Some Things I Know: Navigating the journey of writing memoir

WARNING: No matter who you are, or what your intentions were when you sat down to write, you will not be the same at the end of your memoir. You will be changed by the writing of your own story. And your story, in turn, will be changed as well.

Writing so deeply and personally about who you have been and what has happened to you changes your perspective on so many things. Perhaps the most impactful of these changes is how you view yourself after the awkward and enlightening experience of crafting the character of yourself in an honest way. This forces us to be (hopefully) more honest than we’re used to being with ourselves.

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Some Things I Know: Crafting a story worth telling

Whenever I have the privilege of doing a book reading or writing presentation, I always spend some time talking about the power of sharing your story. Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is worth sharing, I say. I stand behind this. It is both true and important.

But in another way, it’s not true, right? Everyone has a story that has value in their own lives, within their own circle of humans. However, if you’re hoping to publish your story, to craft it into something marketable, the bar is a bit higher. And before you start down the long road of drafting it all out, editing it until your heart sweats and pitching it to agents, a good first step is to determine if your story is worth telling, not just to your friends and family, but to a larger audience of readers.

How can you know? To me, it comes down to two things: striking a balance between bizarre and relatable, and having a solid theme.

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Some Things I Know: Balancing yourself and your audience in memoir

For whom are you writing your memoir? Is it really and truly just for you? Great. That’s super. You don’t really need to read any tips about memoir writing then, because it doesn’t matter how you go about it. Do whatever you want.

But more often, people are writing memoir to share their story. Whether you’re planning to hand it to your only child while on your deathbed or aim for publication and distribution on an global scale, the minute you decide who makes up that target audience, they become a necessary part to consider with every word you write.

And yet, if your memoir isn’t true to the story you want to tell, you’re doing your story a disservice. So you have to write for yourself. I know. Just like my thoughts on truth vs. facts in memoir last week, now it sounds like I’m contradicting myself. Apparently, I love to do that. But really, it’s all about balance. You are obviously an incredibly important part of your story. So is your audience.

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Some Things I Know: What does truth mean in memoir?

The truth of your memoir has to revolve around fact, right? Otherwise, you may be writing something super, but it’s probably not memoir. At the same time, one of the greatest challenges to writing memoir is that facts also have a tendency to obscure the truth of your story at times. Sometimes you have to leave them out. Or even change them a bit.

So, definitely stick to facts, but don’t stick to too many facts. You’re welcome! Good luck with that. It’s a confusing bit of advice, I know, but writing memoir is about filtering through all the facts, choosing the ones that contribute to the truth of the story you’re telling and leaving the ones that are irrelevant or distracting in your memory, but out of your memoir.

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Stop trying to be me, Amy (Just kidding, I love you. Please be my best friend.)

Someone has made an NBC television show about an American moving to Sweden.

It wasn’t me. It was Amy Poehler. Of course. Because, just six years after launching an NBC television show about the hilarity of working for local government, Amy is continuing her quest to tell my life story in reverse for the American viewing public. I assume, a few years from now, we’ll get to indulge in her comedic rendition of a small town girl having a mediocre college experience at a Big Ten university. Be prepared, there will be no discernible plot or meaningful takeaways.

So there’s this show. It’s a comedy called Welcome to Sweden and it starts in July. What does this mean for someone who recently released a book on nearly the same topic, plus some weird cults and indentured servitude? I don’t know. It seems like an opportunity, but I’m not sure what that opportunity is. Will people accidentally buy my book, thinking it’s associated with the show? Should I send the book to Amy so she can write a desperate American house servant into the second season? It certainly means, as this show is based on the real life experiences of Amy’s brother, that if my sibling was famous, the Swedish Lessons version of Welcome to Sweden would have already happened. Come on, Brianna. Get with it.
While I mull over how Swedish Lessons can hop on Welcome to Sweden’s coattails, you may enjoy the trailer. It looks amazing.

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Science and art; Fiction and non-fiction; Truth and beauty

Science just ripped my heart out. It is no secret that I have an intellectual blind spot when it comes to science. I know it matters, I’m glad other people are working on it, but my brain actually shrivels when I have to think about it. Five minutes of Ira Flatow and I will pass out. Driving on Friday afternoons is an actual death trap for me.
Regardless, just try and watch this video of scientist Andrei Dmitriyevich Linde learning the big news from this week that his theory about the Big Bang had been proven to be true without turning into a weepy mess, overcome with the emotional gravity of it all. I don’t understand a thing about what happened science-wise, but human-wise, it is perhaps the most beautiful, meaningful moment the internet has has ever offered me. Particularly, this quote, from the emotionally overwhelmed scientist:
“I’ve always lived with this feeling [of] what if I am tricked? What if I believe in this just because it is beautiful?”

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Friday Announcement: Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There is a lot to be excited about this weekend. First, Daylight Savings Times ends, meaning the Annual Best Night of Sleep Ever celebration is upon us. Plan your leisurely Sunday brunches accordingly. Also, for childless adult like myself who spend the second half of October pretending like Halloween is something they’re going to do, the stress of that farce is officially over. As if those two things aren’t exciting enough, this weekend kicks off a very exciting, month-long, Swedish Lessons-related event.

What is it?!

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