The keys to a good memoir essay are the same as for any essay: show, don’t tell, by using active, descriptive, sensory words and phrases. Paint a picture for the reader with your words. Set the piece in a clear time and place. Introduce us to the characters in your story. Use dialogue if it helps. In terms of technique, the memoir essay probably shares more with fiction than any other type of personal essay.
Holidays are usually a rich source of personal memories. Marie's piece is a nostalgic tribute to the simple Christmases of her childhood.
A close reading of Marie's piece shows some of the strategies she used. For example, she included her very first Christmas memory. Later in the essay, she described a particular Christmas when her father was sick and the family received help from the community. Aside from these two specific Christmases, the remaining description consists of a composite, or medley, of memories from Christmases over the years.
Marie was clearly very attuned to the contributions her mother made to holiday traditions as well as to the family throughout the year. She goes into detail about the sewing box, the handmade doll clothes, and the wonderful cooking of ham and chicken dinners and divinity candy. And, Marie includes the way her "Mama" insisted that they write thank you notes.
The effort made by the family to obtain a Christmas tree, even in the tough years, shows how important this holiday was to them. The description of the "bald" ornaments being carefully unpacked brings the reader right into the living room with this family.
Such details as the peanuts mailed to them from relatives in Arkansas and the dog, Skipper, eating the popcorn off the low-hanging chains provide sensory details and humor.
Finally, Marie closes this walk down memory lane by returning to the present and what Christmas means to her today.
In summary, this is a well-crafted memoir essay. In revisiting your own holiday memories, you might want to use some of the same strategies that Marie used in her beautiful essay.
How to Write a Memoir Essay | eHow
A recipe is a slice of history—an archival document that offers information about a recipe writer’s family structure, ethnicity, economic status, diet, and geography. Though recipes are often overlooked as a form of creative writing and memory-making, this four-part workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to excavate their own recipes for family stories and write an extended memoir essay using recipes as a starting point. Participants will also turn their essays into a handmade, one-of-a-kind and have an opportunity to showcase their chapbooks as part of a final celebratory reading.