Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your memoir: a matchless Christmas gift

Are you in a tizzy trying to think up Christmas gift ideas for everyone on your list?

If you’re like me, you worry—Is this in style? What size does he wear? Would this color match her decor?

Today, people own more trinkets and gadgets and junk than they need, or can use, or even want, yet when Christmas comes around, we pace shopping malls ad nauseum searching for new kinds of trinkets, gadgets, and junk to give family and friends.

Let me suggest an alternative, something much better:

Give your family members a copy of your memoir—a gift of yourself and of their unique place in your family, God’s family, and the world.

If you haven’t finished your memoir—even if you’ve written only a few vignettesno problem. Give what you have completed.

Tell recipients this is an early draft, just the beginning, and that you’ll add more stories later.

You still have five weeks to edit and revise your vignettes.

To help with your editing task, ask a “reader” for feedback on your vignettes. Frank P. Thomas advises:

“… Choose that person carefully. Remember that friends or relatives tend to overpraise, and others may criticize merely to impress you with their knowledge.

“What you are looking for is impartial, objective criticism. Pick someone who cares about writing besides caring about you, such as an English teacher, a teacher of writing courses, or someone in your local writers’ club. As you hand your edited manuscript to your reader (never show a first draft) ask specific questions. Are there any passages that will not be clearly understood? Are there any omissions or inaccuracies. Are any parts of the manuscript repetitious? What parts did you like best? Least? Are there any glaring errors of grammar or spelling?

“You may want two people to read your memoir copy. However, bear in mind: They are not passing final judgment on what you have written. You are.… Pick and choose from the comments made only what you believe will strengthen the memoir—then discard the rest.” (Frank P. Thomas, How to Write the Story of Your Life)

Revise your vignettes as needed, polish, and print them.

In coming days I’ll share a couple of practical ways to put your stories together, and I'll suggest items you’ll want to include in your gift, but for now, make a commitment to give what you’ve written—however long or short—as a down payment, a pledge of more to come. Promise your recipients a finished copy later. How about next Christmas?

Wrap your stories in Christmas paper and tie them in bows. Your stories—and your friends’ and family’s part in them—will never go out of style, and you don’t need to worry about buying the right color or size.

Your memoir: a gift that will live long beyond your lifetime.


  1. What a wonderful idea,Linda! Years ago, I purchased a journal,"From a Mother's Heart" where I wrote short vignettes about my life. For a few years, I wrapped it up and gave it to my children at Christmas. They would return it so I would keep adding to it. I need to dig the journal up again and add some more stories. Thanks for the nudge and for the helpful editing tips.
    Thanksgiving Blessings to you and yours!

  2. Kathy, what a great idea--a journal to share with your kids and update each year! What a treasure! If you do find that old journal, I suspect you'll have a great time re-reading those old stories. Sounds like something to do on a cold winter day, in front of a roaring fireplace fire with a hot cup of cocoa.

    Blessings to you, too, Kathy.


  3. I'm glad you like the idea, Karen. Thanks for stopping by.

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving. :)

  4. This is a great idea! My sister-in-law last year made a family cookbook, with recipes and stories from everyone, and it is a family treasure. A memoir is a wonderful treasure in an age of too many trinkets and gadgets for Christmas.

  5. Hi, Olive Tree,

    I love the family cookbook idea, in fact I made one a number of years ago, but our accompanying stories were just snippets. Did you family submit better stories than my family did? I hope so. :)

    I plan to some day write a blog post about writing a memoir based on family recipes, so I welcome your feedback, ideas -- or even a guest blog post. I'd love to have you write a guest post. Think about it! :)