as well as everyone else he knows. It’s just a normal part of an actor’s memoir to dish about fellow celebrities.

You may not know any celebrities, but you may finding yourself focusing whole chapters of your memoir on other people. Perhaps you want to use your memoir to pay tribute to—or expose the misdeeds of—your parents. Or if you were abused by a spouse, you might write so much about the spouse that it’s practically a separate biography within your autobiography.

Still Your Memoir

Does this change the nature of what you’re writing? Are you still the author of a memoir, or is it some more general type of nonfiction book?

When you’re telling your story from your point of view, it’s a memoir. Even if you devote quite a bit of ink to someone else’s story, unless that person is truly the focus of the book, it’s still your memoir. One of the most famous books about two people is Just Kids by Patti Smith. You could argue that Just Kids is as much about the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as it is about Patti Smith, but the book still is considered to be Smith’s memoir.

So go ahead and write all you want about other people who’ve had an impact on your life. That won’t change the way the book is perceived or marketed if you want to sell it. This will be your memoir, about you and the people who played a role in your life.

What Rappers Fat Joe and Kid Cudi Tell Us About Memoir

Fat Joe and Kid Cudi

Yesterday, Kid Cudi announced that he’s several chapters into writing his memoir and hopes to publish it next year. The musician, actor and producer, who started as a popular rapper, promises to reveal stories that are not known to his fans or the public in general. Certainly a celebrity memoir should do that. But there’s more to his message than a bit of sensationalism or gossip.

Similarly, rapper Fat Joe released The Book of José last fall to chronicle the path he took from a tough childhood to money and fame. What can these new memoir authors teach us?

1. People Write Memoirs to Inspire

Like many of you non-famous memoir writers, Kid Cudi wants his memoir to inspire people. He tweeted:

“Anybody that has a dream or wants to do anything, especially those kids in those small towns somewhere in the United States or anywhere outside the world, in another country, that just wants to do something great with their lives. This book is gonna give you that push. This book is definitely gonna continue the same formula I started with the music and hopefully it’ll be something you can keep with you and something that can guide you and give you some inspiration and some hope.”

Fat Joe, too, includes inside info on his celebrity friends, but the book is more significant in speaking directly to the next generation to say that anything is possible when you have talent and dream big.

2. There’s No Wrong Time to Write Your Memoir

Fat Joe is 52, and Kid Cudi is 39. You might call their books their life so far. They are not finished with life or career, but the tale of how they became successful won’t change, so why not write it now?

When you have a story arch in your life, that’s fodder for a memoir. One person with only one life can write multiple memoirs, each focused on a different era of that life.

3. Other Creativity Can Accompany, But Not Replace, Memoir

Kid Cudi and Fat Joe have been rappers for a long time. Haven’t they said in song all they want to say? Kid Cudi has acted in scores of TV shows and movies, and Fat Joe created a new standup comedy routine to supplement his book. But memoir stands alone, apart from the other creative projects, because memoir is unique. It’s a book about the author by the author in the author’s voice.

You can read it on screen or hold the book in your hand. You can give it as a gift. There’s nothing like seeing your own truth on the page in black and white, available for all time.

4. The Memoir Genre Is as Hot as Ever

With all that these guys have going on, you wouldn’t think they would bother putting out a traditional vehicle like a memoir. As you authors know, it takes a lot of time and trouble to write a memoir. Even if they have a co-writer, they have to give it their attention.

But memoir—celebrity or otherwise—continues to be a popular nonfiction genre. While memoir has given Fat Joe and Kid Cudi a respected way to express themselves, they’ve given back to the memoir genre their personal stamp of approval. Their fans get to experience memoir by learning more about someone they admire. They get to have hope, because these authors give them that hope.

No wonder even in this time of texting, tweeting, TikTok and general quick fixes, a memoir—an actual book—still connects with both writers and readers.

Memoir or Biography, Sometimes Extensive Research Is Necessary

Book "The Suitcase"

Often memoir authors look back at their lives only to find a lot of missing pieces. Memory takes us only so far, especially in a long life. Write My Memoirs advises everyone to keep a diary—you never know when you might decide to write your life story, and a diary makes the process not only much easier but also more accurate.

With no diary to rely upon, you may end up doing research. It’s common for memoir authors to visit cities where they once lived, request public records involving themselves and their family, and pore over newspaper clippings offering facts and figures pertinent to the story.

Biography Writing

When you author a biography, which Write My Memoirs is also happy to help you craft and publish, you don’t even have your own memories to source. Maybe the person about whom you’re writing is alive and, even if that’s not the case, you may find people who knew the person and are willing to speak with you. Or you could be writing about someone whose life span is too long ago for that. In either case, you’ll probably need to pursue independent research and original reporting in order to write a biography.

A friend of Write My Memoirs told us about her cousin, Debbie Taussig-Boehner, who found out firsthand how much research it takes to flesh out a story. In her case, it was more of a mystery, even though it was about her own father, Vladimir George Taussig. It started with a simple suitcase Taussig-Boehner and her sister took possession of when Taussig died. For decades that followed, neither of the sisters opened the suitcase. Finally, looking for something to do in her early retirement, Taussig-Boehner decided to crack open the suitcase and have a look inside. From that moment on, her retirement would not be boring.

Fleshing Out a Mystery

Emptying the deteriorating suitcase, Taussig-Boehner discovered letters, pictures and artifacts. There were matchbooks from restaurants and government reports. Soon a story emerged. Her father had grown up in what was then Czechoslovakia and spent time in England and China before settling in the United States. He led an exciting life filled with adventures and political intrigue, plus he was a bit of a playboy.

For Taussig-Boehner, it became an irresistible call to flesh out the entire saga. Following the breadcrumbs led her to New York, Montreal, Prague and Shanghai. She met people who could fill in some blanks and identify people in photos. After two years of research, Taussig-Boehner brought in a young writer, Lauren Housman, to help her put together the narrative. By then she had the information organized and knew she had a lively tale. The co-authors then published their book, The Suitcase: The Life and Times of Captain X.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much information you still have to gather, know that you’re not alone. Many authors spend months or years ferreting out the facts. Everyone says the writing is the hard part, but it’s only one of the components. Good research produces true-life, compelling stories. Every life may not be as fascinating as Taussig’s, but to family and friends it will be just as interesting when it’s accurate and rich in detail.

Why People Start Writing Their Memoir at Age 70

Older man writing on a computer.

There’s no correct time to write your memoir. You can be young and still have lived through enough trauma or unusual circumstances to write a compelling tale. Both Tara Westover and Jennette McCurdy were still in their 20s when their respective memoirs, Educated and I’m Glad My Mom Died, hit the best-seller charts.

But for most of us, it takes years before we sit down and write about our lives even if the episode we write about happened decades earlier. A genealogist friend of mine told me that a lot of people who contact her for help in tracing their ancestral line are right around that magic 70-year mark. Similarly, age 70 seems to be a common point for non-celebrities to look back and write down the significant events of their lives.

Multiple Reasons for 70-year-olds

From what we hear at Write My Memoirs, this seems to have multiple reasons. If you’re 70 and thinking about writing your memoir it might be because:

  • You finally have time. By age 70, you’re most likely either retired or working part-time. Even if you’re not exactly desperate for something to do, you probably can budget in writing hours.
  • You have grandchildren. Not every 70-year-old is a grandparent, of course, but those who are frequently want to write down the facts of their lives so that the next generations have the information.
  • You feel mortal. This is when we all start thinking about how much time is left to accomplish our goals. If you don’t write your memoir now, when will you do it? Unfortunately, time is running out for you to be able to count on good mental and physical health.
  • You’ve had a lot of experiences. Maybe at 40 you thought that your life was ordinary and not worth chronicling. You may not have ever kept a diary. Now that you’re older, though, you’ve lived more and can see that everyone’s life is unique. You did have some unusual experiences after all—maybe recently.
  • You’re feeling nostalgic. Studies show that older people like walking back through their lives. You may enjoy recalling your childhood, thinking about your teen years, reliving your romances and feeling proud of your professional achievements. You’re nostalgic for your own life. Writing about it becomes pleasurable.
  • You want to share your opinions. Perhaps your memoir is less about your life and more about how your experiences inform your politics, child-rearing advice or other opinions.
  • You’ve always wanted to author a book. If you never came up with a plot for a novel or did the research for a nonfiction, informational book, you still can write your memoir. It’s the one topic you know very well with little research, and you don’t need imagination to invent a plot, because it all happened to you.

You certainly don’t have to wait until you’re 70 to begin writing your memoir. But if you’re approaching that age or beyond it, now is a great time to get that book into motion.

Writing a Memoir with a Co-author

Robin Roberts interviewing Maya Moore Irons and Jonathan Irons

On “Good Morning America” recently, Robin Roberts interviewed Maya Moore Irons and Jonathan Irons, co-authors of a new memoir, Love and Justice: A Story of Triumph on Two Courts. The book chronicles the love story of the married couple along with the path Maya Moore Irons, a celebrated former basketball player in the WNBA, followed in order to achieve justice for Jonathan Irons, who had spent 20 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

I do not know anything about how the book was written. Maybe the two authors contributed equally to the book, or one was the primary author, or maybe they had a ghostwriter. But it got me thinking about how you go about writing a book with someone else. I don’t mean a story about one person who writes the book with the help of a professional writer. I’m talking about a book that has two authors because both are involved in the story they’re telling.

The Writing Process

I’ve edited a lot of writers’ work, and I’ve had editors edit my work. That’s a clear process. Good editors do not change the author’s voice or coopt the writing voice to make it their own. Still, the editor’s voice comes through a little bit. But that’s not the same as co-writing.

You can put both authors’ names on the cover without having them both do the writing. They can decide together on the chapter topics and organization, and then the writing can go any of these ways:

  • The two authors can split the writing work equally, each writing half the chapters in the book. They can each choose the parts they feel most comfortable with, they can alternate chapters, or one can write the first half and the other the second half. There are no rules, but if they want equal contribution, it’s easy to do that.
  • One author can write most of the book while the other writes just a few parts. Both are authors of the book.
  • One author can be the writer while the second author does the research. This can be efficient. While the second person is interviewing people and checking facts, the first one can be writing the portions that are ready.
  • One author can write the first draft and pass it along to the second writer to do more than an edit and really write a whole new draft based on the first draft. This second draft may include additional information gathered while the first draft was being written. The second draft may also reorganize the order of presenting the story. This method will take longer, since the second person doesn’t start until the first person has completed a full draft.
  • The two authors can literally write the book together. They can read passages aloud to each other as they collaborate and agree paragraph by paragraph.

Analysis of Each Method

That last option, truly writing the book as a meeting of the minds, may be possible, but I can’t imagine it going smoothly. I think eventually the writers would give up and have one of them write the book.

Splitting the writing by chapter or in other ways will result in a mix of two voices that will most likely make the book less cohesive than if only one person wrote the whole book.

If one author writes the first draft and the other the second draft, the result will be a uniform book with the second draft author having the dominant voice. If that’s okay with both authors, this method will take a long time but produce a coherent book.

I think the best choice is to have the better writer do the writing, as long as the authors can agree on who is the better writer. The second author can help with gathering the facts and interviewing any sources for background information or quotes. If photos will be included, the second author can gather those as well. The second person also can read the text as it gets written and point out errors, holes and organizational problems.

Advantages of Two Authors

If the story truly belongs to both authors, like the one the Irons couple is telling in their new memoir, both people deserve the title of author. They co-own this story.

When you write with someone else, you’re accountable to each other. You’ve decided together that you want to accomplish this goal. This is such a big benefit, because it motivates you to stick with the project. Then when you have your book, you share the joy with someone else.

If you’re considering writing a memoir with someone else who shares the story, go for it. It will be a powerful bonding experience.

Have 4 to 12 Wednesdays Free? Take an Online Memoir Writing Course!

Sign saying "This is the sign you've been looking for"

The very beginning of your memoir journey can be the most daunting phase. Once you get going, momentum can carry you through. As you get comfortable and confident with writing, you’ll make steady progress on your memoir.

How do you start?

A friend of Write My Memoirs specializes in coaching new writers through the first steps. She’s offering a 3-part online workshop beginning January 18, 2023, with each part made up of four weekly sessions. You can take all three segments or just one or two.

“I help non-writers focus on getting their story down and generating pages,” our friend and colleague Barbara of Writing Life Stories says. “It’s all about leaving your stories as a legacy to your family and friends! Not about learning to be a writer! Or publishing!”

In her coaching, Barbara motivates, teaches and inspires using a process proven to be effective for thousands of people over more than 30 years. While this process results in a full memoir for the participants, it has benefits that go even beyond that.

“Research shows that you will gain increased resilience and self-confidence, more compassion for others and a greater appreciation for life using this method,” Barbara says.

When you finish the workshop and complete your first draft, come back to Write My Memoirs for editing/polishing and publishing! We will finish the project so that you have a wonderful book to distribute to friends and family in 2023. It’s still only January. This is the year you’ll do it!

“You may wish you knew more about your father or grandmother who passed away, but it’s too late,” Barbara says. “Your family loses by not knowing YOUR story. Isn’t it time to write it?”

 

 

5 New Year’s Resolutions That Fulfill Your Dream of Writing a Memoir

A paper with "New Year Resolutions" written on it, and a pen

If you want 2023 to finally be the year that you write your memoir, you can, of course, just list “write my memoir” as one of your New Year’s Resolutions or even your only New Year’s Resolution. But you also can use writing your memoir to fill the slot of any of five different resolutions.

1. Leave my family and friends a record of my life. This is a great resolution to make. How many times do we hear people say they just wish they could ask a parent or grandparent some questions? Your memoir will paint a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up at the time and place of your childhood with your parents and extended family. It’s such a personal, appreciated gift to give the people who love you, especially those who share some of the same family members.

2. Get my perspective down in writing. Sharing your opinions and viewpoints is another great goal to have for the coming year, and memoir is the perfect format. Everyone talks, but who listens? With a compelling memoir, you’ll have a captive audience of readers.

3. Work through difficult or traumatic life episodes. Journaling is becoming more and more recognized as an effective tool for facing a past that may frighten, sadden or anger you. It may even still be hidden from you. Begin your writing as a journal, and then turn it into a memoir. Whether you share it with anyone is your decision, but this can be the year you defeat your demons through memoir writing.

4. Publish my first book. If you want to be an author, what do they say? Write what you know. Your own life is a good place to start as an author. Remember that a memoir typically focuses on a narrower slice of your life than your entire autobiography, so this first book could lead to more books about fascinating you—or once you’ve gotten into the writing habit you can go on to fiction or another nonfiction topic that interests you.

5. Help others. Many memoir authors write about a life challenge that resonates with readers. These authors hope that chronicling how they triumphed over difficulties will give the next person confidence that things can improve. If you fit this description as an author, the sooner you can get your story out there, the better.

With the dawn of 2023 just around the corner, your goals take on a new shine. They’re ready to go, and you have 12 months to fulfill those resolutions. Write your memoir in 2023!

Memoir Coaching as a Holiday Gift

Book with a bow on it

You probably have that one person in your family, or a friend, who has always wanted to write a memoir. The person talks about it and maybe even starts by typing out Chapter 1 on a blank page. But that may be as far as it goes.

If you’re wondering what to give that person for the holidays, consider the gift of memoir coaching. Write My Memoirs will do the hand-holding so you don’t have to! But we do it with structure and expertise. We know how to motivate people out of their “writer’s block” mindset.

A lot of this has to do with confidence that the work will result in an actual book. With a coach, the memoir hopeful is less likely to quit. Our coaches assign writing tasks and advise about deadlines. Being accountable to someone, especially to a professional, keeps the writing flowing. And then our editing and publishing services give the person peace of mind that a quality book will get printed without having to go looking anywhere else.

Please visit our services page to see the packages we offer. Book a package or service, and then fill out our Contact Us form to mention this blog post for a 20% discount on all services booked throughout the rest of 2022 for work to begin in January 2023.

Think about the person in your life who wants to write a memoir. What better gift can you give that loved one than fulfillment of a dream?

5 Things Memoir Authors Can Be Thankful For on Thanksgiving

Two people wearing t-shirts saying "thankful"

You memoir authors work so hard to reach your goal of writing and publishing your life story. Write My Memoirs has identified five things you can be thankful for this Thanksgiving, whether you’re in the U.S. or elsewhere:

1. Your life. It’s pretty obvious, but your memoir is about a life, your life, and life is a gift. Whether you’re writing about a happy life or one full of trauma and grief, you have a life worth writing about.

2. Modern technology. From word processing software to photo editing to digital printing, today’s tech makes memoir creation easier, faster and more accurate than ever. Many of you are old enough to remember Wite-Out, erase tape and other inadequate methods of correcting errors. Cropping photos was done with red wax pencils. It wasn’t that long ago that authors would have to mail paper manuscripts to the printer. Without modern tech tools, you would have to hire professionals to complete every step instead of just sending a completed pdf to a self-publishing company like Write My Memoirs.

3. Supportive people. Most likely, at least one friend or family member is supporting your memoir goals. This support can keep you accountable, motivated and grateful.

4. Freedom to write. If you’re writing your memoir for publication, you have the freedom wherever you’re living to do that. We can’t take that freedom for granted. History shows that it’s fragile. Keep writing! Books contribute to freedom because they give the next generation information and perspective on what your life, living in freedom, has been like.

5. Health. Not all memoir authors would describe themselves as healthy. Perhaps you’re fighting an illness or living with a chronic condition. But you’re healthy enough to think through your life and, one way or another, get your story down.

At Write My Memoirs we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and all the turkey and trimmings you want. We’re thankful for you!

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for other websites’ commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. If you’d like to talk about what’s right for you, schedule a call. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!