Sunday, May 15, 2011

Helene Hanff on Writing Memoir: You've Left Yourself Out of It!

Since I’m still in the rosy glow of my crush on Helene Hanff’s classic epistolary memoir 84, Charing Cross Road, I will share with you one of her priceless insights on writing memoir that I found as I went in search to learn more about her and her masterpiece. The following is from a 1985 interview Helene Hanff gave to Sybil Steinberg, which appeared in Publisher’s Weekly on the occasion of the publication of her memoir Q’s Legacy:
“She [Helene Hanff] has learned, she says, that she can only write about things that have happened to her. ‘You'd be amazed how many ways you can tell the same autobiography. I've never written anything else, though I never told the whole story in any of them. But each time Gene Young [her editor] read the first draft of my books, she called and said, 'You've left yourself out of it.' It took me just ages to get up the nerve to start with me. So this time, when I first had the horrible suspicion I was about to fall down the same rat hole again, I tacked up a sign over my typewriter: 'You've left yourself out of it!'”


  1. I love it!!!!!! What a great insight- and a super reminder.

  2. I think we all need reminder like that, don't we?