Memoir Can Focus on a Life-changing Event

I'm helping Tim and Marcia write a book about their struggles dealing with Tim's depression. It's an example of a memoir that focuses on a life-changing event.

Tim's depression came upon him suddenly, like a heavy and dark cloud, and his family dealt with its serious effects for six years. He lost his job, drank alcohol to escape the turmoil of depression's grip, slept most of the time, and often was overcome by fits of uncontrollable crying. They lived on Social Security disability income, financial help from friends and family, and Marcia's part-time work as a caterer. Tim tried many physical treatments and prescription medications, all with only minimal and temporary relief.

"Our faith in God kept us together and kept us searching," says Marcia.

A Christian residential treatment center in St. Louis provided their best results. Tim also discovered he could lessen the grip of the dark clouds with a regimen of running. Although he no longer suffers major symptoms of depression, the disease will always be in him.

Fifteen million people in the U.S. experience depression every day. Many factors can trigger depression, but no specific cause has been identified by health professionals.

Tim now has a senior-level executive position in the information technology field that takes him all over the world. Marcia still owns her catering business and works at it full time.

Classes, Courses and Conferences on Writing Memoirs

Classes, courses and conferences are great ways to learn how-to-do-it if you're a beginning memoir writer and to sharpen your skills if you’re experienced.

My ninety-minute class at the Library Center in Springfield, Missouri, “Writing Family Memoirs for Fun and Profit,” is free and no registration is required. Classes are the second Tuesday of each month, 10:30 a.m. to Noon in the Harrison Room. New and experienced memoir writers are welcome. It is not a series; the same material is presented each class. Location and telephone number of the Library Center are on its website.

Check with the library nearest you as to whether memoir writing classes are offered. Other places to look are local writers’ groups, state historical societies, community colleges, baccalaureate colleges and universities (extension and regular terms), city/county parks departments, and senior citizens centers. Whether online or seated classes, be sure to investigate before signing up. Know the costs, prerequisites, travel considerations, dates and times. Check with your nearest Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce as to whether there have been complaints regarding class producers, sponsors, or presenters.

The following listings are for informational purposes only. I’m not responsible for their content or credibility and I do not endorse them in any manner. You are on your own due diligence in any association you may have with these listings and their offerings. The listings are a small sample of what is available. You may find many others by entering into your browser’s search field the words memoir writing classes or online memoir writing classes (without the italics), or similar wording. Dates, availabilities and websites can change quickly, so carefully review a listing that interests you.

Seated Classes
Ashville, North Carolina: Peggy Tabor Millen, Clarity Works
Chicago: The Writers’ Loft
New York, Crete, Barcelona, Florence: Creativity Workshop
New York; Palm Desert, California; Santa Barbara, California: Maureen Murdock Memoir Classes and Workshops
Northern Nevada Writing Project: Teacher in-service classes
Olympia, Washington: Washington State Historical Society
Ontario, Canada: Storylines
Pasadena, California: Footprints Writing Clubs
Troy, New York: The Arts Center of the Capital Region
Westport, Connecticut: Westport Writers’ Workshop

Online Classes, Tele-classes, Self-directed Classes
Journaling and Memoir Writing 101
KSURF Virtual University. This is not a radio or television station. Scroll down the left side of the page to Journalism and Writing Classes and then select Writing Memoirs: The Journey to Me.
Lisa Romeo Writes
Matilja Press
The Memoir Writing Workbook

Soleil Lifestory Network
Writers Digest University: Focus on the Personal/Family Memoir, Fundamentals of Life Stories Writing

Membership Organizations with Conferences or Workshops
Association of Personal Historians
Biographers International Organization

This Book Combines Memoir and Corporate History

Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance is an example of combining a memoir with a corporate history. Dorsey Levell and I were hired by the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, Springfield, Missouri to write the book for its fortieth anniversary celebration observed in October 2009.

In a folksy, easy-to-read style and a deeply personal account, Dorsey recalls his thirty-one years as founding executive director of the Council. Special features of the book include personal remembrances by community leaders who worked with Dorsey, a timeline of key events in the history of the Council, a list of operating agencies and ministry partners of the Council, an honor roll of Council board members, and an index. There is a section of photographs of some of the programs Dorsey started, including bicycle repairs and new bikes for children’s Christmas presents, Ozarks Food Harvest, a new headquarters building, and Gift of Time to recognize and thank community volunteers.

Dorsey takes readers through his successes and his failures. From his early and tentative days with the Council when he was ready to quit because there was no office, no staff and no budget, to an annual budget of twelve million dollars. From the heady days of seemingly unstoppable growth of the Council, to a fear he would cause its downfall in his despair over the unexpected death from cancer of his closest friend and co-worker.

Dorsey speaks candidly of the reasons for his divorce after forty-two years of marriage, being diagnosed with degenerative arthritis, battling prostate cancer, undergoing five-way heart bypass surgery, his nearly three decades as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve, and his love for the outdoors, especially fishing.

During his tenure the Council created fifteen human service agencies, grew to 120 paid staff and more than one thousand volunteers, and was recognized throughout the United States as a model of effective outreach ministries.

The book is $19.95 plus shipping and may be purchased from the Council at 417-862-3586.

Cover designed by Eric Baker. Visit him at Blue Sky Design.

Pat McNees: Therapeutic Benefits of Telling Life Stories

Personal historian Pat McNees (pictured) has written on the therapeutic benefits of telling life stories, especially for those under geriatric care. Here are some of the benefits she discovered for the elderly, caregivers, and family:
  • Improving mood and quality of life
  • Increasing emotional support
  • Reducing suffering and depression
  • Attaining a sense of peace
  • Calming the elder
  • Improving self-esteem for family and the elder
  • Making amends
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Reconciling alienated relationships
  • Giving back
  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Assisting with the grief process
  • Strengthening connections among patients, caregivers, and family members
  • Creating compassionate presence
  • Developing a spiritual experience
Read Pat McNees’ article, “The Beneficial Effects of Life Story and Legacy Activities” in the Journal of Geriatric Care Management.
Photo courtesy Pat McNess. Visit her website.