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.