memoir writing
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memoir writing
a look at how we remember and write about the past
Curated by Gene Bodzin
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False memory, false descriptions and false denials

False memory, false descriptions and false denials | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"False memory is a well-documented phenomenon. In a courtroom, it can be disastrous." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Every time we think about a single event in the past, our memory of it changes slightly. That is true whether we are thinking about something we actually saw or about something that was suggested to us. This is one reason why we sometimes remember incidents that never happened, or fabricate details that seem as true as anything we have witnessed.  

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How photographs can boost the memoir genre

How photographs can boost the memoir genre | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The photographs don’t necessarily, or primarily, prove Michael Ondaatje’s unbounded tales of growing up in Sri Lanka. Instead they deepen the ambiguities, foreshadow the dualities, put a bit more acknowledged tremble into the delicate business of remembering." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

It used to be said that pictures do not lie. But that was to disregard the way people cut unwanted relatives out of their wedding pictures, and to discount the possibility of tampering with photos. Now pictures are no more certain a record of the past than slightly fictionalized memoirs are. This is a look at the uncomfortable relationship between words, images, and the truth about what happened.

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Writing technique: The Rule of Three

Writing technique: The Rule of Three | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Used properly, the Rule of Three can intensify your conflicts and help to hook the reader."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Lots of fictional techniques can be adapted to memoir writing as well. For this one, the three questions could become something like this: What happened? How did I react? What effect did the event have on me, either immediately or in the long run? The first two may limit themselves to factual narrative, but the third question gets into reflective prose and lets the reader know something more about the writer. 

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Husband of terror victim pens memoir of quest to meet bomber

Husband of terror victim pens memoir of quest to meet bomber | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Struggling to understand the motivations of a terrorist and speaking with Odeh’s family, Harris-Gershon said, 'made me understand their history and experience, their intense suffering, in ways that I had never understood before.'"

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Although the events that serve as the pretext for a memoir may be of broad interest and even worldwide importance, the focus of the memoir itself must always, always, always be on what those events meant to the writer. Oh, I should add, this is always true. Memoir is not history, it is individual memory.

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How much of Red or Dead is fact and how much fiction?

How much of Red or Dead is fact and how much fiction? | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Peace has obviously tried to tell the story accurately but as a novelist he commands an array of techniques that encourage him to place the search for emotional truth above scrupulous fidelity to the historical record."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

For a variety of reasons, this review will be more of interest to memoir writers than the book itself will be to most readers. Implicit in it is a cautionary tale, a warning of the risks for a writer who piles up words without thinking about what (non-literary) effects they might have on readers.

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How reality caught up with paranoid delusions

How reality caught up with paranoid delusions | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Restless iterations of the idea that consensus reality is in fact the construct of some form of influencing machine: a simulation designed to test our behaviour, a set of memories generated artificially to maintain us in our daily routines, a consumer fantasy sold to us by power-hungry corporations or obligingly furnished by mind-reading extraterrestrials."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Not everybody has the same conception of reality, but the delusions formed by people today are usually quite different from those that might have been common hundreds of years ago. Here's an examination of some of the reasons why.

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As dementia sets in, artists still recall drawing from memory

As dementia sets in, artists still recall drawing from memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Artists or art in general is a protector of the brain function when the brain is affected by a disease like dementia,”

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Individuals retain their creative abilities long after many other means of communication fade. It is well known that people with dementia can sing or play music they heard years before. Now studies show that drawing talent can also remain. If only we could figure out how to make the aging brain continue to recall and transmit words as well!

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Reading cookbooks as life stories

Reading cookbooks as life stories | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Taking care of our cookbooks – within our families and in our archives – is an important component of celebrating and affording respect to the lives and work of ordinary women. It is therefore very much a feminist project and it’s one that social historians, in particular, should be spearheading"

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A great deal of ink has been shed over memory prompts, their value, their contributions to the creation of life stories. Ultimately, though, there is nothing in life that cannot serve as a memoir prompt for a writer with imagination.

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Sharon Bakar's comment, August 22, 2013 2:03 AM
This has given me an idea for an exercise to use with my writing class. Many thanks for posting it.

You are right about fragments of memory clinging to everything.
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Digital storytelling reinvents the narrative

Digital storytelling reinvents the narrative | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Because there is no template to follow, like there is for, say, romance novels or mysteries, digital storytellers must go out and find a form, rather than [use] a form that was already given to us.” 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

With technology, the only limits to way we tell stories seem to depend on our imagination.

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Live in the now and memories will take care of themselves

Live in the now and memories will take care of themselves | memoir writing | Scoop.it

""We should think of living, not remembering,"

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A quick reminder: memories are the residue of life, not its essence.

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Selfie generation has different attitude to photographs

Selfie generation has different attitude to photographs | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"With the expansion of photographs, they lose their value, they are temporal because they only live digitally and there is a great risk that social memory is lost when the hard drive collapses or you lose your phone. There is no history, it all lives in the moment.''

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Photographs used to occupy a special place in the lives of individuals and families, reminding them of who they were and where they had been. Today, there are no photograph albums; instead, many people own hundreds of disposable pictures of everyday life, too many to leaf through or sort through. Something about our sense of the past is lost when technological memory becomes a substitute for human memory.

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‘The Faraway Nearby,’ by Rebecca Solnit

‘The Faraway Nearby,’ by Rebecca Solnit | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"“Where does a story begin? The fiction is that they do, and end, rather than that the stuff of a story is just a cup of water scooped from the sea and poured back into it.”" 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Our lives are unique and our perspectives are unique, but we can share them through our stories. We can come to understand our own lives better by reading the insights of other people, especially in the thoughts that remain after they have survived experience.

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Evidence-based justice: Corrupted memory

Evidence-based justice: Corrupted memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"There are ways in which traumatic memories of real events can be recalled after being buried for years, he adds, but without hard evidence, it is impossible to distinguish false memories from real ones in court.".

Gene Bodzin's insight:

The reliability of eyewitness testimony is being carefully re-evaluated in a number of jurisdictions, largely because of the way memories can be manipulated by investigators, either accidentally or intentionally.

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Free Indirect Style: what it is and how to use it

Free Indirect Style: what it is and how to use it | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The bigger the gap between the narrator's voice and point of view, and a character's voice and point of view, the more irony becomes a part of the storytelling, because irony depends on us holding two different understandings of a single statement, and feeling the gap between them."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

In memoir, a writer confronts the person who used to be, examines past experiences and the lessons learned since then. This essay describes a writing style well suited for that meeting place.

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Memoir in the age of BuzzFeed

Memoir in the age of BuzzFeed | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Because the book’s argument is prosodic, its subject is the process of memory growing rock-like in the mind and in the articulating mouth."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Self-revelation puts on a different face for each of us. And it should: We all have different things to reveal -- or conceal. This lengthy, erudite review focuses on a memoir that never wants to be seen as memoir, purportedly the first book composed entirely on Facebook, a non-chronological catalogue of 2500 random, idiosyncratic lists, considered by the reviewer to be one of his favorite books. 

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What do we forget when we remember history?

What do we forget when we remember history? | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Journalism is often referred to as 'the first draft of history.' In this case, that draft was incomplete. In some places it was grotesquely warped by the prejudice of newspaper owners and writers. In others, it simply failed to capture the stories of those who were not major characters — at least, not with any detail. 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Individually and collectively, we take note of what we consider important when events occur. Later, as we recall what happened, our memories are affected by how we have changed, how our values have changed, by what we have learned, by what has become meaningful in the meantime. This is part of why no two people who share an experience can recall it in exactly the same way.

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How to train your brain to see what others don't

How to train your brain to see what others don't | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Insights may be unexpected, but we can actually teach ourselves to see connections that others may never notice."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Remembering is often a matter of seeing clearly in the first place. We can learn not only how to see more of what is going on around us but how to recall the patterns of events in our lives. These become crucial when we sit down to write and want to create order out of the apparent chaos of the past. 

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Memory is the highest form of thinking, remember that

Memory is the highest form of thinking, remember that | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"'The biggest mistake you can make is try to remember too many things,' world memory sports council chief arbiter Phil Chambers tells me."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Memory is important, but some people carry one aspect of it to an extreme. The discussion at the end of this article stirs the can of worms lurking in the argument that there is value in pure memory. 

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Not all memories fade with age

Not all memories fade with age | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"In younger adults there is very little change in terms of brain activity between false memory and true memory. In older adults, however, the brain regions activated for false memories are different than those recruited for true memories, suggesting a different cognitive process.

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Forgetting where we put our keys does not challenge the brain in the same way as forgetting the name of a friend, and trying to remember who wrote The Scarlet Letter is different again. So is remembering events that did not happen and inaccurately recalling somebody you saw as a crime was being committed.  

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Memory's nasty little trick

Memory's nasty little trick | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The old maxim: “Hindsight is 20/20” is actually not true at all and, worse, may be a horrible distortion of the reality those experiencing a crisis in real-time faced making it even harder to evaluate."  

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Kierkegaard observed that while life can be understood only backward, it must be lived forward. What we perceive is often what we expect, and that influences what we remember.

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Gravestones in Romania share life stories and dirty secrets 

Gravestones in Romania share life stories and dirty secrets  | memoir writing | Scoop.it
Death is not always as grim as it seems. At least not in Sapanta. That’s because bodies laid to rest in this Romanian town get another chance to tell their tales.
Gene Bodzin's insight:

Few of us get to tell our stories after we are gone, but in this town the graveyard has become a forum for remembering details about the lives of those who ended up there.

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With a little help from my friends

With a little help from my friends | memoir writing | Scoop.it
Once I started using my friends’ names in my novels, the characters suddenly became as real as the actual people.
Gene Bodzin's insight:

There's more than one kind of truth in our stories. Every element can be represented accurately or falsified -- sometimes with unexpected results.

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All memories are false

All memories are false | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Each time we remember an incident from the past, we are drawing on associations that are relevant to our particular context in the present moment. The memory changes because what we need to remember at any given moment is also changing."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Memory is a treasure, but it is fragile, volatile, and vulnerable to time and circumstance. In a sense, it is no more than an illusion of the moment.

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Woman finds mother alive 52 years after she disappeared

Woman finds mother alive 52 years after she disappeared | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"How do you confront a past when it appears, one day, without warning, in a newspaper ad? When the life you ran away from lands on your doorstep?"

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Family gives us our identity, for better or worse, and family ties remain even if the family no longer exists. 

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Digital dementia: The memory problem plaguing teens and young adults

Digital dementia: The memory problem plaguing teens and young adults | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Over an evolutionary time period, if we use the brain in this way and we don’t use our short-term memory, maybe years and years (later) we’re going to have difficulty with short-term memory.”

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Leaving all our thoughts and memories in a technological repository may free our minds for other activities, but it has its down side as well.

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