Every essay that is a story from our past, whether it happened last week or fifty years ago is a memoir.
But in order for it to be a publishable essay it has to resonate with the reader. You have to have learned something from it . You have to have changed because of the incident. You need to be able to show that what you thought before this happened, is not the same as what you thought after the incident
Some people have no problem recalling relevant stories from their past and have no difficulty turning the funny incident that happened last week into a story that will sell to one of the many publications and websites that publish essays.
But what if you do find it difficult to remember those priceless memories?
What if the only memories you can dredge up are those of nothing-ever-happens-to-me schooldays or the same-as-everybody-else college years.
Here are a few tricks to get that old memory back into working order.
Unearth some old photo albums. Look at photos of your childhood, your birthday parties, school photos ( search out your old friends on them) school outings.
Check out college / seminar photos, pics taken on vacation, photos of your previous homes both childhood and apartments you rented as a single or previous homes since you’ve been married.
Go even further back and ask your parents or grandparents if you can go through their family albums. Yo may find photos of relatives you never knew existed . Ask about them while you have a chance.
If all your photos are digital, set your computer to ‘view all’ or whatever it is on your program and sit back with a pen and notebook and watch them all slowly, making notes of memories they dredge up.
GO BACK AND VISIT IMPORTANT PLACES
If you are able to, go back to the place where you were born, where you grew up, walk around your old schools and colleges. You’d be surprised how the memories come flooding back.
DON’T COMPARE MEMORIES
Although it’s good fun to go over old times with friends your memories are your very own and may not match up with others at all. Everyone experiences things differently, sees events through different lenses and consequently remembers them differently and different aspects of events stick in their memories.
If you need to check up on certain verifiable facts such as dates and places then do so, but let your memory of the event shine through your memoir or essay.
HOW TO TURN A MEMORY INTO A MEMOIR ESSAY
To make your memory into a publishable essay it needs to leave the reader with some message, you need to make your memory universal in its message.
Perhaps an unhappy memory about school taught you to be more sensitive to your children.
But your memory doesn’t have to be unhappy or even traumatic to be essay worthy.
A happy memory baking with your grandmother made you understand the importance of keeping family traditions and ensuring your children remain in touch with all their relatives.
Once you have found a universal message, remember to use all five senses when writing – sight,smell,touch,hearing and taste with lots of details to bring the story alive.
Then check your intended publication/website’s guidelines and make sure your essay fits in with their requirements – and when you’re sure it’s the best you can make it ….