Saturday, November 19, 2011

The beginning of your collection of stories

If you’ve written only a few vignettes for your memoir and want to give away an early edition for Christmas, (see Wednesday’s post, Your memoir: a matchless Christmas gift*), consider one of these two easy options for compiling your stories—just for now.

Option 1: Assemble your vignettes in a chapbook. I’ve made several and they are fun. If you’re artsy and have time, use homemade paper (your own or someone else’s) for your cover. Add ribbons, yarn, beads, artwork—let your ideas run wild. I found step-by-step instructions for chapbooks at the link below.* 

Option 2: Put your vignettes in a three-ring binder. I use the kind with a clear plastic cover with a slit at the top because it allows you to design your own cover. (This format will work fine if you’re putting together an early, partial edition* for a Christmas gift, regardless of how you envision your finished memoir. My published memoir started out as a three-ring binder.)

Here’s a photo of Terri’s cover (she attended a couple of my in-person classes):

Here are a couple of my own binders’ covers:

If you have time before Christmas, include a few photos or other mementos with your vignettes. (If you scrapbook, here’s a timesaver: Make color copies of pages you’ve already created.)

Place the following documents at the beginning of your collection of stories:

  • Title Page—the first page your readers will see. Your title will appear on the front cover of your memoir and on your title page. Give yourself a by-line. Your title page might look something like this:

From Valley to Mountaintop
by Elaine Alexander

  • Dedication—name those for whom you are writing your stories
  • Introduction—state why you’ve written these stories (for ideas, see Deuteronomy 4:9 and Psalm 66:16), and maybe even tell how you chose your title. Explain that your memoir is not an autobiography or genealogy, but rather a slice of your life (some highlights within a certain theme). Include, briefly, what you hope your readers will take away from your stories. At the end of your introduction, sign your name and write the date and place you lived when you wrote it.
  • Timeline—optional, if you have one ready; see Sharon Lippincott’s timeline suggestions at the link below.*

In the future, we’ll go over additional components for your finished memoir, but if you’re rushing to arrange an early, partial edition for a Christmas gift, the above will work just fine.

*Links and resources

Your memoir: a matchless Christmas gift,

How to make a chapbook, 

Your personal timeline will help your memoir’s readers,

Have you written a story about Christmas for your memoir?
If so, send me your vignette
between now and December 10
and I’ll select one to publish here
the week before Christmas.
See all the details in my November 12 post at this link:


  1. These are great instructions. For over ten years Thelly Rheam, aka Story Lady (a friend from early life story writing days), followed the system you outline. The first year she gave her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren binders with dividers for each decade of her life, and put copies of short stories she had written behind the appropriate dividers. Each year after that she wrapped up a collection of additional stories, with instructions on where to file them. As the years passed and her story collection grew to over 500, she provided additional binders to hold all the pages, always including filing instructions.

    Thelly is a woman of strong faith and has endured many trials. Her stories emphasize that faith and many are intended to teach lessons and inspire.

    Last I heard, Thelly, who is in her mid-eighties now, had quit writing as her husband required increasing time for care, but the important stories had all been written. She has set aside funds to have the entire collection printed and bound for each descendant after her death.

    Speaking of timelines -- readers can download a template for making one from One version works with Word, the other is blank for printing out and filling in by hand. Enjoy!

  2. Beautiful binder covers. I wish I were creative to do scrap booking like you describe. (Actually I probably am, but don't take the time!!!) This is a great idea.

  3. Sharon and Olive Tree, I always smile when I see comments you've left. :)

    Sharon, I've read a bit about Thelly but don't know much about her. She sounds like a dear. I love the idea of updating one's stories every year, in fact someone else recently commented on that. You've given me and others some good ideas, and the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to give it a try myself.

    Thanks, too, Sharon, for your timeline suggestions as well as your easy-to-download timeline. The timeline idea is a gem and you've made it so easy to do one. I love it.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

  4. Hey, friends, check out Sharon Lippincott's related blog post at

    She encourages us to take small steps that add up to a significant collection of stories. You'll really enjoy her post.


  5. Linda, I arrived here via a link from Sharon Lippincott's post for today. What wonderful ideas you've given all of us for feeling one step closer to getting out there with what we've written no matter how far we are from completing the whole! Thanks to both you and Sharon!

  6. Hi, Sherrey, and welcome to SM 101. I've just spent a few minutes getting acquainted with your blog and see that you and I have several things in common. :)

    I look forward to getting better acquainted in the future, Sherrey, and keep working on your memoir!


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  8. Linda, thanks for visiting my blog! I'm so glad you stopped by and checked it out. And yes, in our neck of the woods, we mentor moms often go by the acronym WOWs. We'll have to share some mentoring experiences another day. Thanks for the encouragement on my writing.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  9. Samantha, thank you for leaving your story. I did as you asked and placed it into the collection of submissions for the Christmas blog post. You've written a delightful story, worthy of sharing!

    Be of good cheer,

  10. Thanks, Linda. It's nice to connect.