writing my memoir


I hit 40,301 words into NaNoWriMo and my memoir Sunday evening. The plan is to hit 50,000 by Friday or Saturday and the full 79,000 – my own goal – by December 11th, my birthday. I write between 1400 and 2000 words a day, so I am confident.

I also made the decision to supplement the story-telling aspect with actual emails between Rob and I and IM sessions too. I mined old posts from the babycenter group and the soap opera message board I was a part of through the bulk of Will’s illness up through widowhood as a means of dating and clarifying events. I have been re-reading a lot of my own history in my own words and it has been, uh, interesting, looking back at who I was and how I got here.

There is going to be some rewriting. Early in the memoir I tried to be vague about people and events, especially with in-laws and the widow board, but as I wrote I realized that I can’t make sense of the storyline if I leave things out to spare myself and others embarrassment. I am reminded again of the advice I received on writing this memoir in the first place,

“Tell the story, big and messy.”

So, the incident with Rob’s widow board stalker is in. Fortunately she is no longer a reader of my blog. I think once I left the widow board most of the people there stopped reading and forgot all about me. And I wrote, though not in graphic detail, about my horrific attempts with dating prior to Rob. No real names naturally; it is good thing that I was already in the habit of nicknaming men. I haven’t known a single man who was nameable and the great thing about the Internet is that people conveniently re-christen themselves or are so predictable that their new names jump right off the screen at you.

For example, Rob’s stalker had the cutesy-poo habit of “decorating” her posts with flash graphics of the hearts, flowers and fluffy animals genre. We called her The Hallmark Lady for a long time, although she’s recently been downgraded to Mullet Woman.  My fault totally and I should be ashamed.

Most nicknames are pedestrian, however, and denote occupation or a physical characteristic of equally mundane origin. I don’t spend too much time bestowing monikers, but for purposes of telling a tiny portion of my life’s journey, I guess it’s a good thing I have bothered even a little.

I am also pretty honest about the mother-in-law but without being mean – at least I hope I am not coming off as vindictive. I feel more sorry for Will’s mother than anything else. But it’s hard for me to illustrate just what why I reacted to some things the way that I did without using examples and, even in a memoir, ya gotta show at least as much as you tell. MIL is not someone I would ever have chosen to share a stage with but she is a cast member who has to be acknowledged.

Rob raised an eyebrow – both actually – when I told him I was using our correspondence.

“All of it?”

“Well, no. Some stuff is private.”

The look I got was indicting, and rightfully so, because I have a long track record of indiscretion where writing about my life is concerned. Needless to say, Rob gets to read the manuscript before anyone else, and I doubt I will be looking for other beta reads before February anyway.  But I really want a good, shoppable draft done by April 1st, so I will need to find additional readers other than my husband.

November to April is a good six months from start to finish. I would give myself longer with a fiction novel but my life is really already written up to the current day, so I can’t say that more time would make it more interesting. It is what it is.


I started my memoir last weekend. I suppose one could say that as a blogger I have been writing the story of my life for over two years now, but as my husband helpfully pointed out no one but a handful of regular readers really cares.

“I don’t get this memoir writing thing,” he said. “Aren’t autobiographies reserved for the people who actually counted in the larger historical context?”

And he is right in a way. John Adams got a biography and an HBO mini-series out of his life because he was a founding father and a president. His life mattered. But before he was anything more than a gleam in the Democrat parties’ eye, President-elect Obama had written two books about himself, and the reason that he could do that he owes to the memoir. Read Full Article