Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Memoir Writer Qualifications?

In a recent article for the New York Times, Neil Genzlinger questioned just who should be worthy of writing a memoir. While I don't agree with what he said, in general, I can see his point.

If you've ever been in a critique group, hopefully someone has said, "So what?" to you. For example, there are lots of books written about people who overcome a terrible accident or a terrible illness. If it is your experience, it seems unique. It seems as if nobody has ever had an experience like that -- unlikely. I am a firm believer in reading books in the genre you want to be published in. If you do this, you may be able to take your common experience of overcoming illness and write it into an experience that is unique and untold. Without reading widely, you won't know what just that is.

Genslinger's article ends on this note, "If you didn’t feel you were discovering something as you wrote your memoir, don’t publish it."

When I was writing BREAKING THE CODE, I had a sense of being in a movie at times. When I was discovering clues in letters my father wrote, it felt like a scene in a movie. But the next memoir I'm writing doesn't have that same feel. I'm not sure we have the feeling while we are going through it. Afterall, we're just trying to well...get through it. What do you think?


Linda Austin said...

I read Genzlinger's article, too, and thought the one line you quoted was the one good point. Story should matter to any memoir writer, but is an absolute necessity if hoping for commercial consumption. Other than that, those who need a memoir about cancer to help them get through a bad spot will probably be comforted reading several, not just one person's best-selling experience. Poop on you, Neil.

Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...

LOL I agree. And although they may seem similar, in actuality, they can't possibly be. Our style of writing about our experience makes it different. But yes, getting a publisher to take it on is a whole different conversation.