Debra Winegarten: How Old Do I Have to Be to Write Memoir?

When Debra is not teaching the art of writing Memoir, she is writing biography.

Debra Winegarten will be one of the featured speakers at the East Texas Writers Guild Summer Writers Conference on July 14. The event will be held at the West Campus of Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.

I had the opportunity to hear Debra Winegarten speak at a regional writers workshop in Rusk a couple of years ago.

She believes that everyone has a story deep inside, wanting to get out.

So do I.

I heard her presentation about the importance of writing memoir.

It’s slices of our life.

It’s our history.

It’s our story.

Don’t hide it.

Don’t take your stories with you when you leave.

Did Debra impress me?

I went home and wrote a memoir of sorts: The Man Who Talks to Strangers.

Debra Winegarten

For years, people kept asking award-winning poet and non-fiction author Debra Winegarten when they would be able to read her memoir. Flippantly, she invariably answered, “Oh, I’m not old enough to do that yet.” But when the 17th person asked her, rather than dismissing them out-of-hand, she stopped and asked, “You just met me for the first time and heard me speak. What is it about my presentation tonight that makes you want to read my memoir?” The participant’s answer stunned Debra and gave her the bookends for her memoir, which she has been working on for the past three years.

Stumped about how to tackle YOUR memoir? Join Debra as she outlines a succinct process for diving into your life story. We will do two exercises together to give you the necessary tools to begin writing your memoir. This is a “roll-up-your-sleeves” and get to work writing workshop. Come prepared to laugh, to cry, to write, and to begin making some progress on writing your life’s story. Whether you’re just starting on this adventure or are well on your way, you will leave the workshop ready to write the next pieces in your memoir.

Debra Winegarten is a third-generation Texas Jew. She realized in third grade she was destined to be an award-winning author when her poem, “God is Everywhere,” was published in her synagogue’s monthly newsletter. Because life has a way of winding its way around and because Debra is a consummate wanderer, it took her quite a bit of time before she actually wrote her first book, “Strong Family Ties: The Tiny Hawkins Story.”

Some children fall asleep to the sound of their mother’s sewing machines. Debra fell asleep to the sound of her mother, Ruthe Winegarten’s typewriter. During her lifetime, Ruthe wrote eighteen books on women in Texas history. So Debra learned how to make books in her early twenties, made her first book in her late thirties, and has just released her seventh book. She can’t, however, sew.

By day, she works at the University of Texas in Austin for the Astronomy Department, a job she took to get health insurance when she was fifty. She also teaches sociology at two small colleges in north Austin. By night, she writes.

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