Memoir Monday on Tuesday

A blogging pal Lisa Reiter has commenced blogging about memoir on Monday. Uninvited I have decided to join her but Monday is a busy day for me so instead I will do Memoir Monday on Tuesday and perhaps, to be entirely correct, it will be memoir Monday on Tuesdays that suit me. As for you – you can read them anytime you like or not at all.

When I started my research masters I did not come from a literary background. This worked well for me, I think, as those with a literary background have fairly set ideas on what is done. Me, I had no idea about anything – memoir, research, literature. I read but I consumed for pleasure, not with analysis in mind. The closest I’d gone down that path was with the book club we belonged to which forced me to read genres I normally would not touch. So with no knowledge I set out to gain knowledge before I could make knowledge and to do this I went to all disciplines in my quest to examine memoir. My interdisciplinary approach gave me knowledge I could not have gained had I approached it from just one area.

It also made me look at what memoir was and is today and the constituent parts of memoir. This is what I plan to share with you on these Memoir Mondays on Tuesdays. Do you need to know this before writing a memoir – NO you do not. So why bother? Hopefully, like me, you will find some snippets fascinating to ponder further, perhaps give you a greater understanding of yourself , the memoirists and the different purposes for writing memoir. Also it will make you consider who is written about in memoir, truth in memoir and when memoir becomes fiction.

One factor that I do think it is crucial to know in order to write a compelling memoir is what is your purpose for writing the narrative. What is the message you want the reader to take home? Having written the first draft of your memoir if you then examine it from this angle anything that does not further this purpose can usually be considered unnecessary to the narrative and removed from it.

In my first memoir “Nightmare in Paradise” I did this. When I first started writing it was for the purpose of recording the events for my mother. As I widened my proposed audience the purpose for writing also altered. The wider audience would not be interested in minute detail that family and close friends would find interest in and these details were removed in the first edit.

One way of looking at purpose is deciding on the effect the narrative has on the self, the “I” in the narrative.

bildungsroman is a coming of age narrative where the narrated “I” is seen as it goes from the state of a child into that of an adult. Conversion narratives will see the initial “I” as one character but see it undergo a transformation and become a different “I” character with different values. This originally referred to religious conversions but now also include narratives overcoming  addictions. The apology narrative, which is not an apology as we know the word, is used where the initial “I” and the now “I” hold the same viewpoint and the narrator is giving an explanation as to why they did what they did.They are justifying their actions. This type of narrative is often seen in politicians memoirs as they justify and continue to believe that what they did was the right course of action. My first memoir is a testimony narrative as it looks at myself and my relationship with the world in which I found myself. Testimony narratives are recording events and looking at injustices that happened to the narrator. Surviving trauma narratives are often testimony narratives.

In the next memoir post the “I’s” of memoir will be examined in a little more detail.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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16 Responses to Memoir Monday on Tuesday

  1. Irene, this is an illuminating article. What a story about yourself, that you started to write for your mother, then realized your story had universal appeal.Looking forward to future articles about the development of your memoir.
    I’ve never wanted to write a memoir but find the descriptions of various memoir styles fascinating.
    I’ve always written fiction but am just starting a creative non-fiction work. I don’t want to talk about it much as it’s still in the inaugural stage, but it has me excited to do something fresh.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m looking forward to getting it out in the near future. Mum is now 88 so she has waited a long time for this.
      How exciting to be delving into a new genre for you. Memoir fits into the creative non-fiction spectrum and it is a genre that I enjoy reading. Lookng forward to hearing more about your project when you are ready to share. Love that excitement that comes with a new project.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Reiter says:

    Just awesome Irene. Sometimes the uninvited friend is the one you most want to see..
    Like you I don’t know much about the literary devices behind some ‘recognised’ writing (or at least cannot name them!) but I am interested in any ideas that help me further my current work in a more sophisticated way. And sometimes reinventing the wheel is simply a waste of energy. I’m delighted you are joining in with memoir Monday (love that it’s when it suits and on Tuesdays too 😀 ) and that you are sharing some of what you have learned. I have been wrestling with the purpose of mine for some time as you know, so this is a timely post for me and I have been coming to terms with the idea that I will discard quite a bit of my early writing as I tidy up an episodic structure.
    The ‘I’ in the narrative is the complicated bit and a conscious part of the narrative I am also attempting to include as a theme. It hadn’t occurred to me it’s an area that has been studied and labelled and this might help me clear some fog! I can’t tell you how excited this makes me! Xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad to have made you excited Lisa and also that you don’t mind that I join in. It’s funny how often you have questions and a post will come along that goes part way at least to showing you a direction or answering what you were pondering. I’m going to talk about the ‘I’s’ next time. Although I don’t know that it is necessary to know these things, for myself it makes my purpose clearer and gives me a deeper understanding of exactly what it is I am doing. I guess once you know that the necessaries for change are present.


  3. TanGental says:

    Fascinating. I never thought of memoire in those terms. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You know, I like this: “Me, I had no idea about anything.” I think that’s an interesting idea as to getting writing and…headed into a Thought Bubble…

    And you know I love delving into the nonfiction vs memoir vs creative nonfiction vs fiction bit.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Norah says:

    Interesting post, Irene. I have read quite a few memoirs but haven’t considered identifying a more refined category for them. It could be an informative thing to do and, if I ever do, your post will be helpful in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Weekend Coffee Share: 7th May 2016 | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  7. Pingback: Memoir Monday – Brief Update – Lisa Reiter – Sharing the Story

  8. Sherri says:

    Well now I know at last that my memoir is a testimony memoir! Irene, you know I’ve been waiting a while for your ‘Memoir Tuesday’ posts…I know that for this memoir writer, they couldn’t have come at a better time as I’ve always found the knowledge you share about the memoir writing process to be so helpful. I didn’t realised that you started out ‘Nightmare’ as a memoir for your family and then changed it for public consumption. And you ask of us the vital, million dollar question here: ‘What is the message you want the reader to take home?’ I have certainly found that since re-visiting my first draft and rewriting those earlier chapters, and many more to go, I’ve been challenged to find out the answer to this question, as without it, without that direction and purpose, editing the draft to convey that message will be useless. I have found it so interesting that as the writing of it unfolds, only then has this message become more clear, and then, at last, revealed in the title. I am so looking forward to your next post in this series…going there now!


  9. Charli Mills says:

    How interesting. I find that I learn from all you memoirists, but especially from your specific training. My daughter would agree with your approach. She wanted to be a science writer and did so by first becoming a scientist, then she took on the mechanics of journalism. I will look forward to your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think your daughter did exactly the right thing. How can you write science without a background and understanding of what the people you are interviewing are talking about. Glad you find some interest in our discussions as I have to admit we do in the discussions amongst fiction writers.


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