Why should you write a memoir?

Said Mary Karr: “Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.”

We all have a memoir dwelling deep inside us.

And alongside the memoir there rests a basic fear.

Would anybody read it?

Would anybody care?

Why would anyone want to hear my story?

Who am I?

I looked in the mirror this morning.

I’m not even sure who I am.

None of us are alone.

Others have written successful memoirs.

These are thoughts about the task as written within the memoirs themselves.


“Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.”
― Thomas M. CirignanoThe Constant Outsider


Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, “We *told* you not to tell.” But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


“I start to see that I surround myself with broken people; more broken than me. Ah, yes, let me count your cracks. Let’s see, one hundred, two… yes, you’ll do nicely. A cracked companion makes me look more whole, gives me something outside myself to care for. When I’m with whole, healed people I feel my own cracks, the shatters, the insanities of dislocation in myself.”
― Julie GregorySickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood


“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures. …We tell the story to get them back, to capture the traces of footfalls through the snow.”
― Gail CaldwellLet’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship


“It has always been on the written page that the world has come into focus for me. If I can piece all these bits of memory together with the diaries and letters and the scribbled thoughts that clutter my mind and bookshelves, then maybe I can explain what happened. Maybe the worlds I have inhabited for the past seven years will assume order and logic and wholeness on paper. Maybe I can tell my story in a way that is useful to someone else.”
― Nancy HoranLoving Frank


“’I don’t know where to start,’ one [writing student] will wail.
“Start with your childhood,” I tell them. “Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O’ Connor said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don’t worry about doing it well yet, though. Just get it down.”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


“Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them, it’s because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives. Think small and you’ll wind up finding the big themes in your family saga. ”
― William Zinsser


“The morning opens, a mist of innocence appears across the countryside that tells each one of us the day is new. That feeling of hope, love and the humble awareness of our duty becomes clear if even for a moment. It is that experience of inspiration that follows us into a small town woken by a cool frost on this Sunday morning and the laughter of children playing.”
― Kris CourtneyNorma Jean’s Sun


“Stories nurture our connection to place and to each other. They show us where we have been and where we can go. They remind us of how to be human, how to live alongside the other lives that animate this planet. … When we lose stories, our understanding of the world is less rich, less true.”
― Susan J. TweitWalking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey


“Those who live in memories are never really dead.”
― Kate MortonThe House at Riverton


“Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.”
― Mary Karr


So what did I do?


I wrote a memoir of sorts.

It’s a little about my own life. But mostly it focuses on those who have influenced my life.

And why did I do it?

I wanted to make sure that my stories are told truthfully and lovingly even when I am no longer around to tell them myself.

Please click HERE to find The Man Who Talks to Strangers on Amazon.

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  • Kelly Marshall

    I love your quotes in the above article. I certainly found myself in one of them.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Kelly: I found myself in the one that said; Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt. How is your new book coming along? I’m anxious to see it in print.

      • Kelly Marshall

        When I think back to the men I invited into my life, Julie Gregory’s comment struck a bone. I actually started a family history book a few years ago and interviewed all my siblings, but I found it all too confusing to meld their stories to mine. It’s amazing that five people at the same event will tell such a different story. I called it When Larry Married Charley. Now that my brother Larry is gravely ill, I wish I would have completed it. I’m at least six months out from completing my next book. I went through the doldrums for awhile. I wrote about it in my last blog. I’m reinvigorated now but working full-time keeps me from writing late into the night. I just run out of energy. Thanks for asking.You are so supportive of fellow writers, I wish you and Linda could develop your own marketing company. It’s the big hole in the publishing world. Kelly

        • Caleb Pirtle

          Kelly: You remind me of Jim Ainsworth. He wrote his memoir in “A River of Stories.” One incident involved six of his cousins. He sent each a manuscript of the incident to make sure he got it right. Every one of them remembered it differently. I’m glad you have shaken the doldroms. You have too much talent to let your mind bog yourself down. I’m looking forward to the next book. When you’re ready to publish, let me know. I can help you. I, too, wish we could figure out a way to break the code of marketing eBooks. We haven’t yet. So I keep writing and hoping someone will.

          • Kelly Marshall

            I will certainly keep you in the loop on completion of my next book. I sure appreciate you and Linda.

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