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!

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