Essay Tip Sheet #1

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.

More advice:

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Revised 1/3/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: