Mary Gottschalk asks: Is it memoir or fiction?

The subject matter of Mary Gottschalk’s guest post really hits home for me. I turned to memoir based on a traumatic incident in my life after a 30-career in technical writing, and now I’ve embarked on a novel based in part on factual events. I agree with Mary. I would not have attempted a novel had I not had the memoir writing experience. I hope those of you working on both memoir and fiction will learn as much as I did from Mary’s piece. Also, in welcoming Mary to Choices, please join me in congratulating her on just releasing her novel, A Fitting Place, in May of this year and publishing her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam in 2008. Is it a Story or an Idea? By Mary Gottschalk Because the inspiration for my first novel came from an incident in my own life, I’m often asked why I chose to do A Fitting Place as a fiction rather than a memoir. Another frequent question—since I have published both a novel and a memoir—is which is the “better” vehicle for a story that … [Read more...]

Universal memoir themes

As promised a few days ago, I’d like to offer a list of universal memoir themes. Vivian Gornick, author of The Situation and the Story: The Art of the Personal Narrative, says: “Every work of literature has both a situation and a story. The situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer – the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say.” The story is the work of literature’s theme. In my book: Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide Plot (situation) = the suicide of a gifted bipolar musician brings parents grief, guilt, and anger Theme (story) = 1) limits the mother has in controlling and protecting her son, 2) surviving the son’s suicide, and 3) the mother’s journey to claim her own creative powers I’ve listed below some other universal theme ideas for lifestory and memoir writ … [Read more...]