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Memoir Musings, Issue #106--September issue--Guided Memoir Workshops & Breaking the Mold
September 09, 2008

Welcome to Memoir Musings

Welcome to Memoir Musings, your newsletter from Extraordinary Lives. Our goal is to inform and inspire you to save your family stories.

If you enjoy the newsletter, please forward it to family and friends who might enjoy it too.

Enjoy your memoir journey!

Newsletter Contents

Feature: Guided Memoir Workshops

How-To Tip: Break the Mold

What's New at

Memory Prompt: Best Friends

Guided Memoir Workshopsmemoir class

Autumn is by far my favorite season—the weather, colors, Friday night football…it brings so many pleasant events and memories. It also marks a season of changes, from outdoor living to inside, from poolside picnics to holiday preparation. It's a perfect time to start a new about joining us for a fall season of Guided Memoir Workshops?

As a friend to Extraordinary Lives, you already know that we produce written and video memoirs for families and businesses. In the course of talking with many people, we find a significant number have already begun writing a memoir or would like to do so themselves, but are overwhelmed by the task or uncertain of how to start, make progress, or finish a memoir.

In a nutshell, Guided Memoir Workshops are a six-week class that launches and supports people on their own memoir-writing journey. Each weekly meeting includes: exercises to get the memory juices flowing; tools and techniques to make stories compelling and lively; and most importantly, a community to motivate, support, and improve memoir writing.

Who are these designed for? They are perfect for people who believe in the value of saving stories and are willing to get their feet wet by writing brief stories on a theme. To take advantage of these workshops, you need to be:

  1. Willing to attend 2-hour sessions for six weeks
  2. Willing to draft a short memory/story at home each week, using tools, techniques, and topics given in the workshop
  3. Willing to listen to and share those stories with others in a small-group setting

You do not have to be a great writer, great typist, a great storyteller, a great speaker—there are no grades, no pressure, no grammar lessons, no red pens! These workshops are designed to empower you to tell and save stories—yours or those of your family—by giving you ideas, tools, and a supportive, enjoyable community to help along the way.

When our six-week workshop is finished, you will have a foundation for your own memoir, which you can continue to expand on your own or in future workshops. If you’d like to join such a community, one six-week series begins October 1 at Twin Towers in College Hill. Another series will launch November 4 at the Mason Community Center. We are also looking to launch a workshop in Northern Kentucky as well!

We are so excited to offer this tool to our greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky friends. Call or email if you’d like to join the journey…and the fun!

How-To-Tip: Break the Mold How To Tip Toolbox

We heartily congratulate people who have begun or completed writing a memoir--it is a major undertaking and major accomplishment!

In talking with people about their writing, they often are apologetic, stating that their writing is "boring."

Three thoughts on this topic:

First, you are undoubtedly your own harshest critic, so be kind to yourself! Unless you are a writer by trade, no one in your family expects you to be, well, a writer by trade!

Second, you have accomplished something that will be treasured in your family, no matter how it reads or looks! Rejoice in that!

Third, there are many tactics to help your writing have more clarity, energy, and polish. One tactic is to break the mold that says your memoir should be a litany of decades. That structure may be natural and appropriate, and you may want to use it when all is written, but you may find far more creativity flowing if you write from a less familiar structure--break that mold that you've carried around in your head for so long!

Here are three examples:

  1. Rather than organizing your writing around your childhood, teenage, and adult years, write about the various homes you have lived in. Describe them using all of your senses; every home has a set of sights, sounds, scents, textures that fill your memory. For example, I can clearly hear (in my memory) the sound of our back screen door slamming; it never had hardware to slow down that motion. That "smack" is forever linked with a backyard filled with children playing Army and family cookouts and sitting with a boyfriend on the back porch steps. Any other door slamming was a sure sign of trouble; that door had exclusive rights on a joy-filled slam!
  2. Or, take one particular sense and walk through your memory examining places, events, and people that were somehow touched by that. For example, the smells associated with baking are something that many families can relate to, and it often evokes a wide stream of memories around holidays, extended families, and shared interests. What about the smell of mothballs? Cut grass? Cigarettes or cigars? Music is another topic that evokes memories of people, places and events--let your ear lead you through your life!
  3. Another structure to explore is your best friends through the ages. Did you have one special friends, who perhaps graces your life to this day? Did your circle of friends change as your life circumstances changed? What was the basis of such friendships...locale, shared interested, common hardships?

Open yourself to the many possibilities of evoking and organizing your memories; the passage of years is but one of many choices.

What's New at

Extraordinary Lives web site

Visit and check out our schedule of workshops.

Workshop Calendar

Monthly Memory Prompt: Best Friends

memory prompt

The joys of friendship are worthy of celebration! Hopefully, your life includes many friends and perhaps one or two true kindred spirits through the years. Give them a starring role in your memoir:

  • How did you meet?
  • What were your first impressions?
  • Give a physical description of him/her
  • Did you resemble one another? Did you try to?
  • What were your life circumstances when you met? What were your friend's circumstances?
  • How did you spend time together?
  • What did you share with this friend?
  • What did you hold back?
  • How was this friend different than others?
  • What could this friend tell you about yourself? Did he/she?
  • How were you changed by this friend's presence in your life?
  • Did you fight? About what? How was it settled?
  • Did you have shared adventures? Heartbreaks? Difficulties?
  • Did you have shared dreams and plans? How did that turn out?
  • How did your friendship change over time?
  • What are some cherished memories, specifically?
  • What life forces kept you together?
  • What life forces worked to pull you apart?
  • Did this friendship end? How? Why?
  • What lessons did you learn from this friendship?
  • What single word best describes this person to you?

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.
~ Aristotle

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