View Full Version : What's "interesting" enough to do a memoir on?

Sheryl Nantus
04-09-2008, 10:44 PM
No, no - I'm not drunk. Well, on meds for a migraine but that's not usually that dehabilitating... usually.

I was just wondering exactly what qualifies as "good material", for lack of a better word, for a memoir. I mean, everyone's had interesting lives - I can't think of anyone I know who hasn't had to deal with some sort of trauma or ordeal that's affected them.

The reason I'm tossing this out is that once again my inner muse is poking me with a sharp stick to write about my time as a member/leader of the Guardian Angels (yes, those guys with the red berets). It was only two years, but... it was an interesting adventure for me.

I just don't know if anyone else would care. I mean, what's worse than writing something to find out no one's interested in it? Other than the obvious part about recording for history and family, etc etc etc...

your thoughts?

please and thank you!

(and apologies for the confusing language. Need more meds.)


04-09-2008, 11:31 PM
First, let me say I would read a story about you in the Guardian Angels (hoping of course it is well written).

And second, there is no simple rule about what makes a story interesting. Kimmel Haven wrote two very successful memoirs about growing up. Tobias Wolff became famous because he wrote about being a boy. I just finished reading a fascinating memoir, Native State by Tony Cohan about growing up. One of the loveliest memoirs I have read was about a woman (Kate Braestrup, "Here When you Need Me") who lost her husband, and then she became a chaplain. Her observations about life not only told her story, but also filled me with hope and insight into the human condition. The list goes on and on and on. As you work on forming your story, read lots of memoirs, not to be just like them, but to understand the wide range of possibilities. Like all writing, memoir writing is a craft.


Leah J. Utas
04-10-2008, 12:13 AM
What possessed you to do it? Be a Guardian Angel, that is. Motivation of that sort suggests there's something you want to do or say to make your corner of the world better. I think it would be a good story. And you must have seen things and heard things to curl --or permanently straighten -- a reader's hair.
Spill. Do it in book form. See what you get.

04-14-2008, 03:45 AM
When I was first proposing my memoir, wondering if there'd be any interest, an agent said to me, "It's all about the writing." I really think that's key. It doesn't matter how interesting your story is (and I, personally, would be very interested in your story - a female leader of the Guardian Angels? No brainer!), if the writing isn't great. Conversely, even stories that on the surface don't sound particularly interesting, can make wonderful memoirs if the writing is stellar. I'm thinking especially of a memoir I recently read, The Tender Bar. Someone recommended it to me and I thought, "Oh, great. Yet another memoir about growing up in an alcoholic environment with an absent father." But, the writing is gorgeous. Even Angela's Ashes: Oppressive poverty, alcoholic father, heroic mother. That story has been done in books and films for ages. But, the writing was absolutely loovely. (I think the only time this doesn't apply is if you're a celeb, ie since your platform is huge, the writing can suck.)