Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hot Memoir Writing Tips from the Experts-Part II

Mary Anne Benedetto

One of my most passionate goals is to encourage and influence as many people as possible to capture and preserve their life stories to share with others. How do grandchildren, great-grands, nieces, nephews and beyond even know who we were and how we lived if we don't provide them with a tangible document that they can read and digest?

I have invited Darlene Eichler, an author, speaker and memoir writing instructor to help us in continuing our series on great tips for folks who are writing their life stories.

Darlene said, “Teaching memoir writing is the most rewarding teaching I have done in my career.”

Darlene’s #1 Tip:

The best memory jogger is to listen to others tell their stories. I observe reactions when students are listening to their classmates. Heads shake in agreement or amazement. Sometimes there are smiles and, at others, tears. Later they talk about how that story, or a part of it, brought back a story buried deep in their memories.

I have witnessed this on countless occasions, so I’m right there with Darlene on this suggestion.

In Week #2 of my workshop sessions, people read aloud the story of a memory that they have written during the prior week. Frequently, someone will comment, “Oh, that reminds me of something I haven’t thought about in years!”

Taking a memoir writing class or workshop series and hearing the stories of others is an enormous benefit. Not only might it resurrect otherwise forgotten memories, but it creates a special bond amongst the class members or workshop groups that tends to make them want to remain connected.

Darlene’s #2 Tip:

Avoid being boring. Grab your readers’ attention with the opening sentence. Don’t be afraid to embellish…it brings out the “flavor” of your memoir.

This is also an excellent point from Darlene. If you merely supply the readers with facts and dates, they will be yawning so hard that you will likely lose them before they reach the good parts.

I’ll share a hard, cold fact. People want to be entertained when they read. You may say, “I’m not here to entertain them. I want to tell them about family history and the highlights of my life. Maybe my experiences haven’t been all that exciting. How am I supposed to entertain them?”

Even the sweetest, simplest stories can be enhanced by offering specific details that you recall. For instance, my Grandmother Bolick was an avid vegetable gardener. Which of these examples really tells you something?

Example #1-Grandma Bolick loved to grow vegetables and work in her garden.

Example #2-Driving along the winding two lane road toward Grandfather Mountain in western North Carolina, travelers would often spot Grandma Bolick tending to her enormous vegetable garden, located just across the road from her house.

No store-bought produce could match the flavor of her homegrown rhubarb, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers and corn, and she was dedicated to gardening until she reached her late seventies.

Never a sun goddess and always protective of her fair skin, her gardening attire usually included a big, old- fashioned bonnet, a long skirt or pants, long sleeved shirt and sometimes even an apron. She believed that growing food from the ground up was smart, economical, delicious and healthy. If she could grow it, then buying it in the grocery store wasn’t even an option.

So...give them something solid. Give them a feel for exactly what was happening and where. What did it look like? What is the story behind the fact? Enhance the experience of your reader by making them feel as though they are right there observing.

Thank you so much to Darlene Eichler for her memoir writing tips! Do you see how just writing this blog post brought back special memories of my grandmother? I have to admit, however, that somehow Grandma Bolick's gardening gene didn't make its way into my DNA. I pretty much kill anything I try to grow from soil!

About this week's Memoir Tipster, Darlene Eichler:

Darlene Eichler, who uses the pen name, Nan Turner for most of her books, is a native of Southwest
Darlene Eichler
Virginia.  Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains has influenced her writing more than any other factor.  She is a graduate of Radford University and the University of South Carolina.  Her career in teaching began as an elementary teacher, and she moved on to positions as a reference librarian in college libraries.  After retirement
, she concentrated on writing. Darlene is known for the “Rose Series” and “Trunk Tales.” She has inspired many, through teaching memoir writing, to preserve their life stories to share with loved ones.

She shares a home in North Myrtle Beach with her husband and Miss Boots, a black and white cat featured in several of her books. Darlene has twelve grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Connect with Darlene at!

One more subtle hint:

If you are serious about jump-starting your memoir project, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! can give you the tools you need. Visit for links to all formats.

We'll be back next week with more tips from memoir experts so don't forget to return! 

 All the best,
Mary Anne Benedetto
Author and Certified Lifewriting Instructor

P. S. Visit for posts featuring fabulous books and their authors. Come on over and get acquainted!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hot Memoir Writing Tips from the Experts

Writing our life stories--preserving our family history to share with future generations! It certainly sounds like a great idea. It makes perfectly good sense on an intellectual level, but how about from a practical standpoint? Hmmm…

Questions immediately arise, with doubts seeping in not far behind:

·         With so many stories covering a multitude of years, how can I possibly decide what needs to be included?

·         How do I make sure I can even remember the important highlights?

·         Who will be interested in reading what I’ve written?

·         I’ve never been an especially good writer. How can I write stories that are interesting and worthy of being passed along for others to enjoy and understand who we were and how we lived?

Over the course of my next few blog posts, we will explore these topics and more to help you successfully embark and steadily progress on your memoir project.

And guess what? You don’t have to listen to me, Mary Anne Benedetto, saying, “Just do it!” I have invited a few fabulous memoir experts to join us and offer some of their excellent tips.

What’s the best part? These tips are free and our gifts to you, so there’s no excuse!

In this first segment, author and speaker, Joy DeKok, shares some of her special words of wisdom about legacy writing projects:

Joy’s Tip #1. Write raw, at least in the first draft. That copy is for your benefit. If there's a lot of anger or hurt involved, getting it out is good for you. Getting the written copy out so it won't anger or hurt anyone is good for everyone.

I have to completely agree with Joy. In my workshops, I always advocate writing all of the stories--even the tough ones, perhaps those events that no one else may be aware of, the stories that you have tucked away for years and hoped to bury. Writing about them can give you a new perspective on the impact that those events ultimately had on your life.

Then you can decide whether or not to include them in your final document--especially if they are hurtful to others who are living. You may even choose to write them and then send them up in smoke with a burning match. That is entirely up to you.

You do want to be particularly careful about not maligning others if you intend to publish your work. No one needs or welcomes litigation.

Great advice is to write all of your stories and then decide what will end up on the cutting room floor. 

One last note on this topic: I always say that, as difficult as it may be, forgiveness generates many benefits. Forgiveness doesn’t condone bad behavior, but it frees you from carrying the poisonous burden of bitterness in your veins.

Joy’s Tip #2. Write it the way you remember it. A lot of Legacy Keepers worry they might remember it wrong or differently than others. That's okay. Two (or more) people can experience the same event or time and record it differently due to their experience, knowledge, and intuition. It's important to get the facts as right as you can, but sometimes what you noticed that someone else didn't, is essential to your legacy.

I love this tip of Joy’s as well. It reminds me about the two sisters and one brother who attended one of my workshops. I had previously worked with spouses, but never siblings. As they began to discuss different aspects of their lives while they were growing up, they all had the most incredulous expressions on their faces. Finally one of the sisters said, “Are you talking about the same house I grew up in?”

I thought about another situation where a client’s sister asked to read his stories. After digesting them she said, “I don’t remember it that way at all.” He asked me if he should change his stories to agree with her recollections, and I said, “Absolutely not! This is the way you experienced it, and if she doesn’t agree, let her write her own version.”

It simply proves that even with the same parents, environment and household, we have experienced life as individuals and may have very different perspectives. While it can be helpful to confer with other family members about their recollections, be sure to write your own accounting. It is your unique story.

A special thank you to Joy DeKok for offering her wonderful tips today!
Joy DeKok

Joy is an author, speaker and advocate of preserving our written legacies. She has written several books, including: Your Life a Legacy, Your Life a Legacy for Kids and Your Life a Legacy for Teens.

Please visit Joy at and

Thanks so much for joining us, and we’ll be back soon with more memoir writing experts and their suggestions!

Mary Anne Benedetto

Certified Lifewriting Instructor

7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build

a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!