memoir

Love Is All There Is

Love Is All There Is

  A few weeks ago, I gave a workshop on memoir writing in Lindsay, Ontario. I ended the workshop with this quote from a poem by Emily Dickinson to sum up the state of mind to aim for when selecting words to tell the stories of a lifetime                               That love is all there is                                  Is […]

Ten Ideas to Enhance Your Desire to Write

You have a story to tell. You are the only one who can write your story. Taking one or several steps in the writerly direction may offer you the necessary incentive to put your plan into effect. All the steps below are rich ingredients for a compost pile. With the right combination, the pile heats […]

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

  When I talk about the six senses in memoir writing, occasionally someone asks me, don’t you mean five? The Famous Five they mean are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. A writer makes a story come alive when generous use of the Famous Five is splashed fragrantly onto an otherwise sense-less page. The reader […]

Fifteen Great Memoirs to Read

  Empathy relies on a willingness to step into the shoes of another person and leave our own world behind. We do this when we read memoir. When we understand what moves another, we are taking a giant step towards felling barricades. Barricades of racism, poverty, mental illness, zenophobia and all the other phobias. Indeed, […]

Death as a Doorway into Memoir

Death as a Doorway into Memoir

For Judy Fong Bates, the death of her father by his own hands when she was twenty-two, is a painful shame that hangs over the days of her adult life. The prologue of A Year of Finding Memory opens with this startling, but somehow serene, statement. “Not long after my father hanged himself in the summer […]

The Memoir Revolution

The Memoir Revolution

In case anyone is still in doubt about whether or not we are in the midst of a memoir revolution, fully half the ten titles on this year’s National Book Awards (American) longlist for nonfiction are memoirs. But within that flexible category is immense variety: Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s open letter to his […]

A Fine Farley Moment

A Fine Farley Moment

On July 22 of 1985, my journal has this remark: “Letter from Farley Mowat!” He was responding to one of mine, which I had felt compelled to write because I had recently been turned back at the US border at Pearson International. I’d said goodbye to everyone, had plans in Miami … it was a […]

I Remember

I Remember

Memory is the theme of Human Chain, a collection of poetry published by one of the world’s greatest poets, Seamus Heaney, in 2011. “What is the relationship between writing poetry and memory?” he was asked by a Toronto Star reporter. “Memory has always been fundamental for me,” Heaney replied. “Remembering what I had forgotten is the […]

Close Call on the Pacific Ocean

Close Call on the Pacific Ocean

Below is an incident I wrote  in 1972 after a four month sail from San Diego through the Panama Canal and up to Key West, under sail alone—no engine, in a 42′ trimaran, similar to the one shown. We were a crew of four: the captain and his thirteen-year-old son, and my partner and I. This […]