A Memorial Day Message

A Memorial Day Message
Earlier this year, I blogged about veterans’ memoirs. War—and even peacetime service—can be such a disturbing, fascinating experience that writing about it can be therapeutic. Classes, support groups and funded projects have emerged to encourage vets to put their thoughts and memories down on paper. But if you’re on your own and want to write a war memoir, what are the guidelines?
Many of the members here at WriteMyMemoirs found our site because they want to write about their time on the front lines. Let’s go to the obvious—Yahoo.com—to help you out. Among Yahoo’s 10 Tips to Writing a True War Memoir is this valuable suggestion:
“Do not leave anything out. Living through a war is no easy task, and…having to relive…everything that you’ve already been through…can be a morose and daunting experience. However, a writer cannot let emotions get in the way of telling a true story….It’s our duty as veterans to give a full and accurate depiction.”
This piece also cautions against revealing your political views regarding the war, but I disagree. It’s your memoir! While it’s important to accurately describe the action and the details, it’s also informative and interesting for the reader to know your impressions. A war experience can influence your political outlook and, in some cases, change the direction of your life, so that chapter in your memoir can be critical. Be as courageous in writing about your military experience as you were in living it. At WriteMyMemoirs, we all thank you for your service.
http://voices.yahoo.com/10-tips-writing-true-war-memoir-7736548.html

Earlier this year, I blogged about veterans’ memoirs. War—and even peacetime service—can be such a disturbing, fascinating experience that writing about it can be therapeutic. Classes, support groups and funded projects have emerged to encourage vets to put their thoughts and memories down on paper. But if you’re on your own and want to write a war memoir, what are the guidelines?

Many of the members here at WriteMyMemoirs found our site because they want to write about their time on the front lines. Let’s go to the obvious—Yahoo.com—to help you out. Among Yahoo’s 10 Tips to Writing a True War Memoir is this valuable suggestion:

“Do not leave anything out. Living through a war is no easy task, and…having to relive…everything that you’ve already been through…can be a morose and daunting experience. However, a writer cannot let emotions get in the way of telling a true story….It’s our duty as veterans to give a full and accurate depiction.”

This piece also cautions against revealing your political views regarding the war, but I disagree. It’s your memoir! While it’s important to accurately describe the action and the details, it’s also informative and interesting for the reader to hear your candid impressions. A war experience can influence your political outlook and, in some cases, change the direction of your life, so that chapter in your memoir can be critical. Be as courageous in writing about your military experience as you were in living it. At WriteMyMemoirs, we all thank you for your service.

New Book Traces the History of Memoir Writing

blog16The urge to write memoirs has long been part of the human psyche, according to a new book, Memoir: A History, in which author Ben Yagoda connects the dots through 2,000 years of memoirs. In tackling the question of whether an autobiography must be 100 percent true and accurate, Yagoda concludes that telling your story in good faith is more important than getting every fact perfectly straight, according to the New York Times review of the book.

The aspect of memoirs that interests me more, however, is the widespread desire to write one. Why put so much energy into this task? I don’t believe that a hope to get rich from publishing their story is what drives people to write about themselves. The Times reviewer, Judith Shulevitz, theorizes that it’s a universal need to tell our side of things—to explain why we’ve done what we’ve done. Shulevitz quotes philosopher Hilary Putnam: “We are, most of us, interested in justifying at least some features of our own style of life, in the sense of giving a defense of them that would appeal to others.???

This strikes a chord with me; most of us want to be liked or, at least, understood. The latest big-deal autobiography to hit the bookstores, Going Rogue, would not have been written if author Sarah Palin hadn’t felt the need to tell her side of what went on during last year’s presidential campaign. As you write your memoirs, you may experience some of that “justification satisfaction??? yourself.

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.???

A Proper Memoir: Fact or Opinion?

blog3When I was in the grocery store the other day I noticed an older man involved in a spirited political discussion—with the fruit-stacking guy! Maybe this man was a regular at the store, and the pair had gotten to know each other pretty well over the years. Still, the employee, after all, had fruit to stack, and perhaps the shopper would enjoy not only a wider audience but a structured outlet for expressing himself. Instead of cornering the fruit clerk, I thought: this guy should write a memoir!

Before that happened, I considered a memoir or an autobiography to be a collection of facts—with feeling, yes, but not so much a walk through the person’s politics. But I saw the passion of this man’s discourse and the sincerity in his face as he waved his arms around explaining his views. I realized that, to many people, their politics are as much a part of their life story as the dates of their big events.

If you’re a politically minded person, you might want to devote a chapter just to your opinions. Or maybe you’ll freely sprinkle those views throughout your autobiography. I think it gives readers (even those it might offend!) a real sense of who you are—-which is kind of important in a memoir! So maybe a memoir can be both fact and opinion. Check back next time, when I’ll report on one famous figure who will soon release this type of autobiography.

Photo: ©Serghei Starus