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Memoir Writing Help, Memoir Writing Ideas
by: Roxanne McDonald

You might not need any memoir writing help, per se, as you know your past and you know quite well how to write, thank you. You might instead just need someone to inspire you, motivate you, give you a nudge--with some memoir writing ideas.

Here are a few prompts to stimulate your memory and to encourage your creativity...of which you have plenty to work with and to share. So do the activities (or at least one), and share them (or it) with loved ones...or with me if you wish. I love reading your memoirs and responding.

Prompt:

Starting on June 17, 1976, Diego and Susy Goldberg, of Buenos Ares, Argentina, photographed head shots of each member of the family...one day every year. Of course, they started as a family of two--Diego and Susy--and have over the years created a photo essay that captures their physical growth (and more) over time.

Visit the website and study the photo essay, "Time" (at

In words instead of photos, choose one day of your family's life (starting with your parents or guardians and adding you as a child) and describe what you each look like. Do this for one day every year for as many years as you can.

Prompt:

All art is a response to something--other art, an event in our culture, a moment in history. Look at the photos (on

For example, look at the photo of the old 50s drive-in. What is the first memory that comes up for you? Who was involved? Who was absent and why? What sounds do you recall as predominant that day? What smells were there? What colors do you recall? How did you feel on that day?

Prompt:

At the bottom of the page of my site are two pictures. One is clearly related to the movie theatre, as it features a crowd of men and women (of the 40s?) standing outside The Dixie Theatre, all facing the camera; and the other has to do with the stage (and movies...later), as it is an artistic rendering of Othello pulling back the bedchamber curtains and peering in at a sleeping Desdemona. Decide what one play or movie influenced you the earliest.

What was the name of the play or film? When did you first see it? What impact did it have on you? For instance, if you and your family were poor and you only saw one movie when you were a kid, maybe you grew up to love movies or work in the movie industry.

Maybe, instead, you saw a play every year with your since deceased uncle, and were inspired to go into theatre or to study literature. Write whatever you want about one movie or play, and then email me with the draft(s) for a response and more encouragement if you wish.

Finished with these prompts?

There are more lessons in Memoir Writing for Our Elders.

Note: The black and white photo below may remind you of something other than your first movie experience. Go for that draft, too!

And stop in every month for new prompts and/or a response to your creative memoir writing if youd like. I know Id love it if you did.

About The Author

N.H.-born prize-winning poet, creative nonfiction writer, memoirist, and award-winning Assoc. Prof. of English, Roxanne is also web content and freelance writer/founder of

This article was posted on December 21, 2004

 



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