A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2 Classic Secrets to Jumpstart Your Memoir

         My guest today, Nicole Ayers, is someone you might know from her several guest spots on my blog Tossing It Out.   She also contributed a series of Friday posts to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge blog and now is an official Challenge co-host.   You can also find Nicole at her own blog The Madlab Post.  

2 Classic Secrets to Jumpstart Your Memoir

Dear Writer,

      I know memoirs seem like one of the most daunting pieces of literary material to complete. It’s not easy to just sit down and recap an entire life’s worth of experiences -- especially in a short timeframe. When you’re dealing with a case of writer’s block or self-doubt in this work, I want you to remember that it can be done with little to no hassle. Try breaking it into sections using an old, but efficient, method of short-form writing – Letters. We’re already accustomed to writing letters for many reasons – to file complaints, land a job, catch up with long distance friends and family or to provide personal and professional references when necessary. In an age when you’re so comfortable crafting text messages, social media updates and even blog posts without a sweat, why not apply similar principles to the very work that will become part of your legacy?

       The secret to creating a good memoir is by writing from the heart, in a voice grounded on truth, self-awareness, openness and sincerity. No other work that I know of depicts this practice than the dramatic picture “The Bridges of Madison County,” directed by Clint Eastwood. Yes, I am aware it’s based on Robert James Waller’s novel, but I did not read that book – I watched its film adaptation, a classic that earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. In “The Bridges of Madison County,” two siblings find love letters revealing an affair between their mother Francesca and a National Geographic photographer named Robert Kincaid. They also find a letter she wrote to them, along with diaries chronicling her love affair. Though hard to read and even more difficult to accept, the children eventually learn more about their mother in her death than they knew when she was alive – thanks to those letters and diaries that, unknowingly, also helped them find clarity in the state of their own lives and relationships.

       Francesca’s letter to her children and accompanying diaries were just as powerful as the letters she received from Robert because they were all honest. Their lasting effect, however, came from their ability to write with the recipient of said letters in mind. That is why I urge you to consider who you’re writing to first, by crafting letters that are addressed to your reader, in a figurative sense.

       What kind of memoir are you writing? Will it be personal, formal or somewhere in the middle? Identifying the type of reader(s) your memoir is intended for also clarifies any boundaries that you will or won’t cross. Knowing where you stand can make the next part – finding your tone – much easier to figure out. It can be shaped by writing letters to real or imaginary people. They can be living or dead, so long as their human presence in your mind aids in the task of putting words on paper -- or screen. This person should be someone you trust, which will make your letter writing come from a genuine place. The more comfortable you are communicating thoughts, feelings and experiences, the more letters you will be able to complete.

        The secret to those powerful letters in “Bridges of Madison County” are also in the bits and pieces of one woman’s life puzzle. Francesca’s focus on a specific segment of her life – the affair-- made it easier for this country gal’s children to honor her request for cremation and dispersal of ashes. It’s a wonder, the amount of confusion or torn decisions Francesca would have caused if she also wrote accounts of her marriage to their father. This is a prime example of how grouping letters around a portion of your life at a time can result in more interesting material –possibly even making room for an extended volume of work. I did just that in 2012 when I mailed a letter titled My Journey to Bare Bones to one of my filmmaking buddies in Australia.

       The letter, about all the conflicts I endured while turning one of my screenplays into an award-winning short film, was a bit lengthy and made me wonder if it was even worth writing at all. This filmmaker colleague told me that my letter was amazing to read and then suggested that I turn it into a script. His response further illustrates that great material can be adapted to form new works. It also makes me wonder how many memoirs could result from my writing production notes in letter form, for every film I make or even the film festivals I attend.

       Who says your memoir has to be complete in one book? Try writing a series of letters that capture one specific part of your life and then repeat the process, focusing on another area. When finished, you will have material that can be used to assemble an entire memoir – in whole or in part.

Nicole Ayers
Writer & Director of the Short Film, “Abyss”

P. S.--

I’m raising funds on IndieGoGo for my 2013 film festival and television premieres of a new film called “Abyss.” If you contribute $5 or more by Saturday February 23rd, I will mail you a Secret Perk: My Journey to Bare Bones, a letter chronicling the screenwriting, production and film festival experiences surrounding one of the first movies I ever made that was shown in a theater. It is an exclusive perk, only available for a limited time to select people, including Wrote by Rote readers. Check out my campaign page for more information.  Go to:  Nicole's Film project

        Please at least check out the above link to read about Nicole's film project.   Even if you can't help with the funding, you can help by telling others about it.  Tweet it, put it on Facebook, announce it anywhere you can think of.  Wouldn't it be cool to be able to say you helped Nicole get her film financed.  Oscars anyone?

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  1. A most enjoyable read on this lovely Sunny Saturday.


  2. Tweeted and shared this.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. Yvonne,

    I'm glad to know you enjoyed reading this post. We're said to get a snow storm in Philly, so its nice to be able to enjoy the sunshine when we have it! Thanks for your comment :)


    Mmm oh how I could use some chocolate right now. I'll have to make do with the bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies I have in the kitchen. Thank you for tweeting and sharing!

    Writer & Director
    My movie: http://igg.me/at/abyssmovie/x/22993

  4. Very inspirational write up, Nicole! It was exciting, and held my interest!You're an excellent writer! I'm happy for your success! And it will be my pleasure to make a contribution! Keep going to higher heights!

  5. This is good advice. I'll share it with one of my friends who is writing a memoir.

  6. Betty,

    Thank you for your kind words. Insipiration is the name of my game and it's a pleasure to be able to provide something that excites you to the point that you read the entire post. Even better....if you and anyone else who reads Wrote by Rote contributes to my film campaign, I am EXTENDING the Secret Perk for anyone who donates to my IndieGoGo page via this blog post.


    As the saying goes...sharing is caring! Thanks for reading. I hope your friend finds my advice as useful as you do :)


  7. Dear Nicole, I'm in the midst of writing an on-line memoir that will become either one long one or three short ones--not sure which, Thank you for your advice, it makes such sense to me as I explore my own life. Peace.

  8. Good luck with the memoir. The letter idea is great! Too bad we don't save emails.

  9. Letters are an interesting way to get your most heartfelt thoughts in writing. From there, you can modify them as necessary for many projects. The trick is not to lose the passion expressed in the letters, since many letters are written with very strong emotions.

  10. This is a great cause. I contributed and tweeted the link. Good luck Nicole!

    Great tips on writing a memoir. I found them quite valuable. Thanks. :)

  11. Thanks Nicole for the excellent post. I wish you well for your fund-raising campaign.

    Thanks to all who commented and visited Nicole's site. If you still want to contribute, you have until the end of March. But please try to send something as soon as you can. And tell others!


  12. Dee,

    If your memoir is going to be online, the three short ones might be the way to go since the internet audience is faced paced. It also gives you the chance to build anticipation for the 2nd and 3rd installments. Good luck either way!

    The Desert Rocks,

    Thanks for reading this post and you brought up a good point about emails. The thing is...if the average person saved emails, my bet is there would be more scandalous memoirs on the bookstore shelves. Lol.


    Yep...Easy modification is what makes letters so appealing when trying to put together a memoir. The passion could be more likely to emain if they are addressed to people...especiaally those whom we like and trust as opposed to...say...the utility company or traffic court representative :)


    I'm glad the memoir writing tips are useful to you and Thank You very much for contributing to my film campaign!!! I appreciate all of your support. Thanks for tweeting as well.


    It wouldn't have been possible without your help and for that, I thank you very much for publishing my letter-writing post on your blog as well as supporting my film campaign. I am glad to know that you found what I wrote to be worthwhile for your Wrote by Rote audience.



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