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Memoir Writing Gym - February

Dear writer,

I had been blogging for almost ten years before I got the courage to show my writing to a teacher for some feedback. Her email read -

" Thanks for sharing your memoir pieces with me."

Is that what I was writing?

As a scientist raised and educated overseas, with a different native language, I was not too familiar with the literary terminology. But I knew that I wanted to write so I began learning. The first book I read, and a great one for beginners, was "Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art" by Judith Barrington. I was smitten with the memoir genre. It was love at first sight!

I am a slow reader, but a fast learner. I've read a pile of books on memoir writing since then. I've taken classes, workshops, in-person and online, I spoke with authors, taught workshops. I was paid to teach and write! And while my memoir is still in progress, I am thrilled to share my knowledge and experience with you.

Last night I attended a memoir writing panel discussion with four award-winning authors. Here is what they said.

"When something changes your life, you have to write about it."

Margaret McMullan

"Find your own anchor and write about it."

Rich Lindberg

"You publish because you are compelled, possessed, driven and crazy."

Donna Urbikas

"You gotta feel strong about what you want to say."

Dave W Berner

Best, iliana

Marion Roach Smith's Top 20 Memoir Writing Tips
Let's go on a journey down the rabbit hole!
What's more, every writing tip is a web-link to take you further into the depths of memoir writing.

1. What is Memoir? Memoir is a three-legged stool, designed specifically to hold up your story. In other words, it has requirements – four, to be precise: your story and three others – and learning them will allow you to write this wondrous form.

2. How to Define Memoir? One great way to define memoir is to think of the crime procedural. Let me explain.

3. What is the Difference Between Memoir and Autobiography? Knowing the difference between memoir and autobiography is essential to writing successfully in either genre, and yet it is probably the single most misunderstood aspect of both.

4. What are the Basic Components of a Memoir? How to write a powerful memoir in three simple steps.

5. What to Read to Learn to Write Memoir. These are the best books on writing I’ve ever read.

6. All Memoir Must Include Transcendence. What goes into a memoir? Many wonderful things, though one of them is transcendence. Something has to shift. To change. To grow.

7. How to Start Writing Every Day. The greatest challenge to your writing is that you need a writing practice. You are not writing every day. Let’s change that.

8. How To Plan Out A Book. Here are the five simple steps to planning your memoir.

9. How to Write Someone Else’s Story. Writing someone else’s memoir, or writing someone else into your own, is a huge responsibility. Learn to do it well.

10. How To Structure a Memoir. Memoir structure is based on your argument, which is based on something you know after something you’ve experienced. Let me explain.

11. The Very Best Writing Punch List. What is your writing punch list? Haven’t got one? Try mine.

12. My Single Greatest Piece of Writing Advice is This: Write With Intent. Give up all of those time-wasting writing prompts and useless writing exercises and learn to write with intent. Your writing career will flourish.

13. How To Write Memoir About Family Abuse. Writing memoir in the #MeToo movement has taught us many things. Let’s review them.

14. How To Write Good Characterization in Memoir. How to describe people in memoir? What are the tricks to getting character right on the page?

15. How to Beat Writer’s Block With Structure. Book structure is the key to never getting stuck in your memoir writing.

16. Who is the Narrator of Your Memoir? Knowing who narrates a memoir is a huge decision. Let me help you make it.

17. How to Write About Your Relatives in Memoir. How to write about family? Here are some top tips for your memoir writing.

18. How to Write About Your Kids. Writing memoir about kids is tricky. How much do you tell? I am a former parenting columnist for The New York Daily News. Let me guide you through this territory.

19. How to Write Less and Say More. To write good memoir, write sparingly. Here is some guidance.

20. When is a Memoir Finished? A memoir is finished when you have proved your argument.

[ Full Article here ]

Upcoming Events

1 February 2020, 6pm

Story Studio Student & Teacher Reading
Book Cellar is hosting an evening of Story Studio students & teachers reading. Get inspired to write or to take a class with Story Studio.

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12 February 2020, 6:30pm, $55

Submission Guidelines - masterclass

Have something ready to publish? Story Studio is hosing a master class on how and were to submit to lit journals.
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13 February 2020, 7pm, Free

Anthology reading & Valentine’s Party

Join 6 writers for The Best Women Erotica of the Year reading and a party afterward at Women & Children First

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15 February 2010, 9:30am, Free
Networking for Writers

Chicago Writers Association is hosting a panel discussion on writing and networking.

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3 - 26 February, Free

Do Not Submit

Multiple dates event (check website for dates and locations) of open mic storytelling. Share a story or get inspired to write one!

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12 March, 6pm, Free

Writer’s Studio Open Mic

Next Writer’s Studio Open House/Open Mic will be at Open Books in the West Loop! Sandi Wisenberg will open the event with a craft mini-lesson on Catching Memories. After that is their always-inspiring creative writing open mic.

Writing Prompt

Words my parents [used to] say

Think of sentences your parents [used to] tend to say again and again. May be when something good happens, may be something bad.  What scenes could you describe hearing these words? Why do you think you remember them? Do you feel differently about these words hearing them now? Do you think you know and understand your parents better because of these words?


We become better writers by writing and reading. This section highlights memoirs worth reading. 

Writing out loud, Beth Finke

The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander

And an old but fun Valentine’s essay of mine

Slap in the face of single people 

Enjoyed what you read? Share it!

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Chicago, IL

Copyrights Iliana Genkova


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