Thursday, September 26, 2013

“No memoirist should start … until.…”

“Do you love?” asks Beth Kephart. “Are you still learning to love?”

“It’s a question for all of us, and it’s a question we must repeatedly ask ourselves, especially when we’re writing memoir.” (Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir)

Beth, author of five memoirs, says that if we don’t know what we love,

if we’re not capable of loving,

if we’re focused too much on self (“if we’re stuck in a stingy, fisted-up place”),

if we’re too angry,

if we haven’t allowed grace to take the edge off disappointments,

if “we haven’t stopped hurting long enough to look up and see the others who hurt with us,”

if we “only have words … for our mighty wounds and our percolating scars,”

then it’s likely too soon to begin writing memoir.

Instead, Beth offers this starting point: Make a list of little things that bring you happiness, those things that embrace beauty and goodness and love.

Her suggestion reminds me of Philippians 4:8, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (The Living Bible).

The Message says it this way: “… You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

Beth advises, “Practice gratitude. Rest assured you’ll be given a chance to tell the whole story soon. But start, for now, with love.” (from Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir; emphasis mine)

Beth is speaking at the Memoir Summit at Rosemont College in Philadelphia on Sunday, October 20, 2013. For info about how you can participate in four free workshops with experts in the craft of writing memoir, click on the link above.

Critically acclaimed young adult fiction writer and author of five memoirs, Beth is also a writing instructor at University of Pennsylvania and a National Book Award finalist. Check out her blog, Beth Kephart Books.

Remember to participate in the book giveaway.
Click here for info.


  1. Powerful post, Linda! I love Philippians. Seems it always has something to speak to my heart. Beth is such an information sharer on the art of writing memoir. Thanks for bringing this to us.


  2. Sherrey, your vignettes (the ones I've read) show the power of love and forgiveness in a way that's remarkable. Stunning. You know and model what Beth is talking about. Bless you for the grace and mercy you have extended and continue to extend. I'm eager to read your finished memoir.