Wanted: Memoir Mentor(s)
Yes, you read that right. I am looking for someone, or several someones, (qualified, of course) to help mentor me through the process of producing a memoir. Now, in all honesty, I need to use the word memoir loosely. I am not writing the story of my life. That’s not my style, and I am not looking to write something that reads like a novel. What I am really trying to do is create a book of personal essays. Well, that’s the simple explanation.
Those of you who are my age, or thereabouts (late 30s), may remember being obsessed with the poster stores at the mall when we were pre-teens (they didn’t call us “tweens” way back then). I was, majorly. There was one poster that was insanely popular – All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, an excerpt from the eponymous essay and book by Robert Fulghum – which was a list of all the basic principles of life that apply long after graduating from Kindergarten. Because of this poster, I began reading several of Robert Fulghum’s books, each of which was a compilation of personal essays. No, not a collection of your high school essays from English class. A synopsis of All I Really Need to Know on the Robert Fulghum official website describes the books as such: “Fulghum writes with wit and wisdom about small lives with big meanings. As described in the San Francisco Chronicle, Fulghum’s stories about ordinary life ‘remind us that within simplicity lies the sublime.’” Great quote, huh? (robertfulghum.com)
I started reading his books, which you can find on the aforementioned website, when I was a freshman in high school. I have read and re-read several of them over the years since then, and I continue to learn more and more from his observations on life. I highly recommend reading some of them, if you haven’t already.
But back to me. Ever since becoming a fan of Mr. Fulghum, I have dreamed of someday writing a book following his lead. He has been a writing idol of mine for over two decades. But it wasn’t until I recently discovered my niche in (and love of) writing creative non-fiction that I realized that it could be more than a fantasy to become an author in this genre. A writer of his caliber? Not yet, I don’t think. But good enough? Just maybe, with a little help.
I love blogging, both the silly, unimportant stuff and the stuff that makes you think. I’ve gone through my personal blog posts many times and picked out several of my better writings to work on and improve. My almost-life-long desire to write a book has actually become a goal, finally. More of a long-term goal, really, but a goal none-the-less.
You might be asking yourself what my qualifications are for this type of work. Fair question. I’ll tell you what I think my qualifications are, and maybe give you a few comments from others that have given me a little more confidence in the possibility of me being qualified.
- I love to write. But something that is equally important in a good writer is a love of reading as well. And oh, how I love to read!
- I critique almost everything I read, not just based on the quality of the story line, but also on the actual quality of the writing. This may not be the best example, but it is one I believe in strongly: The Harry Potter series to me not only had an amazing story line from beginning to end, but the writing was equally amazing. You can enjoy the books on a superficial level, but also at a depth that some don’t recognize. On the other hand, so many people rave about the 50 Shades series as a great story, but in my ever-critical opinion, well, the writing just plain sucked. (This doesn’t mean that I think they aren’t good books, it just means that the writing skill and style were very lacking for my discerning tastes.)
- Along those lines, I am my own toughest critic. I have deleted blog posts simply because I found them to be so pedestrian and not worthy of asking others to read. I recognize my limitations and the different levels of work I produce.
- I’ve studied many different writing styles and genres, and tried my hand at all of them. I know where I do best and what I just can’t make work. I am a realist, and I labor under no delusions of grandeur.
- I have been told by a college writing professor of mine that I have a “flair for language”. I never did totally understand what she meant, but I figured it was a good thing, so I like to not-so-humbly quote that one a lot. Others have told me my writing is beautiful, intense, moving, precise (I think that’s a good thing), and other things I can’t remember. But I do know that others do enjoy my writing, whether it is the content or style, and to me, both matter.
Now, are any of these real qualifications? I don’t know. I just know that I have a body of work I would like to expand and publish as a book of personal essays. A Memoir, if you will.
And now for the job description (since I totally went off topic far more than I wanted to):
- Must be comfortable and proficient at giving brutally honest feedback. Constructively, of course, no bashing, but completely honest without fear of hurting my feelings. There is no room for hurt feelings when trying to get published.
- Must have successful experience with personal, put-yourself-out-there writing that has been published somewhere (medium not important, just as long as writing has an audience).
- Time is not of the essence. I plan to take as long as needed to get it right. Therefore, there are no expectations for your time other than contributing it when we both can. And that also means that I will not be working straight through on this project. Marathon, not sprint.
- Review periodic lists of possible topics and help determine which I can not only do adequately, but well.
- Help me keep it under control by telling me when I have exhausted a topic, when things are unclear or misleading, especially when I express potentially offensive opinions, warn me when a tangent is too tangential…
- Discover the “me” that most people don’t see or know, but may be found in my writing. Some might call it ‘reading between the lines’, but that just seems too punny for this.
- Urge me on when I need more content if I think I am done, or encourage me to stop and work on the editorial process for a while. (More on editorial needs later.)
You don’t have to know me at all, in any way. You can know me well or casually. But you must read my work as if you are discovering things you never knew about me or the topic, and experience it all as if for the first time.
I always have little projects going on, many of which I never finish. I must finish this. Most of what my life involves is doing for others. That’s not a pat on the back, it is a simple fact. I don’t do much for myself, but this project is for me and me alone. It’s not even for potential readers. Just me. And I think I deserve to do this and do it well. That might actually lead to the final job qualification: You must understand this completely. I need this. If I can pull this off, totally satisfied with the end product, I will consider it a success, whether or not anyone ever reads it other than my family.
Sound interesting? Something you’d want to do? Email me: writermags at msn dot com.