|Author Beth Kephart
I had the pleasure of attending a mini workshop in memoir on Penn’s campus with Beth Kephart, a memoir teacher at the University of Pennsylvania. Beth has written five memoirs each answering a different question in her life. She has also written a new book about memoir writing: Handling the Truth.
While I learned about universal theme in my “Write Your Memoir in Six Month” course with Brooke Warner and Linda JoyMyers, Beth added another element to memoir writing. In order to engage the reader in memoir, whatever the topic (mine being a college journey), the memoirist needs to address the question “Was the experience like this for you?”
It’s not that the memoirist needs to state this question literally in the memoir, but the essence of the question and the memoirist’s answer to it should at least be implied through the writing. Memoir needs to be more than autobiographical, more than the humor of raising a family while raising a mother’s education level in my case.
Where others may have journeyed through college alone, in a sense, I took my family with me. I need universal questions through which to filter my story. To build suspense, I need to show the search for the answers to these questions through my writing, in my anecdotes, in my mind in order to offer the reader insight into any journey he or she may be planning.
I need to present my memoir in ways to allow readers to enter upon the college journey. I need to explore the inner self so that my reader can identify with me. This sounds like the inner dialogue, which I am carefully attempting to incorporate into my memoir manuscript.
There are many ways to bring a reader into your story. Do you have any questions that you or your characters ask the reader of your story? Feel free to offer any advice to keep the reader involved in the story.