Are you writing your memoir?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since the seventh grade.
That was the year I first experienced the sweet smell of writing success.
We had a unit on New York State Indians, and our teacher made it very interesting. I still have the little rag doll I made—complete with a beaded brown dress and dark hair styled in two little braids in the front.
But most important to me at the time was the masterpiece of a poem I wrote. I can’t remember Miss Peck raving about it. But no matter, I knew in my heart it was good.
All I remember is one immortal line of the poem: “The Mohawk come, the Iroquois begin to run.”
From that awkward beginning came a long career of writing–first writing for church institutions, later public relations writing, and then column writing.
As a writer, I did what many other writers did. I read Natalie Goldberg’s books and followed her instructions.
Natalie is a writer who writes about writing. Her most familiar book is “Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.”
“Wild Mind” is so popular that it has sold 1.5 million copies and has been translated into 14 languages.
Goldberg’s purpose in this book is to get people writing–letting the words flow.
Keep your hand moving, lose control, and don’t think, she says. Just write whatever comes to you.
In her most recent book, “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir,” she recommends the same style for writing your memoir.
Goldberg says that everyone has a story–many stories, in fact. But, like an old friend from far away, your stories are “in another country” and you have to bring them into your life again.
She says we often want to write linear style–where you were born, where you went to school, etc. Instead, we should approach writing memoir sideways!
She gives assignments and tells you how long to write on each one. For example, tell a memory of a Popsicle. Write for three minutes.
That was an easy one for me. Our family sometimes went to Lake Ontario to buy fresh fish when the fishermen came in. And on the way home, we bought the yummiest Popsicles—ice cream dipped in caramel.
It makes my mouth water even now!
One time a fishermen gave us a slimy, snake-like eel to eat. This was a long time ago before cars had trunks, so the eel was in the bottom of the bucket on the floor of the back seat with my brother and me.
We were OK until the eel crawled out of the bucket for air. Then, we stood on the seat and screamed like banshees until our father stopped the car.
That’s my Popsicle story! How about yours?
Here are some other assignments, and write 10 minutes on each.
Tell about a time you washed the dishes. Where is the hottest place you’ve ever been?
Tell about your favourite aunt by name. Tell about a clock you’ve looked at a lot. What is the best moment you’ve ever experienced?
Now for three minutes, write about a pair of shoes that hurt your feet.
You get the idea.
Remember, everyone has stories—even you! So begin writing your stories today!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

Posted in Uncategorized