Memoir: ‘Find the Interesting in the Ordinary’

Karen Swallow Prior.
Karen Swallow Prior.

I have not attempted to write a memoir, nor do I plan to any time soon, but I did sit in on an enjoyable memoir class at the 2014 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference taught by Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University.

Prior is an author of two books and a contributing writer for Christianity Today and The Atlantic.

Following are some tidbits from my notes. If, like me, you’re not knowledgeable about this genre, then maybe these tidbits will be interesting and helpful. Of course, you’re invited to chime in. The comments section is wide open.

Prior addressed a key question: What’s the difference between autobiography and memoir?

An autobiography is about an entire life.

A memoir is about an aspect of life. “A window into life,” said Prior.

A memoir is also nonfiction, a story with conflict and a narrative arc. It’s not a diary, but a literary text. A memoir is not therapy, she emphasized.

Prior added that a memoir is about the meaning of life. Think of your life as interesting but not extraordinary. “We need to find the interesting in the ordinary,” she said.

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