Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Don't Be Chicken to Write Your Memoirs

First blog in a long while because I was polishing a new memoir, just out. YOUR STORY, MY WAY: A Memoir on Memoirs and How to Write Them (e-book and paperback at Amazon) is a different kind of beast.
It’s a memoir on how to write a memoir.
It is also written for folks who want to pen a “family record” for later generations, and speak to them in immortal voice if you will.
While the title might remind some of “my way or the highway,” it won’t stand over you and beat you with a wooden ruler. Anything but didactic and schoolmarmish, it’s written in an easy-going style, often fun and conversational, maybe a touch sinful. Still, I had ages from teen upward in mind when I wrote it.
The book’s heart is a treasure trove of writing tips and tools I learned the hard way by doing them. Hey, I went to J-school, but things I reveal in this memoir weren’t taught at the university, and they won’t be found in any other book on writing memoirs, either. I got them when ornery editors jammed them down my throat. Yet I assure you, you won’t feel any pain.
The book has a personality and is richly lavished with personal stories and anecdotes, just like my 2015 best-selling memoir, TRUE STORIES I Never Told My Kids.
Here’s a quick taste from the new book, a humorous little ditty on using colloquialisms in writing a memoir.
I grew up in Michigan where we called dragonflies “sewing needles” – don’t ask me why. Each region has its own colloquialisms, or slang words and expressions unique to it, and these can brighten writing when used in a way that provides enough context for readers to understand what’s being said. Yet, if there is one overarching rule in using slang phrases, it is this: be damn sure you know what they really mean.
Like this: a Wall Street Journal reporter once quoted a guy who said that he had had more “fun than choking chickens.” Day of the story a reader from the South called the newspaper. “Down here choking chickens means masturbating,” the caller explained, with a laugh.
Neither the Journal reporter nor his editors knew what the colloquialism “choking chickens” really meant. Had they known there is no way a quote essentially saying someone had more “fun than masturbating” would have been printed.

– From YOUR STORY, MY WAY: A Memoir on Memoirs and How to Write Them (2017), available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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