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Memoir Information

Page history last edited by Ms. Edwards 9 years, 10 months ago

Memoir

 

What is it?

 

From writers:

 

"A memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked." ~Gore Vidal

 

"The story of your life is not your life. It is your story." ~ John Barth

 

“Unlike autobiography, which moves in a dutiful line from birth to fame, memoir narrows the lens, focusing on a time in the writer’s life that was unusually vivid, such as childhood or adolescence, or that was framed by war or travel or public service or some other special circumstance” 

—p. 15 of Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir by William Zinsser (Mariner Books, 1998)

 

"Memoir is how writers look for the past and make sense of it. We figure out who we are, who we have become, and what it means to us and to the lives of others: a memoir puts the events of a life in perspective for the writer and for those who read it. It is a way to validate to others the events of our lives, our choices, perspectives, decisions,responses.

 

Memoir recognizes and explores moments on the way to growing up and becoming oneself, the good moments and the bad ones. It distills the essence of the experience through what the writer includes and more importantly, through what a writer excludes. Memoir celebrates people and places no one else had ever heard of. And memoir allows us to discover and tell our own truths as writers."

~ Nancie Atwell, In the middle, Heinemann (1998), pg. 372

 

From Read/Write/Think:  Memories Matter

 

An effective memoir answers the question, “What difference does it make?” We will be writing

our own memoirs. Each of you will choose at least one “snapshot” memory that is important enough to be shared, a memory you would want to pass on to others. We will read an except from "The Giver" for an example of memoir style (take notes).


Your Memoir -- Idea Development Stage

 

Your memoirs may be chosen from the memoir subjects listed below in descriptive mode: action verbs in the present tense, sensory detail, and figurative language. You will bring the memory to life by writing about it in “real time,” as if you are in the moment. In addition, the style of each memoir should attempt to mirror that of the author Lois Lowry in "The Giver."

 

Possible categories

 Name stories (How you got your name, why your name is significant.)

 Stories about where you grew up

 Love stories (first love, true love, end of a love, etc.)

 Pain stories (someone who hurt you, argument with best friend/family, etc.)

 First day of school stories

 Rites of passage/realizing you are growing up stories

 Weather stories (tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms, etc.)

 Holiday stories (traditions, memorable holidays)

 Physical hurt stories (broken bones, stitches, surgeries, bee stings, etc.)

 First-time-I... stories

 Funny family stories

 Important people stories (events that show the influence someone had on you)

 "Caught ya’!” stories (lying, cheating, writing a love letter, etc.) 

 

Questions to ask yourself:

The questions we used were:

• What’s your earliest memory?

• What is the most important thing that has ever happened to you?

• What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?

• What is something you will never forget?

• What is the moment where you were 100% happy?

• What was a time when you felt brokenhearted?

• What memory shows something important about your family or your friends?

• What was a time when you’ve laughed harder than you’ve ever laughed before?

 

 

An essential question to ask is, “How is memoir like or unlike autobiography?” Good fiction will often read as if it is memoir; and memoir, on the other hand, will often feel very much like fiction (Calkins 1994). We can think of memoir as literary nonfiction (Atwell 1998).

 

Read, reflect, and analyze the text structure of various memoirs, then look back through your notebooks and select moments that reveal their own experiences and moments that are small, yet meaningful. Find an object or photograph that sparks a memory, or create a timeline or web of a particular memory.

 

Write a thinking entry in your notebooks to reflect on why this moment was meaningful. Think and link several entries or events that share a common subject or theme and begin to develop a series of vignettes (short snapshots of experiences).

 

Then revise to focus on purpose: looking again at the writing to "mine" the significance of their story, which (hopefully) you have discovered while writing the memoir. Strong leads and purposeful endings are important. Experiment with tone to add voice to their writing. Find places in which to add dialogue, or try to balance the action, dialogue, and thought in the memoir. Thoughtful writers will try to add the kind of details and elaboration that help create a “movie in the reader’s mind.”

 


Peer Interview Stage

 

How do we know what is important? 

 

Peer Interview Project: What is important to your partner? What would s/he want others to remember about him/her? 

 

Read background information about each other (question packet), then plan and conduct initial and follow-up interviews to understand what is important to your partner.

 

Write articles about each other and exchange personal memoirs.

 

Plan, propose, and take digital photographs that reveal each other’s personality and interests. All of this information is placed creatively on the private wiki to share.

 

Steps:

 

Introduce Yourself Partner Packets

 

Create a memoir based on one of your answers in the Introduce Yourself Partner Packets and provide to your partner.

Based on the packet of information  (questions and memoir) from your partner, what questions would you ask to obtain more information about your partner? Create your interview questions. See interview tips to prepare for your interview. What is important? What do you need to know to write an article about your partner? What theme will you present?

 

Write your article about your partner.

 

Plan and take your photo in a style that represents your partner.

 

Create your wiki page about your partner.


Memoir 2

 

Refine your memoir writing:

 

Now, what is really important to you? What experiences helped you know this? What will you share to show what is important to you and would be important to others?

Write a thinking entry in your notebooks to reflect on why this moment was meaningful. Think and link several entries or events that share a common subject or theme and begin to develop a series of vignettes (short snapshots of experiences).

 

Then revise to focus on purpose: looking again at the writing to "mine" the significance of their story, which (hopefully) you have discovered while writing the memoir. Strong leads and purposeful endings are important. Experiment with tone to add voice to their writing. Find places in which to add dialogue, or try to balance the action, dialogue, and thought in the memoir. Thoughtful writers will try to add the kind of details and elaboration that help create a “movie in the reader’s mind.”

 


Family/Object Stage
TBA


Lesson Credit:

 

Adapted from:

Memories Matter: The Giver and Descriptive Writing Memoirs

 

DRAFT: Created by Kimberly Kovach, Middle School Writing Curriculum Coordinator,

September 2006. Revised June 2007.

 

 

Introducing Each Other: Interviews, Memoirs, Photos, and Internet Research

 

Scholastic Memoir Project

 


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