Essay #1: Memoir
The Writing Assignment
For this memoir, choose a memory (good or bad) that is somehow related to your educational journey. This memory must have affected you, your life, or your personality. The memory may also have changed the way you viewed something or someone. Overall, this memory must have meaning in your life.
Hints for Success
This essay asks you to work on three areas:
- 1. Audience
- The primary group who reads this will be college students similar to you. This means several things. Strangers will read it, so extremely private, sensitive information is probably not appropriate. They did not grow up with you, so you will need to clarify details that might have been obvious to your fourth-grade classmates. On the other hand, they are all college freshmen or above, so you will not have to provide dictionary definitions for common words such as "book," "ballpoint pen," or "lunchroom."
- 2. Concretion
- As you think back to Kristi Stone's "My Road to Writing," an incredible number of specifics jump out at you: names of teachers, what they said about her writing, the names of her first stories. We even learn how much money she won with that essay she submitted to the contest run by the Blair County Board of Realtors. Do not retreat into fuzzy generalizations and abstractions.
- 3. Focus
- You only have three pages to work with. Do not try to give us everything that happened in 12½ years of school. And don't wander off into discussions of romantic disasters, football games, and learning to drive. Again, remember Kristi Stone: Her memoir does cover several years but it is all tightly focused on the move from "You have the writing ability of a dog" to winning a cash prize for her writing. We never hear about her romantic life or how she learned to drive a car.
- Give the memoir a creative title. ("Essay 1" or "Memoir Assignment" are not titles; they are labels. They do not predict content or draw the reader in; their only function is to keep you from confusing this piece with everything else in your backpack.)
- Start in an interesting place and hook your reader in the first sentence. Invite us into your world. Give us a reason to read the second paragraph and a way to see where all of this is going.
- First person ("I" "me" "my" "our") is the natural way to write a personal memoir. Kristi Stone's essay would not have been better if she had written this way: "Painstakingly one wrote the paper and raced to Mrs. Scott. … After a few tries, one was desperate."
- Find a logical order for your memoir. And do remember that you are writing, not speaking, so it is silly to say, "By the way, I forgot to tell you …" Just insert the item where it belongs.
- Nothing is more concrete and specific than dialog. Let someone else speak. Your writing will come to life.
- Don't worry if you can't remember exactly what a person said. You are not in a courtroom giving evidence; you are remembering an event which changed you. It's OK to fill in small details.
- Include a short paragraph that reflects on the memory and explains to the reader why this is significant. By the end of the story, the message, or "SO WHAT?" should be clear: the
reader should know why you wrote this and what he/she is supposed to get from it.
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Revised 1/3/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: email@example.com.