Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Sisters Talk About Writing Memoir

The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & LifeListen to this insightful conversation (aired yesterday, June 9, 2011 on blogtalkradio) between sisters Margaret Roach and Marion Roach Smith on writing memoir. Find out why Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project, calls memoirists the "cheeky birds of writers." Margaret Roach, former Martha Stewart executive, wrote a memoir about how gardening saved her after losing her high-powered career: And I Shall Have Some Peace Here. Each sister appears as a character in the other's book, and it's quite interesting to hear their take on writing about the same family from different angles, especially since family reactions are a major concern for memoir writers.

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And by the way, Marion Roach Smith, in The Memoir Project, is totally against writing prompts. I tend to agree with her but I've found that my students love them, so I do them now and then. They are one reason I like Abigail Thomas's book Thinking About Memoir. Her prompts make me think of things I would never have dug up otherwise, often good for a standalone piece here and there. I would love to hear your views on writing prompts!


  1. I love writing prompts just because they automatically make my mind focus on something specific. It doesn't always make for my best writing for some reason, but it's fun. Check out for some prompts.

  2. That's so fascinating that each appeared as a character in the other's memoir! It would be very very interesting to read and see how they each portrayed the other in the same memories! As for writing prompts, I do sometimes find them annoying (and somewhat limiting) but I also sometimes do them because they'll occasionally spark a thought...

  3. I've often thought about what it would be like to read a memoir written by me and another written by my sisters- it is strange how we can all be in the same family and 'perceive' things in a totally different way.

    The jury is still out on the writing prompts.

  4. The Desert Rocks - Thanks for your insight. I agree, writing prompts make you focus!

    Julia - my views exactly. There are many writing prompts I don't feel like responding to and yet I have to say that most of the time if I had to respond something interesting transpired.

    Anjuli - yes, every person has his or her own story, even if they grew up in the same family.