National Lifewriting Month: the staying power of memoirs

November is National Lifewriting Month. Have you started your memoir yet? Memoirs have been hitting the charts for many years now and readers have not show signs of exhaustion. Library Journal recently noted that “publishers are putting a fair amount of push behind memoirs for winter and spring 2010,” which will include the following interestingly titled books:

The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn
The Boy Who Loved Tornados: A Mother’s Story by Randi Davenport
You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story by A. Gurwitch and J. Kahn
The Shaking Woman: Or, A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt
Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline

In a Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled Celebrating the Memoir, Dianna Marder construes that “The emphasis on memoir is so strong that autobiography, history and fiction may be endangered. And the reasons for memoir’s popularity may rest in our very nature as Americans: In a land where the majority rules, individuality is exalted and memoir is more befitting the American ideal of resourcefulness.”

Indeed, memoirs are much more fascinating than nonfiction history books since a personal perspective is involved. Who doesn’t love a good story of how it really was versus a bunch of dry facts. Autobiographies tend to suffer the same fate of dry regurgitation, while fiction…well, Ben Yagoda, author of Memoir: A History says “When it comes to proving points and making cases, fiction’s day is done.” Mary Karr, whose publisher claims she “kick-started the memoir revolution” with The Liar’s Club (1995), has this to say: “The failures of other genres to provide an emotional connection with some of their characters and narratives gives memoir a toehold.” Comparing bad memoirs to bad novels, “But the most whiny memoir is written by someone passionately attached to his or her subject matter. And the connectedness of that single voice is something readers long for now.” Karr, also wrote the memoirs Cherry and the recently published Lit.

Everyone has a story to tell. Not all are meant to be published, but all are meant to be told.


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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2 Responses to National Lifewriting Month: the staying power of memoirs

  1. GutsyWriter says:

    I'm so glad to hear that memoirs are still popular. I just came back from the La Jolla Writers Conference where I was fortunate to present my first 12 pages of my memoir for critique with agents and editors. I'm happy to say that they were interested and now I have to finish my revisions in 4 months. As I mentioned, I treat the whole process as an "experiment."

  2. Linda Austin says:

    Wonderful news for you! Best wishes on that journey. For those wanting to publish their memoir, learn everything you can about writing and writing to make marketing your memoir easier.

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