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Friday, April 29, 2011

What to Include in a Memoir or Family History Book

What to Include in a Memoir or Family History Book

Biff Barnes at Stories to Tell has again caught my attention with his post: "What to Include in a Memoir or Family History Book."

His quote from essayist, writer, poet and author Phillip Lopate: "The selection has to do with what events or parts you choose to highlight. However, you don’t have to put everything in there. People are under the mistaken impression when they first start that if they can’t tell one secret, then they have to be reserved. You can be very unbuttoned about some things and still keep secret about many others."

Be sure to read what Biff and Lopate have to say about 'reflective nonfiction' referred to here: 'That reflective element is particularly important for memoirists and family historians who are trying to convey a real life on a printed page.'

These thoughts are very important to me, as two of my next projects are a nonfiction account of my 5th great grandfather and a personal memoir about my years as a university professor. I know I can use a lot of good advise from those who have gone before. How about you?

Happy Reading,

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three stages of memoir

Three stages of memoir

Last week I asked, 'Have you considered writing a memoir?' and included a quote from Biff Barnes on his blog, 'Stories to Tell: Family History and Memoirs' [I also called him Bill, instead of Biff - Biff, please accept my sincere apology - he even left a comment and was gracious enough not to mention my error!]

Well, he followed up with another good post, that I wanted to mention, today [please go read the whole post] - and quote from, again:

'Memoir is a search for insight and understanding. That search involves three distinct stages:

    •    Recall – The process of remembering what happened. As Willett Stanek put it in her book Writing Your Life: Putting Your Past on Paper. “Writing from memory allows you to time travel, to zoom back to people and places you have not seen in years.”

    •    Reflection – The process of considering or realizing what was significant about the events you recall.

    •    Reminisce – The process of thinking about what happened and how you might tell the story.'

Timely and useful advise and guidance. Thanks, again, Biff!

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Have you considered writing a memoir?

Have you considered writing a memoir?

Blog posts or articles that discuss 'writing a memoir' tend to catch my attention. Having led a long life, already, I suppose I'd like to believe there are some of my stories that would make a decent memoir... certainly not a life story, but a memoir.

What makes a good memoir?

From his post of that title on his blog: 'Family History & Memoirs' Biff Barnes says:

"Values, honesty, intimacy and discovery – not a bad list of goals to strive for in writing your memoir."
Biff Barnes

What do you think?

Happy Reading! 

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Washington by Ron Chernow

It's Monday, What are You Reading?
Washington: A Life 
by Ron Chernow

This is the twenty-first entry for this meme, suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books.

I finally finished Team of Rivals on my kindle and am now taking on Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow... I also have this in hard cover, but it is heavy... so I'll be reading it on the Kindle, in waiting rooms and while my wife is shopping... another good read, it appears from the early pages.

George Washington, of course, was a contemporary of my 5th great grandfather, Sergeant Major William Kinnick, who served under Washington (and a few intermediate commanders, of course) in the Revolutionary War. I am currently researching and working on a first draft of a non-fictiion account of the world this ancestor inhabited. Chernow's book is certainly one additional excellent reference.

Note, announced April 18, 2011: Pulitzer Prize for Biography to Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, "a sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties."

A Description from Publishers Weekly on the Amazon site:

In his introduction, veteran biographer Chernow is clear about his goals. Using the recent "explosion of research," he wants to render George Washington "real" and "credible," to replace "frosty respect" with "visceral appreciation." In many respects, Chernow succeeds. He gives us a Washington who starts with limited education and means and, through a remarkable combination of timely deaths, an incredible capacity for hard work, a shrewd marriage, astonishing physical hardiness and courage, a propensity for land speculation, and a gift for finding influential patrons, transforms himself into a soldier, well-to-do planter, local official, and eventually the only real choice to command the Continental army, preside over the Constitutional Convention, and serve as the first president. Chernow makes familiar scenes fresh (like the crossing of the Delaware) and expertly brings the provisional revolutionary and early Republican eras to life. Along the way, however, he mistakes "visceral" for ardent; while he never hides Washington's less than saintly moments or shirks the vexed question of slavery, he often seems to ignore the data he's collected. Examples of shady dealing are quickly followed by tales of Washington's unimpeachable ethics or impeccable political savvy. At times it feels as if Chernow, for all his careful research and talent for synthesis, is in the grip of a full-scale crush. The result is a good book that would have been great if better edited, and if Chernow had trusted that Washington's many merits, even when accompanied by his faults, would speak for themselves.


I've previously read 10-12 biographies of Washington, so I look forward to how this one more may, or may not, be different, or add to our better understanding of this "Father of our Country."

Happy Reading,

Bill  ;-)