Memoir Madness

In this week’s writing challenge, mine your memory and write a memoir.

Photo by jmv (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.
–Oscar Wilde

One of our not-so-secret goals of the weekly writing challenge is to encourage you to try new genres and forms. This week, we’re asking you to write a memoir. The way in which you choose to share your memoir — be it a story, poem, flash non-fiction, or a song — is entirely up to you.

Memories, memories! Help me get started!

Here are some ideas on excavating your memory for new material.

  • Your first day of school. Buffy tails. A navy-blue sailor dress. Matching navy leotards that made me itch. “Buster Brown” shoes I was not to scuff on pain of death. A hand-made, purple corduroy book bag, my name stitched on it in squiggly yellow ribbon. Mom took my picture in front of our house in Winnipeg with a film camera that sported a flash cube. This is what I remember of my very first day of school. I was terrified. What do you remember about your first day of school? Where were you living? What did you wear? How did you feel?
  • Mine a grudge.

    You must grudge to write memoir. If things had turned out exactly right, as your due, there would be no story to tell. You must know that you grudge, and that here, unlike your diary, you are probably not a hero (If you are a hero, let someone else write you). You earn the right to write the pettiness, the silliness, the nasty selfishness of others, as you write your own. —Allison K Williams

    Recall a time you felt disrespected, passed over, unappreciated, or “less than.” Now write a story, poem, or bit of flash non-fiction about it.

  • It was the best of times. Write about your best day, ever. What about that day makes it a happy memory for you? Leave no awesome detail behind.
  • It was the worst of times. If you feel like you’re in a strong enough place, write about your worst day, ever. What made it so horrible? How did it change you for the better? For worse? How have the events of that day changed or influenced your perspective?
  • “I remember…” The timed writing exercise. If you’re feeling a bit free-form and not sure which memory to reflect on, let your subconscious be your guide. Set a timer for a minimum of five minutes. Write I remember at the top of your page or screen and… just write. You might write fifteen sentences that each begin with “I remember,” or, you might write of one or two memories during that time. Try not to judge, just allow your fingers to type, or your hand to write.
  • Go meta-memory. If you’re not ready or inspired to write about a specific memory, write about the quality of your memories in general. Are they shape-shifting and ethereal, constantly evolving in your mind as their molecules merge and dissolve or, are they brilliant, detailed, and in sharp-focus?
  • A memory of your choice. Many regular readers, (I’m looking at you, @LittleMissMenopause, @Bumblepuppies, and @Philosophermouseofthehedge) often come up with their own fantastic, creative twists to the weekly writing challenge. Choose the memory you will write about and the way in which you’ll share it, be it a haiku, a prose poem, a stream-of-consciousness piece, a bit of flash non-fiction or a story. (Be sure to check out the comments on this challenge throughout the week for twists that readers suggest! One of their ideas may become the germ of your next great piece.)

Looking forward to reading your work!

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  1. I don’t know if I can bring myself to go along with you on this one, Krista: the only story I have to tell is a memoir, and it cost me greatly – also after it was published, as the publishers didn’t lift a finger for it. (Yes, I know that happens to every author except best-sellers.)
    But as I consider your prompts the tops, I’ll think … :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tonic for the Troops

    I ignored my wife’s advice and walked barefoot along the black volcanic sand. I reacted to her shouted warnings with a feeble rendition of the Highland fling, dancing towards breaking waves. The water was cold, but refreshing and provided instant relief for my burning feet. I paddled around the water’s edge to enhance the cooling process for my size nine’s. I moved towards familiar bathers – slow progress determined by the initial change in my body temperature. It took a few minutes to adjust. I acclimatised quickly and swam in different directions for about ten minutes before resting. I eagerly awaited the arrival of approaching waves. The water touched my chest. I dived into descending waves, the surf embracing my face; planting a tender kiss. I captured this moment in order to relive it over and over again – my own private summer, for winter evenings, to counter roaring wind and rain.

    I felt high as the fix from the sun surrendered my body to the blazing heat. I swam to the edge of a cove tucked away behind protruding rocks. The water was clear and shoals of fish swam erratically under my legs. I tried to capture some of these fine creatures, but they bolted in all directions-Schumacher-style. I returned to the beach and drank from a bottle of water before I spat out the warm contents. The liquid failed to quench my thirst or counteract the bitter taste of sea salt. I silently observed every inch of visible coastline watching the waves tease the brittle sand. Distant speedboats swayed in unison with the rhythm of the sea. Clusters of people populated the beach: including groups of locals everyone appeared happy; young children made sandcastles whilst struggling with the burning sand although this did not deter some of the teenagers who engaged in poor attempts at beach volleyball.

    I faced the ocean again and again smitten by the teasing sunshine occasional relief arrived with gentle breezes tickling beads of sweat slid slowly through the furnace on my face swimming in small puddles on my shoulders. After short bouts of sunbathing my body acquiesced to the call of the sea and plunged back into the magnetic ocean. I swam underwater, making another feeble attempt to capture fish, but to no avail. I decided to lie on my back with both arms outstretched. I enjoyed the ‘dead man’s float’ and allowed the waves to rock me to and fro, in no particular direction.

    I felt great: safe and free, worlds away from the realities of modern life. I knew this escapism was time limited, but this was living ‘for the now’ the return trip to reality was the last thing on my mind. After twenty minutes floating in the Mediterranean Sea, I reluctantly vacated my new haven. However, each time I stretched out on a beach towel I tried in vain to sit it out, but the blazing rays of the sun were the victor. There were no shaded areas after fifteen minutes I surrendered and returned to the dancing waves. I repeated this water-based escapism two to three times during daily beach visits. This is the medicine doctors should prescribe, a metrological form of Prozac.

    Following the daily beach trips we returned to our hotel, tired, famished, but happy. Our multi-coloured bodies were caked in sand. Lukewarm showers and scented soaps were the perfect ammunition for counter attacks to replenish our skin. The evenings concluded with walks into the town were local cuisine and soft Spanish wine toasted the dying light from the sky. The beach routine was followed without any fuss each day in between sightseeing tours and shopping trips. It was pleasantly addictive; a much-needed tonic for the troops.


  3. Hi just wanted to give you a brief heads up and
    let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the
    same outcome.


  4. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little research
    on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this topic here on your web site.


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