Memoirs of Summer 2020 Have a Familiar Ring

Cover of Loni Love memoir

What do Jessica Simpson, Madeleine Albright, Ihlan Omar, Colin Jost and a whole lot of people you’ve never heard of have in common? They’re all authors of memoirs published this summer. Coming out of one of the strangest summers we’ve ever experienced, what’s different about these memoirs compared with previous ones?

Nothing.

People write about themselves for many reasons, but by the time you publish a memoir it’s because you think someone may be interested in reading about how you solved a problem, came out the other side of a challenge, managed a particular situation or just plain lived as you. That’s as true in summer 2020 as in any other time.

For celebrity authors, the book will sell well if there’s a big reveal. Hey, Jessica Simpson, what was it like to date John Mayer? André Leon Talley, what’s it like to be a Black, gay fashion editor at Vogue?

No matter how fascinating the life, for a memoir to be a good read it still must be written well. As a comedian, Loni Love has an easy time making I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To entertaining. TV and movie director Barry Sonnenfeld knows how to stage a scene, so it’s not much of a leap to exercise a flair for description while writing Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother. It’s right in journalist Eilene Zimmerman’s wheelhouse to report on her husband’s addiction in Smacked.

Google “memoirs summer 2020,” and you’ll pull up a long list of autobiographical tales that all sound tempting to take a look at. Many of the authors are first-timers, and one summer you may find yourself on one of those lists. Meanwhile, keep writing! And keep reading. These memoirs will inspire you to craft your story as candidly and compellingly as you can.

A Teen’s Halloween Memoir Captures the Holiday’s Images

Write My Memoirs Halloween memoir

A few years ago, an anonymous memoir author recalled the quintessential Halloween and posted those memories on teenink.com. Write My Memoirs is happy to share this, titled “Halloween Memoir,” with our community:

In the middle of a numbing January freeze, or a deafening August heat, there will be an odd lingering sensation scratching for attention that can only be calmed by a world of pure discord. A feeling that is annually relieved by the pure bliss of hearing a tune about a man working in his lab late one night, by the aroma of pumpkin pie and glee in the air, mixed in with the smell of wet leaves from the downpour of excitement, and by the sight of children giddily gliding through the streets in sparkling and vivacious outfits as their eyes light up the engulfing night.

Bubbling cauldrons are at every door, seeping down doorsteps and into the minds of all who wander. There are doorbells that yelp at the sight of children singing happily of treats. Spells are cast in every which way and there is the distinct sound of despicable laughter ringing in the blinding moonlight. With the arrival of a glistening full moon there come werewolves howling for human flesh and yellow eyes that flicker all around you, as they begin to circle you. Frantic screams echo through the night and the wicked laughs of murderous clowns come from all around, for they are joyful in knowing that they are finally freed from the lethargic thought of serenity.

Of course, there are chocolates and candies downing throats at every given second. The delicious flavors battling to please candy-obsessed taste buds. Trapped within each and every wall are ghouls wailing, waiting to be freed. Then, there’s the pumpkin picking. The quest for the most perfectly plump, sensationally orange pumpkin in all of creation. The smell dances around in every nook and cranny, frolicking with jubilance to have finally been released to the world.

All of the smells lure children from the warm homes into the chills of an October eve with an enchanting autumn high. The satisfaction of knowing you have the best jack-o-lantern in town as you set him down to witness the complete and utter chaos that will be turning the corner at any given moment. Pumpkin fragrances ooze through the streets once again and rush and play and swing in every place they can possibly slither into. The squirmy guts and sinewy insides are transformed into brains as zombies come out, hungry, oh so hungry for the meaty, squishy taste they can’t resist.

The heavily anticipated darkness finally twirls the Earth into its beautiful black cloak with a menacing grin. The world is able to escape all the bad and all the good as the true meaning of being alive lightens the minds of all. No longer existing, no longer being, but living. Living for the candy and living for the frenzy that comes only at this special, haunting hour. Bags heavy with what only the heavens could supply, but nothing could stop the unraveling path of fate. Candy fills round tummies for ages, and the aches and hunger seem to last forever.

Arriving home and finally sitting down, but instead greeted with a flabbergasting fall into bed, perpetually falling into a bottomless rabbit hole of despair, for it is now well known that the night is over. Eyes are finally pried open the next morning and the vivid sensations of the prior eve circle around, reminding all that the night must be awaited for an agonizingly long period of time. Every glimpse of candy, the faint sound of a howl, or a terrified shriek, a mocking reminder of the thrill we long for. Now we await patiently, patiently anticipating the reveal of all evil and abnormalities within, as we free the caged monster that has been abstracted by the foolish term that goes by the name of “normalcy,” the caged monster that is crawling within us all.

5 Memoirs Released in Summer 2019

You still have roughly a month before Labor Day to get in some summer reading! Here are five memoirs that already have been released this summer or are coming out later in August:

All That You Leave Behind: A Memoir by Erin Lee Carr. The author, a documentary filmmaker, supplies a raw, honest analysis of her relationship with her father, the late New York Times columnist David Carr, and reflects on his legacy and influence on her own work.

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier. This memoir goes beyond a foodie look at restaurants through the eyes of Esquire food editor Gordinier, traveling with famed chef René Redzepi, and provides insight into life.

One-Way Ticket: Nine Lives on Two Wheels by Jonathan Vaughters. Cycling enthusiasts especially will appreciate this memoir from Vaughters, a leading figure on the controversial playground of world cycling and one-time teammate to Lance Armstrong.

Thank You for My Service by Mat Best, Ross Patterson and Nils Parker. Funny and surprising, this memoir by a five-tour Army Ranger and veterans’ advocate takes the reader inside the military, laughing all the way.

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom. Frequent magazine contributor Broom tells her story as the daughter of a mom who bought a long, narrow “shotgun” house in New Orleans and how race, class and Hurricane Katrina shaped the family.

Get a DNA Test Before You Finish Your Memoir

In the process of writing your memoir, you’re probably researching a bit of your background. You may be checking your parents’ or grandparents’ birthplaces. Maybe you’re asking relatives to fill in a family tree so that you know exactly how you’re related to your cousins. This is what memoir authors have always done. Today you have another tool: the DNA test.

A memoir published earlier this year, Inheritance: A Memoir Of Genealogy, Paternity, And Love, addresses author Dani Shapiro’s discovery that the man who raised her was not her biological father. Shapiro traces her reaction from learning this information through fully processing it and then reflecting on it. She discovered this fact when she used one of the DNA testing companies such as the popular 123andMe or AncestryDNA. Shapiro wasn’t the product of an affair, so she didn’t have to deal with a parent’s infidelity or secret life. She’d known that her parents had sought help for infertility, and she’d been told that her mother had been artificially inseminated with her father’s sperm. It turns out that she came about through donor sperm; eventually Shapiro met her biological father. Her book explores the dynamics of parenthood and identity as she grappled with a fresh view of both.

So think about taking one of these tests. The company will give you the names of people who match you, and you may find out that you share DNA with someone you weren’t expecting to turn up as a relative. Perhaps you could contact the person and expand your knowledge of your biological family either just for your own background information or for inclusion in your story. Like Shapiro, you may decide that the new knowledge provides insight for you and has become an important enough piece of your identity to build the book around it—or maybe just a chapter. As commercials for these companies show, maybe you always thought your family hailed from one country and now you know that there’s a broader mix or you’re from a different part of the world altogether.

Also consider the health information available through these testing services. If you have a genetic condition you weren’t aware of, that could affect your outlook about the future or just become something you’ll want to share in your book. In all likelihood, the test will confirm what you already know, both about your health and your genealogy. But writing a memoir is a big project, and you might as well gather as much information as you can before you put your book out there as the truth about you.

Writing From a Place of Pain

Thank you to today’s guest blogger Julie Ann Toomey, author of the memoir Failure to Thrive: My Journey to Mental Health. Julie Ann tells Write My Memoirs:

This book has been a long time coming. Even in high school I wanted to write a book about my life. I found myself writing down experiences in story form to use

later. I have always wanted to share what I went through so others might understand the struggles a person with mental illness deals with. The push finally came when a business mentor challenged me to do so. I’d been collecting stories for years—I figured it would be easy.

It wasn’t! Through tears, heartache and pain, there was realization, amazement and therapy. It was the hardest, most therapeutic thing I’ve ever done. I discovered so much about myself, but also about others in my life.

Failure to Thrive: My Journey to Mental Health is an emotional roller coaster you won’t want to put down. It’s raw. It’s honest. It’s hopeful. It’s also 100% true and accurate, as far as I could see the truth at the time. Mental illnesses cause the truth to become skewed in ways those not suffering have a hard time understanding. This book shows it. Truth is universal, but perception is everything. This shows the perception of the truth a mental illness forces you to have. Anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder are a real part of life. They need to be understood.

Read this book. Come to understand it. Use it to help others when they need it. Be the change this world needs.

The 12 Days of Memoir

On the first day of Memoir, my memoir coach gave to me….

Here’s a checklist for writing your memoir that just happens to count to 12. It’s from Mary Karr, author of The Art of Memoir.

  1. Paint a physical reality that uses all the senses and exists in the time you’re writing about—a singular, fascinating place peopled with objects and characters we believe in. Should include the speaker’s body or some kinesthetic elements.
  2. Tell a story that gives the reader some idea of your milieu and exploits your talent. We remember in stories, and for a writer, story is where you start.
  3. Package information about your present self or backstory so it has emotional conflict or scene. All the rest of these are interior:
  4. Set emotional stakes—why is the writer passionate about or desperate to deal with the past—the hint of an inner enemy?
  5. Think, figure, wonder, guess. Show yourself weighing what’s true, your fantasies, values, schemes, and failures.
  6. Change times back and forth—early on, establish the “looking back” voice, and the “being in it” voice.
  7. Collude with the reader about your relationship with the truth and memory.
  8. Show not so much how you suffer in long passages, but how you survive. Use humor or an interjecting adult voice to help a reader over the dark places.
  9. Don’t exaggerate. Trust that what you felt deeply is valid.
  10. Watch your blind spots—in revision, if not before, search for reversals. Beware of what you avoid and what you cling to.
  11. (Related to all of the above) Love your characters. Ask yourself what underlay their acts and versions of the past. Sometimes I pray to see people I’m angry at or resentful of as God sees them, which heals both page and heart.
  12. And one big fat caveat: lead with your own talent, which may cause you to ignore all I’ve recommended.

A New Children’s Book Broadens the Write My Memoirs Portfolio

The Publishing Services available at Write My Memoirs were designed to make it easy for Write My Memoirs authors to bring their vision to life in a book. We value our role in making this happen for our authors, and we take a lot of care with the layout of the text and photographs. But we all should get out of our comfort zone now and then, right?

Our latest published book is not a memoir at all, but a story for preschool children. Titled The Case of the Disappearing Kisses, the book is written by Write My Memoirs owner Rosanne Ullman. It’s available for purchase right on the writemymemoirs.com website. Preorders are being accepted now for delivery before Christmas.

If you would like to self-publish a book you have written, please consider using the Publishing Services available with Write My Memoirs. Your book does not have to be a memoir; we publish all reading categories. Our publishing rates are competitive, and we work closely with you to make sure you are happy with the product. Meanwhile, please check out this sweet children’s book! It makes a great gift for any family with small children.

The Case of the Disappearing Kisses

Memoir Watch for June 2018

One way to motivate yourself while you’re writing your own memoir is to read other people’s memoirs. At Write My Memoirs we like to keep you up to date on the upcoming autobiographies that will be available each season. Here are a few of the memoirs coming out in June alone. Follow us on Twitter for more!

Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home
Natalie Goldberg
Publication date: June 5
A potentially fatal form of cancer forces the author, a writing teacher and Zen enthusiast, to take a new approach to living and dying.

My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie
Todd Fisher
Publication date: June 5
Losing his mother, Debbie Reynolds, and sister, Carrie Fisher, just a day apart inspired Todd Fisher to share his family’s personal stories and photos.

Sick: A Memoir
Porochista Khakpour
Publication date: June 5
As Lyme Disease gains broader awareness, author Porochista Khakpour’s account of her own struggle with the condition is timely.

Hunger
Roxane Gay
Publication date: June 19
Prolific writer Roxane Gay looks at body image issues in the aftermath of her weight loss surgery.

Once Upon a Farm
Rory Feek
Publication date: June 19
The surviving half of a country music duo, the author chronicles his life with his young daughter in the two years since the death of his wife and singing partner, Joey Feek.

Room to Dream
David Lynch and Kristine McKenna
Publication date: June 19
Interviews with friends, family members and colleagues give director David Lynch’s memoir a biographical spin as he explores his creative projects and life’s journey.

Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds
Nick Foles
Publication date: June 26
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback reveals how he miraculously came back from a torn ACL to lead his team to Super Bowl glory.

 

Three Mini-Memoirs Model Effective Writing

Three Mini-Memoirs Model Effective Writing
Redwood Writers is a group of California writers who support each other’s writing efforts. The group holds writing contests throughout the year and has posted the top three winners of its 2013 Memoir Contest online. These mini-memoirs are a quick read and can provide inspiration in your own memoir writing:
First Place: The Egg Slicer by Simona Carini. This winning entry provides a model for crafting a chapter about what seems like a very minor aspect of your life. Carini skillfully uses something small—her affection for her mother’s egg slicer—to communicate much about her relationship with her mother, her grief upon her mother’s death and her process of finding her own voice at the feet of a daunting authority figure.
Second Place: Crimes of Passion by Jan Edwards. The second-place finisher gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of the occasional shoplifter. The author is boldly honest, neither apologizing nor analyzing beyond matter-of-factly reporting her own rationalizing. The writing keeps the reader engaged, and we want to know whether the behavior continues past the end of the vignette.
Third Place: Gulf Stream by Elspeth Benton. Sharing some blurry childhood memories, the author combines those seemingly accurate memories with speculation and questions. She’s skilled in turning her lack of information about her mother and grandfather into an interesting story. By exploring the motivations and behavior of people so directly connected to her, she’s implicitly looking inward as well, trying to define who she is in light of where she came from.
All three winners are good at focusing on just a couple of points in time in order to convey the passage of many years. You experience your life’s occurrences both as they happen and later when you remember them.
http://redwoodwriters.org/wp-content/uploads/EggSlicerMemoir2-3.pdf
http://redwoodwriters.org/wp-content/uploads/Crimes-of-Passion-light-edit-21.pdf
http

Redwood Writers is a group of California writers who support each other’s writing efforts. The group holds writing contests throughout the year and has posted online the top three winners of its 2013 Memoir Contest. These mini-memoirs are a quick read and can provide inspiration for your own memoir writing:

First Place: The Egg Slicer by Simona Carini. This winning entry provides a model for crafting a chapter about what seems like a very minor aspect of your life. Carini skillfully uses something small—her affection for her mother’s egg slicer—to communicate much about her relationship with her mother, her grief upon her mother’s death and her process of finding her own voice at the feet of a daunting authority figure.

Second Place: Crimes of Passion by Jan Edwards. The second-place finisher gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of the occasional shoplifter. The author is boldly honest, neither apologizing nor analyzing beyond matter-of-factly reporting her own rationalizing. The writing keeps the reader engaged, and we want to know whether the behavior continues past the end of the vignette.

Third Place: Gulf Stream by Elspeth Benton. Sharing some blurry childhood memories, the author combines those seemingly accurate memories with speculation and questions. She’s skilled in turning her lack of information about her mother and grandfather into an interesting story. By exploring the motivations and behavior of people so directly connected to her, she’s implicitly looking inward as well, trying to define who she is in light of where she came from.

All three winners are good at focusing on just a couple of points in time in order to convey the passage of many years. You experience your life’s occurrences both as they happen and later when you remember them.

Favorite Memoirs: Final Installment

Favorite Memoirs: Final Installment
As this three-part series comes to a close, I think you’ll enjoy the five favorite war memoirs listed by one of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting his comments on each.
1. Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean. Probably the best memoir I’ve ever read. It has three distinct sections. In Part I, it’s the 1930s and Mr. Maclean is a secret agent assigned to the British embassy in Moscow. Chased across Soviet Central Asia by the NKVD on horseback—literally— he later was one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the 1938 Soviet show trial of Nikolai Bukharin. In Part II, it’’s WWII and Mr. Maclean joins the British Army, becoming one of the founders of the Special Air Service, a commando unit that became famous for its daring raids behind Rommel’s lines in North Africa. In Part III, Mr. Maclean is summoned back to London to meet with Churchill, who appoints him his personal representative to the Yugoslav partisan leader Josef Broz Tito and parachutes him into Croatia to help lead guerrilla operations against the Nazis. (After the war, Mr. Maclean—who was one of only two men in the British Army to rise from the rank of private to brigadier general during the war—served as a member of Parliament representing the constituency of Bute and North Ayrshire, in southwest Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde. He also ran an inn, I believe.) You will not be able to put this book down.
2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, by E.B. Sledge. A sergeant in the 5th Marines during WWII, Mr. Sledge later became a biology professor at the University of Montevallo, in Alabama. He wrote his memoir to explain his wartime experiences to his family. His wife eventually persuaded him to publish it (in the early 1980s, I believe), whereupon it was discovered and championed by the late military historian John Keegan, who called it one of the greatest combat memoirs ever written. I agree.
3. Quartered Safe Out Here, by George MacDonald Fraser. At 17, the author, who later became famous for a ribald and brilliant series of novels known collectively as The Flashman Papers, enlisted in the British Army’s Border Regiment and was promptly sent off to Burma to kill Japanese. The title, incidentally, comes from the opening lines of Kipling’s Gunga Din: “You may talk o’ gin an’ beer / When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, / An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it; / But if it comes to slaughter / You will do your work on water, / An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.”
4. Good-by to All That, by Robert Graves. Before he wrote I, Claudius, Mr. Graves was a British infantry officer in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. A real horror show rendered with ineluctable poignancy.
5. Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945, by Leo Marks. During WWII, Mr. Marks was head of communications for the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s pet spy agency, where he revolutionized cryptography. Because of secrecy laws, Mr. Marks wasn’t able to tell his story—which is replete with tales of derring-do—until 1998. After the war, incidentally, Mr. Marks became a successful screenwriter and, oddly enough, played the voice of Satan in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.

As this three-part Write My Memoirs series comes to a close, I think you’ll enjoy the five favorite war memoirs listed by one of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting his comments on each.

  1. Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean. Probably the best memoir I’ve ever read. It has three distinct sections. In Part I, it’s the 1930s and Mr. Maclean is a secret agent assigned to the British embassy in Moscow. Chased across Soviet Central Asia by the NKVD on horseback—literally— he later was one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the 1938 Soviet show trial of Nikolai Bukharin. In Part II, it’’s WWII and Mr. Maclean joins the British Army, becoming one of the founders of the Special Air Service, a commando unit that became famous for its daring raids behind Rommel’s lines in North Africa. In Part III, Mr. Maclean is summoned back to London to meet with Churchill, who appoints him his personal representative to the Yugoslav partisan leader Josef Broz Tito and parachutes him into Croatia to help lead guerrilla operations against the Nazis. (After the war, Mr. Maclean—who was one of only two men in the British Army to rise from the rank of private to brigadier general during the war—served as a member of Parliament representing the constituency of Bute and North Ayrshire, in southwest Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde. He also ran an inn, I believe.) You will not be able to put this book down.
  2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, by E.B. Sledge. A sergeant in the 5th Marines during WWII, Mr. Sledge later became a biology professor at the University of Montevallo, in Alabama. He wrote his memoir to explain his wartime experiences to his family. His wife eventually persuaded him to publish it (in the early 1980s, I believe), whereupon it was discovered and championed by the late military historian John Keegan, who called it one of the greatest combat memoirs ever written. I agree.
  3. Quartered Safe Out Here, by George MacDonald Fraser. At 17, the author, who later became famous for a ribald and brilliant series of novels known collectively as The Flashman Papers, enlisted in the British Army’s Border Regiment and was promptly sent off to Burma to kill Japanese. The title, incidentally, comes from the opening lines of Kipling’s Gunga Din: “You may talk o’ gin an’ beer / When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, / An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it; / But if it comes to slaughter / You will do your work on water, / An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.”
  4. Good-by to All That, by Robert Graves. Before he wrote I, Claudius, Mr. Graves was a British infantry officer in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. A real horror show rendered with ineluctable poignancy.
  5. Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945, by Leo Marks. During WWII, Mr. Marks was head of communications for the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s pet spy agency, where he revolutionized cryptography. Because of secrecy laws, Mr. Marks wasn’t able to tell his story—which is replete with tales of derring-do—until 1998. After the war, incidentally, Mr. Marks became a successful screenwriter and, oddly enough, played the voice of Satan in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.