Mark Terry

Monday, July 27, 2009

Theme Your Memoir

July 27, 2009
One of the books I'm reading is "Step By Step: A Pedestrian Memoir" by crime novelist Lawrence Block.

This is a guy who's written over a 100 novels, tons of short stories, essays, scripts, etc. He's also had a battle with alcoholism.

So his memoir barely touches on either, but instead is about race walking and walking.

I don't know why. It's practically a one-book graduate course on a writer's voice and smoothness of style, but why write about walking? Why hang your memoir on that?

I was wondering, in that I'm clearly so writing focused, if I were to someday write a memoir, what would its theme be? Writing? Healthcare? Wife and family?

And I thought, what if I were to choose something that wasn't so obvious. Would I pick Alzheimer's and dementia?

Or perhaps the best one would be my life in music. Sax and piano during my younger years. Church choir. Then a large blank. Then guitar and band boosters.

I wonder.

So, if you had to "theme" your memoir, what would it be?

Mark Terry


Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Lordy. It'd be impossible. I have about three memories from my twenties, I was so sick, LOL. If I did a memoir, it'd be of bits of my life not yet lived, LOL. I'd make it about the people I meet on the road, their stories, and let those meetings tell any story of my journey there might be.

At a certain age, I just sorta got tired of myself, LOL. I've been hanging out with me for 35 years. I'm mostly like a broken record.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I have no idea what theme I'd use but I love the idea of him writing about race walking. My mom race walked during her seventies. And I loved running when I was able to do it. Much more fun to talk about than writing really. Heck, everyone knows Block writes, and he's probably written and spoken about it endlessly, so maybe he just decided to use the book as an excuse to write about something else that interested him, which is actually more illuminating in a way about his life. Although I'm taking it he walked. Otherwise, if he didn't, then yeah it's a weird thing to write about.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

It's an interesting book mostly because Block's such a great writer. For quite some time in the 70s, I guess it would be, he did a lot of racewalking, which he took to after running a lot but having problems with his knees. Then for some time he traveled around the U.S. by bus, just drifting from one race to another as a way to see the country (and just be Larry Block, one suspects). I just finished a section where he and his wife decided to walk across the Pyrenees on the path of a religious thing (just for the hell of it, apparently), so it's clear that walking has had a central place in his life.

But it does make me wonder why he chose this. I think partly you're right, just so he could write about walking, why not fold a memoir of sorts around it.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Interesting question. I've always thought in some ways my life isn't all that interesting, but maybe that's the challenge - to find the drama and humanity in the mundane. Sounds like walking was a method for traveling, meeting people, and maybe self exploration so writing, music, etc. could serve the same purpose.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

Having written and published two memoirs, I can say with authority that the first memoir was themed around my observations about life in Kuwait as a female battalion commander during wartime. The second was themed around the year after, while I tried to re-integrate into my life as a wife, mother, and writer. Each book has, I think, completely different moods.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

What a fascinating question.

I think I would theme mine as a journey of spirituality as a way to cope with with pain of Crohn's disease on a day to day basis.

Or . . . I would frame it as all the lessons I learned from being a mother . . .


4:51 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

My life as a helicopter pilot during the fall of Saigon, fueled by whiskey and cigarettes and methamphetamines.

Wait a minute. I was only fourteen at the time.

My life as a helicopter pilot during the first Gulf war, fueled by whiskey and cigarettes and methamphetamines.

2:41 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Sounds like a bestseller, Jude. But I'd be careful about going on Oprah.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Richmond Writer said...

My memoir would be photographic and the theme would be my battle against my own neurotic behavior so that my children could have what passed for a normal childhood. Though my youngest son is sure to visit a shrink to discuss his mother's intense desire to sing opera loudly and out of tune, publicly.

5:46 AM  

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