Soul-Searching Autobiography Can Reveal Author’s Flaws

blog12Andy Williams, one of my favorite crooners, has a new memoir on the shelves, Moon River and Me. A reader who reviewed it on amazon.com wrote: “This autobiography has captured a whole, not publically well known, side of one of the greatest entertainers of all time. And above all else, I came away with an appreciation for what a really good man there has been behind the public persona. This is a story of an American Dream realized, a man, like many of us, who dedicated too much to his career and not enough to his family, who has the strength and courage to admit it.???

I like the “strength and courage??? characterization. Writing your life story in some ways is quite a brave undertaking. Even though you actually lived the events that you’re putting into words, delving deeply into each chapter may threaten your own image of yourself. I wonder how many people begin writing their memoirs only to discover aspects of their lives that shine an unflattering light on some of their choices. Looking back less than fondly on spending too little time with family, as Andy Williams does in his memoir, is probably a fairly common regret to express.

In this way, writing your memoirs can be cathartic: a good exercise in acknowledging your faults and flaws. In addition, infusing some honest evaluation will win over readers quicker than simply providing tale after tale of success, achievement and conquest.

This is Not FakeMyMemoirs.com

blog11Here at WriteMyMemoirs, we have no truth police. If you choose, you can write up your imaginary experiences as a superhero and try to pass it off as your autobiography. But I have to say that I don’t relate to that level of “embellishment.???

At livescience.com, columnist Benjamin Radford provides a short list of some high-profile faked autobiographies. Written last January, the column was timely because of the revelation that highly publicized Angel at the Fence, the story of a connection made by a young boy and girl during the Holocaust miraculously rekindled many years later as a romance and marriage, was a complete fabrication. Author Herman Rosenblat did not in truth first meet his wife Roma when she threw apples across a fence in Nazi Germany. What Oprah labeled “the greatest love story??? was more like the greatest sucker punch.

But it certainly wasn’t the only faked bio, not even the first one that fooled Oprah, who was an early champion of James Frey’s largely invented A Million Little Pieces. Our assumption with WriteMyMemoirs has been that members would be pursuing nonfiction writing. But, hey, if you want to make up the whole thing, just remember to call it what it is: a piece of pure, if entertaining, fiction.

Photo: © Gataloca

Correct Apostrophe Use in Writing Memoirs

blog10As you write your memoirs, you may have questions about grammar and sentence construction. I’m a writer and editor by profession, and I teach an adult education writing class. On this blog I’ll try to help you with the most common writing difficulties. One mistake I see over and over is apostrophe misuse, particularly with regard to pronouns.

The confusion stems from our use of apostrophes to show possession as in, “John’s autobiography is very interesting.??? But notice what happens when we replace “John??? with a pronoun: “His autobiography is very interesting.??? The apostrophe disappears, because possessive pronouns like “his??? do not use apostrophes. “It,??? “your??? and “whose” are pronouns, too, so as possessives—indicating belonging to someone or something— they need no apostrophe: “The cat licked its paws???; “I enjoyed reading your memoirs; Whose book is this????

However, contractions also take apostrophes: “Sue’s [Sue has] finished writing her memoirs.??? When we replace “Sue??? with a pronoun, this time the apostrophe remains: “She’s [She has] finished writing her memoirs.??? All contractions with pronouns work the same way: “It’s [It has] been a nice day???; “You’re [You are] doing a great job???; Who’s [Who is] at the door?” So when you want to use a confusing pronoun—its/it’s; your/yours/you’re; their/theirs/they’re; whose/who’s—determine whether to apply the apostrophe form by testing whether you can replace the word with two words meaning the same thing.

Photo: © Alexandr Tkachuk

Dick Cheney’s Memoir Highly Anticipated

blog4Last time I talked about why it might be appropriate for some people to infuse a little politics in their memoirs. But when you’re a political figure, obviously your autobiography will focus heavily on your views. The next one to offer up this type of book is Former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Scheduled for publication in 2011 by Threshold Editions, the memoir will be Cheney’s first book about his long career in government. Cheney recently told the AP, “I’m persuaded there are a lot of interesting stories that ought to be told. I want my grandkids, 20 or 30 years from now, to be able to read it and understand what I did, and why I did it.??? At Write My Memoirs, we hear that same sentiment from the everyday folk who use our site. Our members want their grandchildren to understand what life was like for them, and that can include the reasoning behind their opinions, voting or perhaps political activism.

Interestingly, it’s been reported that Cheney’s daughter Liz is the one who put the “bug in his ear??? about writing an autobiography. Liz Cheney told the Washington Post, “You have to think about his love of history.??? Backing up her dad’s own statement about the motivation behind writing it, she adds, “When he thinks about this memoir, he thinks about it as a book his grandchildren will read.???