I often get queries about how to write a short memoir and make it worth reading. I have decided to share a gnarly situation from my own life to show you how to take the content of your day-to-day and turn it into a short memoir, worth reading because you’ve aimed it at the social good.
I am also establishing with this new year a blog entitled: 2020/The Year of Seeing Clearly for the submission and publication of short memoir of the sort included here. Submission guidelines are at the end of this newsletter.
I initiate this blog as a forum for short memoir, but also to urge writers to use memoir for socially just reasons. We live in a time when such efforts are greatly needed. Share this newsletter so others can join in.
Here is my short memoir entitled Why We Write Memoir:
I live in Park Plazas in Santa Fe, an area managed by a Stephanie Davis-Namm, and a Board of Directors led by Richard White, President of RKW Enterprises, Auction Support Services. I tell you these details because memoir states the facts.
When reparations were requested, Davis-Namm and White disavowed responsibility for clean up. The Park Plazas employee tasked with managing the installation, and the plumber, both men, walked away without repercussions—and the Board of Directors, led by White, side-stepped. A woman, Davis-Namm, made it possible for each of these men to avoid responsibility.
I tell you these facts, because facts are at the heart of memoir.
I tell you these facts also because they illustrate daily life for people across this country—small insults, big abuses. Over and over, men in positions of power, the organizations they steer, and their functionaries, ignore, abuse, and take advantage of women—and people of color, and religious minorities, and gays, and elders, and on and on.
That is why we write memoir.
We write memoir to hold accountable those who are responsible. We write memoir because when one person speaks the truth, she opens the door for the next person to speak the truth.
That is how we change the world, a world with problems so mammoth it seems impossible to find solutions. It’s easier to lose oneself in social media than to figure out what to do. Where do I start? is a familiar refrain.
A memoir doesn’t have to be a book. It can be the story of an event. You state the facts and name the truth housed inside those facts.
The truth for millions of women, every day, is that if they had been men, their experiences would have gone differently. That is why we write memoir.
#MeToo is just one big screaming memoir, and thank the Gods. Finally.
But when women throw women under the bus, as emissaries of men, they deserve being called out. We are used to men in positions of power ignoring situations that disturb the status quo; it’s predictable. But women perpetuating these patterns? Make no mistake, these are the women who keep the world stuck in the same-old-same-old for those who suffer the indignities of inequality. Like Davis-Namm, they cover for men; they do their bidding.
Women will write memoir for as long as it takes to get women like Davis-Namm to do the right thing, for as long as it takes to dismantle the forces that keep their pay below that of men, to get affordable healthcare and equal opportunities for their children, for as long as it takes to disempower the men who abuse, and who wink at the abuses of their peers.
Whether it be water spilling into a home in New Mexico; a tainted drinking source in Flint, Michigan; the abusive behavior of a Supreme Court Justice; children locked up at our southern border; young black men shot in the cities of our democracy, it all starts in the same place: small acts and tiny choices made by boards of directors, community representatives, office clerks, middle managers—brick-upon-brick—laying the foundation for a culture of dominance and disregard.
State the facts.
Write memoir to right wrong.
Such is my example of how to use daily life to write a short memoir. Happy 2020, the year of seeing clearly.
Submit your short social justice memoirs for inclusion in Norton’s blog: 2020/The Year of Seeing Clearly. Focus on daily experiences with systems that perpetuate inequality. Guidelines: Maximum 750 words. Get the facts right. Skip the vitriol. Name the issue. https://www.lisadalenorton.com.