Introduction To Memoir Writing


Hi! My name is Joanne Putnam.


I recently retired from teaching after 35 years. I needed one more three credit class to renew my teaching credential so I wanted to take a class that was of interest to me personally and that would help me to share with others, the importance of leaving "memories" to those you love.  I chose to take: Memoir Writing and I decided to use my website:  to help facilitate sharing the concepts of memoir writing with you.


 I plan to  share a progression of assignments to help you to put your memories down on paper. I will send you an email when I have posted a new lesson or article. What you plan to do with them is entirely up to you!


Memoir writing is not journaling. Journaling often records specific events of the day. Memoir writing encompasses events that help to shape you into the person you are today. They are like a string of pearls, linked together, to create who you are as a person.


We all go through good times and bad times and they all have a part in shaping the outcome of our lives. Who we become is determined by the way that we respond to the situations in our lives.


Memoir writing has many very valuable assets, but it can also end up being a very negative process if you allow yourself to get bogged down by the negative aspects of your life that are best left unsaid. (Hint: Naming names of people who have hurt you is not the way to write a memoir.)


There are many reasons to write a memoir. You may want to write about your own personal memories or you may choose to help someone else record their memories.


Several years ago, I was asked to help a friend, write a book about the story of her mother's life, as a gift for her 80th birthday. As the daughter asked her mother specific questions to trigger thoughts of bygone days, she was amazed to discover that her mother had actually traveled out west in a covered wagon, as her family migrated to new farmland.


Spending time with her mother left an indelible impression on her personally, as well as left a memorable legacy for the other friends and family members who received a copy of her book.


As a young mother, I determined that I would try to remember the things my children did and said. It didn't take long to realize that if I didn't write it down, I wouldn't remember. I wasn't so good keeping up with the "proverbial" baby book, but notebooks, journals, and scraps of paper became great mind joggers. Because we moved quite frequently, I knew they wouldn't remember places we lived, things we did as a family, childhood friends they knew, so I tried to jot things down for them. I don't know that they appreciated it as much as I had hoped they would, but when each of my children turned 16, I gave them a handwritten booklet encapsulating their life up to that point.


Writing scares most people. I have found that people would love to write their testimony or the story of their life, but they are paranoid because of what a "teacher" told them many years ago. (I can attest! My first essay of third quarter Freshman English class received an F-! Talk about being intimidated!)


Several years ago, I took an amazing writing class. It stirred my creativity and gave me the desire and motivation to write without the fear of failure. It also helped me to encourage others to write without the fear of failure. You can do this!


As you begin this adventure:



1. Get a 3 ring binder to keep your writing in.


2. Write like you speak. Don't feel like you have to use superfluous words to impress someone.


3. If you have a copy of So You Want to Write, pull it out and read through it. If you are interested in a copy, it is still available. (Feel free to contact me.)


4. I am not interested in critiquing your writing, I simply don't have time. See if a trusted friend

    would be interested in working with you. (Hint: Reading what you write- out loud- will help you to       edit your own writing.)


I am looking forward to sharing these lessons with you!


Joanne Putnam