Memoir Writing Assignment

Memoir Writing Assignment-60
Without missing a beat, Hoffman replied, “Start short.” She explained that short stories provided an opportunity to practice craft on a scale more manageable and easier to sustain than the long-form demands of a novel.

Without missing a beat, Hoffman replied, “Start short.” She explained that short stories provided an opportunity to practice craft on a scale more manageable and easier to sustain than the long-form demands of a novel.Since that gathering back in the 1990s, short form narratives have proliferated, and the “short-short” story, known as flash fiction, has become increasingly popular. The “memoir essay,” to borrow a phrase Adam Gopnik uses in his introduction to The Best American Essays 2008, is an essay-length memoir, generally in the neighborhood of 2000 to 6000 words.What you choose as your focus for the memoir depends a great deal on the length of the manuscript you wish to write.

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Reading short memoir essays in this way—“seeing beneath the surface” of a piece to the larger sense the author is making—will make you a better writer when you try your hand at writing flash memoir and longer memoir. For now, enjoy reading like a writer and seeing beneath the surface of the memoir pieces you read.

A memoir is a first person account of an autobiographical experience that can be written in a short form like an essay or as a full-length book.

You may ultimately decide to present the finished product to these important people in your life as a gift.

Other options for memoir topics include the places you've visited or lived.

As Cooper also says in his preface to In Short, brief memoir essays provide readers with the opportunity to experience “the disproportionate power of the small to move, persuade, and change us.” Maybe you’ve started writing a book-length memoir but, like the woman at Alice Hoffman’s reading, haven’t completed it.

Or perhaps you aspire to write a book-length memoir but don’t know where to start.Short-short memoir essays—those under 2,000 words but more commonly in the under 1,000-words range—go by the term “flash memoir,” or “flash creative nonfiction.” First, let’s define memoir in general.Memoir is a sliver—or slice—of your life experience.Like a book-length memoir, a flash memoir engages readers at an emotional level so that they come away changed by a new level of understanding, however subtle, into what it means to be human.In other words, a brief memoir essay carries with it the power to move readers.Well, in the words of Alice Hoffman, why not “start small.” Writing flash memoir—starting small—is an excellent way to practice the craft of writing memoir, and to prepare for the long-form demands of a book-length memoir.The brief form will require you to explore your deeper story truth and make sense of your experience (for yourself and for your reader) within a short page span.The online journal Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction offers a treasure trove of flash creative nonfiction pieces that are 750 words or less.By pinpointing how a piece of flash memoir moves you as a reader, you are in fact practicing the art of reading like a writer and cultivating a writer’s sensibility for how to engage your readers at an emotional level when you return to the page.This deeper truth imbues the memoir with meaning as the author makes sense of her experience.I always come back to Vivian Gornick on this point: “What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” If a book-length memoir is a slice of life, then a flash memoir is a moment. It is, rather, a singular instance of insight—a “flash,” if you will—that imbues even the shortest piece of memoir with meaning. In his preface to In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones, Bernard Cooper writes, “To write short nonfiction requires an alertness to detail, a quickening of the senses, a focusing of the literary lens, so to speak, until one has magnified some small aspect of what it means to be human.” The flash in “flash memoir” refers to its brevity, yes, but it also—and more importantly—refers to its “flash” of insight into human experience.


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