Wednesday, September 7, 2011

“Where Are You From?” and your memoir’s structure

I have a new idea and I’m eager to share it with you!

It started with last Wednesday’s intriguing exercise, “Where Are You From?” (or “Where I’m From” ). If you haven’t read that, here’s a link. You don’t want to miss it—it’s good.

You can write your own “Where I’m From” as stand-alone piece, orhere’s my new idea: You could:

  • write it chronologically,
  • divide it into segments, and
  • use each as an introduction to a set of chapters that took place during that block of time.

Confusing? Here’s an example.

I’ve written my “Where I’m From” chronologically, starting with my earliest memories—around age three. The first page or so covers up to age eight. That segment of my essay (excerpt below) could serve as an introduction to a division in my book.

Here’s what I mean. The page introducing Part One would look something like this:

Part One:
My First Eight Years

I am from Jerry and Kay, children of the Great Depression, accustomed to hard work and sacrifice and doing without.

I am from Jerry and Kay who came of age during World War II, patriotic young people who looked death—and life—in the face. Young adults committed to frugality and honorable conduct and self-discipline.

I am from grasshoppers in sun-baked grasses.

I am from the Inland Empire’s deep-freeze blizzard of 1950 the day my baby brother was born.

I am from a Zenith black-and-white TV with an Indian-silhouetted test pattern.…

I am from “The B. I. B. L. E. Yes that’s the book for me.…” and “Eensy Weensy Spider” and “I’m a Little Tea Pot.”

I’m from the annual Scottish Picnic, all dressed up in my tartan kilt, ruffly white blouse, and bonnet.

I am from “two jerks of a little dead mousie’s tail.”

I am from rustling wheat fields and unrelenting August sun and powdery Palouse soil and pie cherries from my grandparents’ backyard tree.…

I am from lilacs and hollyhocks and daisies.…

Following that segment of “Where I’m From,” readers could find chapters pertaining to that period of my life.

This portion of a Table of Contents would look like this:

Part 1: My First Eight Years
          Chapter 1’s title
          Chapter 2’s title
          Chapter 3’s title
          Chapter 4’s title

At age eight, my family moved across the state and everything changed.

Here, then, I could use segment two (excerpt below) of my “Where I’m From” as an introduction to the second division in my book.

Part Two:
Mist and Moss and  Salt-sea Air 

I am from a Mayflower moving van, transported to mist and moss and salt-sea air.

I am from untamed blackberry vines and emerald grass and mountains reaching heaven.

I am from foghorns and ferryboats and salmon sizzling over driftwood-and-seaweed beachfires.…

The Table of Contents would then look like this:

Part 1: My First Eight Years
          Chapter 1’s title
          Chapter 2’s title
          Chapter 3’s title
          Chapter 4’s title

          Chapter 5’s title
Part 2: Mist and Moss and Salt-sea Air
          Chapter 6’s title
          Chapter 7’s title
          Chapter 8’s title
          Chapter 9’s title

And so on.

I’m intrigued with the idea, are you?

Would you like the latest posts from Spiritual Memoirs 101
delivered to your e-mail inbox? It’s easy!
Type your e-mail address in the little gizmo
in the right column toward the top.

I post extra tidbits on Facebook.
If you don’t want to miss them, follow on Facebook
(click in the right column).

Related posts:


  1. I like how you've written about where you're from and am intrigued by the idea. I might have a change to start something on my memoir this Saturday. Do you have any idea to get me started. I know you have lots posted here but am at a bit of a loss without going back through everything :-)

  2. p.s. you're so cute in that photo of you wearing tartan.

  3. Hi, Joyful, I'm SO excited that you might get to start writing your memoir this Saturday!!! Perhaps to get started, you could write one of your favorite memories of what God did for you. Start with something easy, and I always encourage people just starting out to avoid writing about something painful and/or traumatic because it's SO hard! Think of some everyday kinds of things. Another option would be for you to start a "Where I'm From" for the first few years of your life, or a certain block of years, and I'm pretty sure you will think of a whole bunch of stories while compiling that. It's amazing how that brings back memories. Start small and easy, and let me know if I can be of help. I'm really excited for you, Joyful!


  4. Linda,
    What a great writing prompt. Have bookmarked it and will use it soon. I enjoyed your story,too. BTW, my friend is enjoying Grandmas Letters a lot. We are holding book discussions!

  5. Thank you for the ideas Linda! That helps :-)