- Activities & Wellness , Aging
8 Memoir Writing Prompts for Older Adults: How to Write Your Life Story
- August 3, 2017
How to Start Off a Memoir: Everyone’s Story Is Different
There isn’t one right way to write a memoir because everyone’s life story and creative process are unique. Deanna says that, for years, she was held down by the idea that the start of her book—even that very first line—had to be critically special and that she couldn’t live up to the great writers who had come before her. Then, in one of her classes , as she was warming up with a simple writing prompt that asked her to write about an ordinary observation in nature , she didn’t realize she was writing her book’s introduction until it was already done.
A dark brown spider the size of a pea is testing out the space between the arm of my chair and the potted plant 12 or so inches away. It’s establishing some early foundational threads but having to stop every handful of seconds and grip the silk, balling its body up against the wind. I look away for less than a minute, and when I look back, I can’t locate it. The spider has migrated to the space between the chair and the table. It tests. And then it moves again to find enough shelter from the wind’s natural rhythm and my own unpredictable vibrations and disruptions. I smile when I see that it has finally settled between a couple of the table’s own legs and begun to stretch its threads under the table top’s shelter.
How many tries did it take me? Six out-of-state moves before I found somewhere I could start building a lasting home around myself. I had to leave a lot of half-built lives along the way, but I always took away some invisible building blocks that I’d be able to lay down and start the foundation in the next spot. That won’t be the spider’s last neighborhood, but I hope this will be mine.
Experiment and Have Fun: Memoir Writing Prompts for Older Adults
Sometimes, the best way to get started writing your life story is to stop trying. Deanna found her groove when she let go, let herself warm up, and let herself play. Think of the writing process itself as a playground, and each of the prompts below is a new area in which to play and explore. A slide isn’t just a structure to get you from one place to another, it’s also designed to inspire joy, suspense, and a healthy sense of fear. It’s smooth and can be hot or cold to the touch. It can give you a shock in the dry weather, and you’re never quite sure what your landing will be like on the other side. Are you willing to take a ride down with one of these little adventures?
- Can you recall your childhood best friend and some of the things you used to do together? Places you used to go? Ways you pulled your imaginations together?
- Close your eyes and take a tour back through some prominent places from your childhood: a house you grew up in, a relative’s house, a school, a store, a park where you used to play. The list could go on and on, and the rooms within the buildings would extend the tour as well. As you follow your memories through these places, what can you sense? Are there smells, sounds, textures, colors, or even tastes that come back to you?
- What were some traditions your family observed during your early life? Do any of those traditions survive to this day in your family?
- Describe a turning point in your life. Explore the past, present, and future around that experience.
- Which one of your parents—or perhaps another family member—are you most like? How do those similarities make you feel? What about you stands apart?
- Can you remember back to a conversation or interaction that inspired you? See if you can return your imagination to that experience and then write about it from that place of inspiration.
- What was one of your favorite songs from long ago that comes with strong memories or feelings? You may not still have your original playback method, but you can probably find the song by searching the title and artist online. If you can locate it, set aside some time to listen to it (maybe even on repeat), and then, while it’s still playing or in silence afterward, explore the memories and feelings that arise. Let them dance onto your page as they follow their own rhythm.
- Choose something that is important to you. It could be anything from a cherished relationship to a souvenir you brought home from a special trip. Begin by writing about that thing, and then see where your thoughts naturally take you from there.
With any and all of these prompts, don’t become attached to a certain outcome. Don’t hold yourself to a certain expectation of what your story should look like or get intimidated because this little exercise is only a small start toward a larger project. Instead, set the intention to enjoy yourself and the process along the way. It’s worth it to try life-story writing because it’s worth it to explore your life ! Try to put that second consideration first. If you’re wondering how to start off a memoir, don’t get hung up on the memoir itself; instead, get in touch with what’s really interesting: you and your life story. At Institute on Aging , we get to share and take part in so many inspiring life stories . We would be honored for you to join our community too and to discover the richness of daily storytelling with diverse friends. To learn more about our programs or to unearth more exciting activity ideas, get in touch with us!
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The Personal Memoir
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These resources discuss some terms and techniques that are useful to the beginning and intermediate creative nonfiction writer, and to instructors who are teaching creative nonfiction at these levels. The distinction between beginning and intermediate writing is provided for both students and instructors, and numerous sources are listed for more information about creative nonfiction tools and how to use them. A sample assignment sheet is also provided for instructors.
Because the personal memoir is more demanding than the personal essay, for both writer and reader, it doesn’t fit into introductory courses as well as the personal essay. An intermediate level course is a good place to introduce the memoir. However, if the instructor takes the time to explain and introduce the memoir form, it can be adapted for introductory courses.
Difference Between the Personal Essay and the Memoir
While the personal essay can be about almost anything, the memoir tends to discuss past events. Memoir is similar to the personal essay, except that the memoir tends to focus more on striking or life-changing events. The personal essay can be a relatively light reflection about what’s going on in your life right now.
Where the personal essay explores, free from any need to interpret, the memoir interprets, analyzes, and seeks the deeper meaning beneath the surface experience of particular events. The memoir continually asks the following questions:
- Why was this event of particular significance?
- What did it mean?
- Why is it important?
In this sense, the memoir is heavier than the personal essay, and it mines the past to shed light on the present. The memoir seeks to make sense of an individual life. The questions that are left unanswered in Wole Soyinka’s essay from the personal essay resource, Why do I Fast? are answered in the memoir.
Generating Ideas for Personal Memoirs
Moore’s memoir exercise from The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is useful in both beginning and intermediate courses:
“Make a list of six to ten events or circumstances in your own life, or the lives of those very close to you, that still provoke your curiosity. Mine your own life for the events and circumstances that still raise questions in your mind. Once you have the list (and this list should be private - don’t share it with others - and don’t hold back because you think someone else will be looking), pick one of the questions on the list that you are willing to explore.“
The potential questions Moore asks in this exercise are meant to be answered in the memoir. While the memoir tries to make sense of experience, it also shares something in common with the personal essay - the exploration of the question, and the process of trying to arrive at an answer, is at least as important as the answer or resolution you may arrive at.
Writing the memoir is not a simple Q & A with yourself; rather, the complicated process of trying to seek the answers is what makes the memoir engaging to write, and read. Here is an example from Carlos Fuentes’ How I Started to Write :
Fuentes is constantly questioning and answering, interpreting and analyzing his experience, trying to make sense of why and how he did what he did in order to become a writer. He seeks answers and tries to make sense of his life by interpreting his own experience, the cultural and political life of his time, the meaning of language and literary influence, and by stepping over imagined nationalist borders.
- One: Vivid memory of elementary school
- Two: First day of school
- Three: Elementary school
- Four: Middle school
- Five: Middle school
- Six: Middle school
- Seven: High School
- Eight: High School
- Nine: High School
- Ten: High School
- Works Cited
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21 Memoir Examples to Inspire Your Own
Writing a memoir is a daunting endeavor for any author: how do you condense your entire life story into a mere couple hundred pages? Of course, you'll find plenty of online guides that will help you write a memoir by leading you through the steps. But other times that old adage “ show, don’t tell ” holds true, and it’s most helpful to look at other memoir examples to get started.
If that’s the case for you, we’ve got you covered with 21 memoir examples to give you an idea of the types of memoirs that have sold well. Ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in?
The autobiographical memoir
The autobiographical memoir — a retelling of one’s life, from beginning to present times — is probably the standard format that jumps to most people’s minds when they think of this genre.
At first glance, it might seem like a straightforward recount of your past. However, don’t be deceived! As you’ll be able to tell from the examples below, this type of memoir shines based on three things: the strength of the author’s story, the strength of the story’s structure, and the strength of the author’s voice.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The woman who Toni Morrison said “launched African American writing in the United States,” Angelou penned this searing memoir in 1969, which remains a timeless classic today.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Less of a singular memoir than a collection of humorous anecdotes framed around his life as a transplant to Paris, the star of this book is Sedaris’ dry voice and cutting humor.
A Two-Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby. Chacaby’s remarkable life — from growing up abused in a remote Ojibwa community to overcoming alcoholism and coming out as a lesbian as an adult — is captured in this must-read autobiography.
The “experience” memoir
One of the most popular memoirs that you’ll find on bookshelves, this type focuses on a specific experience that the author has undergone. Typically, this experience involves a sort of struggle, such as a bitter divorce, illness, or perhaps a clash with addiction. Regardless of the situation, the writer overcomes it to share lessons learned from the ordeal.
In an "experience" memoir, you can generally expect to learn about:
- How the author found themselves facing said experience;
- The obstacles they needed to overcome; and
- What they discovered during (and after) the experience.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Faced with the prognosis of terminal cancer at the age of thirty-six, Paul Kalanithi wrote an unforgettable memoir that tackles an impossible question: what makes life worth living?
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. An account of drug and alcohol abuse that one reviewer called “the War and Peace of addiction,” this book became the focus of an uproar when it was revealed that many of its incidents were fabricated. (In case you’re wondering, we do not recommend deceiving your readers.)
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Adapted in 1999 into a critically acclaimed film starring Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted enduringly recounts the author’s battle with mental illness and her ensuing 18-month stay in an American psychiatric hospital.
The “event” memoir
Similar to the “experience” memoir, the “event” memoir centers on a single significant event in the author’s life. However, while the former might cover a period of years or even decades, the “event” memoir zeroes in on a clearly defined period of time — for instance, a two-month walk in the woods, or a three-week mountain climb, as you’ll see below.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau. In July of 1845, Henry David Thoreau walked into the woods and didn’t come out for two years, two months, and two days. This is the seminal memoir that resulted.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. The controversial account of the 1996 Everest disaster, as written by author-journalist Krakaeur, who was climbing the mountain on the same day that eight climbers were killed.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Immortalized as one of the classic books about mourning, The Year of Magical Thinking recounts the grief Didion endured the year following the death of her husband.
The “themed” memoir
When you look back on your own timeline, is there a strong theme that defines your life or ties it all together? That’s the premise on which a “themed” memoir is based. In such a memoir, the author provides a retrospective of their past through the lens of one topic.
If you’re looking to write this type of memoir, it goes without saying that you’ll want to find a rock-solid theme to build your entire life story around. Consider asking yourself:
- What’s shaped your life thus far?
- What’s been a constant at every turning point?
- Has a single thing driven all of the decisions that you’ve made?
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. Throughout an up-and-down upbringing complete with a debilitating battle with depression, the single consistent thread in this author’s life remained football and Arsenal F.C.
Educated by Tara Westover. If there’s one lesson that we can learn from this remarkable memoir, it’s the importance of education. About a family of religious survivalists in rural Idaho, this memoir relates how the author overcame her upbringing and moved mountains in pursuit of learning.
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. Now best known for its BBC adaptation, Worth’s account of her life as a midwife caught people’s imagination with its depiction of life in London’s East End in the 1950s.
The family memoir
In a family memoir, the author is a mirror that re-focuses the light on their family members — ranging from glimpses into the dysfunctional dynamics of a broken family to heartfelt family tributes.
Examples of this type of memoir
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. A love letter to her family that crosses generations, continents, and cultures, Brother, I’m Dying primarily tells the intertwined stories of two men: Danticat’s father and her uncle.
Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga. The mother is a self-made woman who grew up picking cotton in California. The daughter, a passionate queer Latina feminist. Weaving the past with the present, this groundbreaking Latinx memoir about a mother-daughter relationship confronts the debilitating consequences of Alzheimer's disease.
The childhood memoir
A subset of the autobiographical memoir, the childhood memoir primarily focuses (spoiler alert!) on the author’s childhood years. Most childhood memoirs cover a range of 5 - 18 years of age, though this can differ depending on the story.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. The groundbreaking winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, McCourt’s memoir covers the finer details of his childhood in impoverished Dublin.
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl. Evoking his schoolboy days in the 1920s and 30s, the stories in this book shed light on themes and motifs that would play heavily in Dahl’s most beloved works: a love for sweets, a mischievous streak, and a distrust of authority figures.
The travel memoir
What happens when you put an author on a plane? Words fly!
Just kidding. While that’s perhaps not literally how the travel memoir subgenre was founded, being on the move certainly has something to do with it. Travel memoirs have been written for as long as people could traverse land — which is to say, a long time — but the modern travel narrative didn’t crystallize until the 1970s with the publication of Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia .
In a travel memoir, the author isn’t the star of the show: the place is. You can expect to find these elements in a travel memoir:
- A description of the place
- A discussion of the culture and people
- How the author experienced the place and dealt with setbacks during the journey
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Proof that memoirs don’t have to tell catastrophic stories to succeed, this book chronicles Gilbert’s post-divorce travels, inspiring a generation of self-care enthusiasts, and was adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts.
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. A four-month journey from London to East Asia (and back again) by train, this is the book that helped found the modern travel narrative.
The celebrity memoir
The celebrity memoir is just that: a memoir published by a celebrity. Though many celebrity memoirs are admittedly ghostwritten, the best ones give us an honest and authentic look at the “real person” behind the public figure.
Note that we define “celebrity” broadly here as anyone who is (or has been) in the public spotlight. This includes:
- Political figures
- Sports stars
- Actors and actresses
Paper Lion by George Plimpton. In 1960, the author George Plimpton joined up with the Detroit Lions to see if an ordinary man could play pro football. The answer was no, but his experience in training camp allowed him to tell the first-hand story of a team from inside the locker room.
Troublemaker by Leah Remini. The former star of TV’s The King of Queens tackles the Church of Scientology head-on, detailing her life in (and her decision to leave) the controversial religion.
It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong. This is a great lesson on the way authors often write books to create their own legacy in the way they see fit. As history confirmed, Armstrong’s comeback success wasn’t entirely about the bike at all.
Now that you know what a memoir looks like, it’s time to get out your pen and paper, and write your own memoir ! And if you want even more memoir examples to keep being inspired? We’ve got you covered: here are the 30 best memoirs of the last century .
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18 Essay-Length Short Memoirs to Read Online on Your Lunch Break
I love memoirs and essays, so the genre of essay-length short memoirs is one of my favorites. I love delving into the details of other people’s lives. The length allows me to read broadly on a whim with minimal commitment. In roughly 5–30 minutes, I can consume a complete morsel of literature, which always leaves me happier than the same amount of time spent doom-scrolling through my various social news feeds.
What are short memoirs?
What exactly are short memoirs? I define them as essay-length works that weave together life experiences around a central theme. You see examples of short memoirs all the time on sites like Buzzfeed and The New York Times . Others are stand-alone pieces published in essay collections.
Memoir essays were my gateway into reading full-length memoirs. It was not until I took a college class on creative nonfiction that I realized memoirs were not just autobiographies of people with exciting lives. Anyone with any amount of life experience can write a memoir—no dramatic childhood or odd-defying life accomplishments required. A short memoir might be an account of a single, life-changing event, or it may be reflection on a period of growth or transition.
Of course, when a young adult tells people she likes writing creative nonfiction—not journalism or technical writing—she hears a lot of, “You’re too young to write a memoir!” and “What could someone your age possibly have to write about?!” As Flannery O’Connor put it, however, “The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can’t make something out of a little experience, you probably won’t be able to make it out of a lot. The writer’s business is to contemplate experience, not to be merged in it.”
Memoir essay examples
As the lit magazine Creative Nonfiction puts it, personal essays are just “True stories, well told.” And everyone has life stories worth telling.
Here are a few of my favorite memoir examples that are essay length.
SHORT MEMOIRS ABOUT GROWING UP
Scaachi koul, “there’s no recipe for growing up”.
In this delightful essay, Koul talks about trying to learn the secrets of her mother’s Kashmiri cooking after growing up a first-generation American. The story is full of vivid descriptions and anecdotal details that capture something so specific it transcends to the realm of universal. It’s smart, it’s funny, and it’ll break your heart a little as Koul describes “trying to find my mom at the bottom of a 20-quart pot.”
ASHLEY C. FORD, “THE YEAR I GREW WILDLY WHILE MEN LOOKED ON”
This memoir essay is for all the girls who went through puberty early in a world that sexualizes children’s bodies. Ford weaves together her experiences of feeling at odds with her body, of being seen as a “distraction” to adult men, of being Black and fatherless and hungry for love. She writes, “It was evident that who I was inside, who I wanted to be, didn’t match the intentions of my body. Outside, there was no little girl to be loved innocently. My body was a barrier.”
Kaveh Akbar, “How I Found Poetry in Childhood Prayer”
Akbar writes intense, searing poetry, but this personal essay contextualizes one of his sweetest poems, “Learning to Pray,” which is cradled in the middle of it. He describes how he fell in love with the movement, the language, and the ceremony of his Muslim family’s nightly prayers. Even though he didn’t (and doesn’t) speak Arabic, Akbar points to the musicality of these phonetically-learned hymns as “the bedrock upon which I’ve built my understanding of poetry as a craft and as a meditative practice.” Reading this essay made me want to reread his debut poetry collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf , all over again.
JIA TOLENTINO, “LOSING RELIGION AND FINDING ECSTASY IN HOUSTON”
New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino grew up attending a Houston megachurch she referred to as “the Repentagon.” In this personal essay, she describes vivid childhood memories of her time there, discussing how some of the very things she learned from the church contributed to her growing ambivalence toward it and its often hypocritical congregants. “Christianity formed my deepest instincts,” she writes, “and I have been walking away from it for half my life.” As the essay title suggests, this walking away coincided with her early experiences taking MDMA, which offered an uncanny similarity to her experience of religious devotion.
funny short memoirs
Patricia lockwood, “insane after coronavirus”.
Author Patricia Lockwood caught COVID-19 in early March 2020. In addition to her physical symptoms, she chronicled the bizarre delusions she experienced while society also collectively operated under the delusion that this whole thing would blow over quickly. Lockwood has a preternatural ability to inject humor into any situation, even the dire ones, by highlighting choice absurdities. This is a rare piece of pandemic writing that will make you laugh instead of cry–unless it makes you cry from laughing.
Harrison Scott Key, “My Dad Tried to Kill Me with an Alligator”
This personal essay is a tongue-in-cheek story about the author’s run-in with an alligator on the Pearl River in Mississippi. Looking back on the event as an adult, Key considers his father’s tendencies in light of his own, now that he himself is a dad. He explores this relationship further in his book-length memoir, The World’s Largest Man , but this humorous essay stands on its own. (I also had the pleasure of hearing him read this aloud during my school’s homecoming weekend, as Key is an alumnus of my alma mater.)
David Sedaris, “Me Talk Pretty One Day”
Sedaris’s humor is in a league of its own, and he’s at his best in the title essay from Me Talk Pretty One Day . In it, he manages to capture the linguistic hilarities that ensue when you combine a sarcastic, middle-aged French student with a snarky French teacher.
SAMANTHA IRBY, “THE WORST FRIEND DATE I EVER HAD”
Samantha Irby is one of my favorite humorists writing today, and this short memoir essay about the difficulty of making friends as an adult is a great introduction to her. Be prepared for secondhand cringe when you reach the infamous moment she asks a waiter, “Are you familiar with my work?” After reading this essay, you’ll want to be, so check out Wow, No Thank You . next.
Bill Bryson, “Coming Home”
Bryson has the sly, subtle humor that only comes from Americans who have spent considerable time living among dry-humored Brits. In “Coming Home,” he talks about the strange sensation of returning to America after spending his first twenty years of adulthood in England. This personal essay is the first in a book-length work called I’m a Stranger Here Myself , in which Bryson revisits American things that feel like novelties to outsiders and the odd former expat like himself.
Thought-provoking Short memoirs
Tommy orange, “how native american is native american enough”.
Many people claim some percentage of Indigenous ancestry, but how much is enough to “count”? Novelist Tommy Orange–author of There There –deconstructs this concept, discussing his relationship to his Native father, his Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, and his son, who will not be considered “Native enough” to join him as an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. “ How come math isn’t taught with stakes?” he asks in this short memoir full of lingering questions that will challenge the way you think about heritage.
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee, “I Had a Stroke at 33”
Lee’s story is interesting not just because she had a stroke at such a young age, but because of how she recounts an experience that was characterized by forgetting. She says that after her stroke, “For a month, every moment of the day was like the moment upon wakening before you figure out where you are, what time it is.” With this personal essay, she draws readers into that fragmented headspace, then weaves something coherent and beautiful from it.
Kyoko Mori, “A Difficult Balance: Am I a Writer or a Teacher?”
In this refreshing essay, Mori discusses balancing “the double calling” of being a writer and a teacher. She admits that teaching felt antithetical to her sense of self when she started out in a classroom of apathetic college freshmen. When she found her way into teaching an MFA program, however, she discovered that fostering a sanctuary for others’ words and ideas felt closer to a “calling.” While in some ways this makes the balance of shifting personas easier, she says it creates a different kind of dread: “Teaching, if it becomes more than a job, might swallow me whole and leave nothing for my life as a writer.” This memoir essay is honest, well-structured, and layered with plenty of anecdotal details to draw in the reader.
Alex Tizon, “My Family’s Slave”
In this heartbreaking essay, Tizon pays tribute to the memory of Lola, the domestic slave who raised him and his siblings. His family brought her with them when they emigrated to America from the Philippines. He talks about the circumstances that led to Lola’s enslavement, the injustice she endured throughout her life, and his own horror at realizing the truth about her role in his family as he grew up. While the story is sad enough to make you cry, there are small moments of hope and redemption. Alex discusses what he tried to do for Lola as an adult and how, upon her death, he traveled to her family’s village to return her ashes.
Classic short memoirs
James baldwin, “notes of a native son”.
This memoir essay comes from Baldwin’s collection of the same name. In it, he focuses on his relationship with his father, who died when Baldwin was 19. He also wrestles with growing up black in a time of segregation, touching on the historical treatment of black soldiers and the Harlem Riot of 1943. His vivid descriptions and honest narration draw you into his transition between frustration, hatred, confusion, despair, and resilience.
JOAN DIDION, “GOODBYE TO ALL THAT”
Didion is one of the foremost literary memoirists of the twentieth century, combining journalistic precision with self-aware introspection. In “Goodbye to All That,” Didion recounts moving to New York as a naïve 20-year-old and leaving as a disillusioned 28-year-old. She captures the mystical awe with which outsiders view the Big Apple, reflecting on her youthful perspective that life was still limitless, “that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” This essay concludes her masterful collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem .
Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”
This is the title essay from O’Brien’s collection, The Things They Carried . It’s technically labeled a work of fiction, but because the themes and anecdotes are pulled from O’Brien’s own experience in the Vietnam War, it blurs the lines between fact and fiction enough to be included here. (I’m admittedly predisposed to this classification because a college writing professor of mine included it on our creative nonfiction syllabus.) The essay paints an intimate portrait of a group of soldiers by listing the things they each carry with them, both physical and metaphorical. It contains one of my favorite lines in all of literature: “They all carried ghosts.”
Multi-Media Short Memoirs
Allie brosh, “richard”.
In this blog post/webcomic, Allie Brosh tells the hilarious story about the time as a child that she, 1) realized neighbors exist, and 2) repeatedly snuck into her neighbor’s house, took his things, and ultimately kidnapped his cat. Her signature comic style drives home the humor in a way that will split your sides. The essay is an excerpt from Brosh’s second book, Solutions and Other Problems , but the web version includes bonus photos and backstory. For even more Allie classics, check out “Adventures in Depression” and “Depression Part Two.”
George Watsky, “Ask Me What I’m Doing Tonight”
Watsky is a rapper and spoken word poet who built his following on YouTube. Before he made it big, however, he spent five years performing for groups of college students across the Midwest. “Ask Me What I’m Doing Tonight!” traces that soul-crushing monotony while telling a compelling story about trying to connect with people despite such transience. It’s the most interesting essay about boredom you’ll ever read, or in this case watch—he filmed a short film version of the essay for his YouTube channel. Like his music, Watsky’s personal essays are vulnerable, honest, and crude, and the whole collection, How to Ruin Everything , is worth reading.
If you’re looking for even more short memoirs, keep an eye on these pages from Literary Hub , Buzzfeed , and Creative Nonfiction . You can also delve into these 25 nonfiction essays you can read online and these 100 must-read essay collections . Also be sure to check out the “Our Reading Lives” tag right here on Book Riot, where you’ll find short memoirs like “Searching for Little Free Libraries as a Way to Say Goodbye” and “How I Overcame My Fear of Reading Contemporary Poets.”
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50 short memoirs - examples of narrative personal essays by famous authors, scars by david owen, the same river twice by david quammen, 30 more great articles about life, after life by joan didion, when things go missing by kathryn schulz, now we are five by david sedaris, feet in smoke by john jeremiah sullivan, 20 more great articles about death.
Love Sex and Relationships
True love by haruki murakami, dating online by emily witt, my first time, twice by ariel levy, no labels, no drama, right by jordana narin, deeply, truly (but not physically) in love by lauren slater, a girl's guide to sexual purity by carmen maria machado, 25 more great articles about love and relationships, peculiar benefits by roxane gay, thanksgiving in mongolia by ariel levy, long day's journey by elizabeth gilbert, 50 more great articles about travel, tennis, trigonometry, tornadoes by david foster wallace, ultimate glory by dave gessner, skating home backward by bill vaughn, off diamond head by william finnegan, 50 more great articles about sport.
The Muse of Coyote Ugly Saloon by Elizabeth Gilbert
Quitting the paint factory by mark slouka, the loading dock manifesto by john hyduk, 40 more great articles about work, notes of a native son by james baldwin, how to slowly kill yourself and others in america by kiese laymon, the price of black ambition by roxane gay, 25 more great essays about race, the comfort zone by jonathan franzen, explicit violence by lidia yuknavitch, on being an only child by geoff dyer, the terrible boy by tom junod, a raccoon of my own by lauren slater, my dad tried to kill me with an alligator by harrison scott key, difficult girl by lena dunham, seventeen by steve edwards, age appropriate by jen doll, the legacy of childhood trauma by junot díaz, 50 more great articles about growing up, lost in the meritocracy by walter kirn, dumb kids' class by mark bowden, acting french by ta-nehisi coates, 20 more great articles about education, having children, channel b by megan stielstra, a birth story by meaghan o'connell, i was pregnant, and then i wasn't by laura turner, 10 more great articles about having children.
Patient by Rachel Riederer
The empathy exams by leslie jamison, 35 more great articles about health, mental illness, adventures in depression by allie brosh, darkness visible by william styron, some women become psychotic after pregnancy. i was one of them. by catherine carver, 20 more great articles about mental health, how i let drinking take over my life by william leith, me & my monkey by anonymous, video games: the addiction by tom bissell, 10 more great articles about addiction, a few words about breasts by nora ephron, a few words about fake breasts by nell boeschenstein, a thin line between mother and daughter by jennifer egan, mirrors don't lie by natalie angier, the trash heap has spoken by carmen maria machado, the onset by my ngoc to, 20 more great articles about body image, see also..., 150 great articles and essays, 25 great essays to compare & contrast, 100 great nonfiction books.
Recommended Book-Length Memoirs
Slouching towards bethlehem by joan didion, me talk pretty one day by david sedaris, my misspent youth by meghan daum, just kids by patti smith, the chronology of water by lidia yuknavitch, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius by dave eggers, the glass castle by jeannette walls, brain on fire by susannah cahalan, irritable hearts by mac mcclelland, hunger by roxane gay, a sliver of light by shane bauer, joshua fattal and sarah shourd, 100 more great nonfiction books, goodbye to all that by joan didion, lost and found by colson whitehead, night-shifting for the hip fleet by mark jacobson, 25 more great articles about new york, the real heroes are dead by james b. stewart, remains of the day by mary lee hannell, 10 more great articles about 9/11.
Three by David Sedaris
My life as an undocumented immigrant by jose antonio vargas, girl by alexander chee, been down so long it looks like debt to me by m.h. miller, lucky girl by bridget potter, subscribe to our email newsletter.
Home — Essay Types — Memoir Essays
Memoir Essays Examples
The importance and role of confidence in my life.
I had to ask myself an interesting question. What is something that I am certain of? It seemed simple at first glance, but grew more complicated the longer I looked at it. I am positive that everyone makes their own decisions. I know that I…
My Experience Of Gender Expectations
Gender expectation refers to a normative conception of appropriate attitudes and activities for a particular racialized and gendered group. My first experience that highlights gender expectations relates to my childhood, where I engaged in activities considered appropriate for men such as camping, football and hunting….
My First Experience in the Dance Class
This is the class that had me most nervous because, asides from my dance experience when I was a little kid, I have no dance experience. I swim and did a little track and volleyball in high school. I had seen hip-hop, jazz, ballroom and…
My Experience Of The False Dilemma Fallacy
False dilemma is the one type of fallacy that I vividly remember falling victim of. This was with the intensions of convincing my judgement. False dilemma is a type of false fallacy, which involves the reduction of an argument into one or two options while…
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A Gift from My Grandmother
As a child, my grandmother was someone I looked up to. I mean this less in the literal sense. Her arrivals at the front door were a cause for celebration. I would leap into her open arms as a large smile appeared across her face,…
The Fear of Failure As My Biggest Failure in Life
My biggest fear is failure, and I want to write an essay on it. As a child I was accustomed to my performance meeting up to my high expectations. But, as I grew older and eventually began attending high school I found myself time and…
Why I Would Not Apply To An Ivy League University
During the second semester of my sophomore year, my district was passing out a newsletter featuring the valedictorians and salutatorians in each high school. I was intrigued as to how people were highly praising the three graduates who got accepted into Harvard University. The local…
The Effect of Taekwondo on My Life
Taekwondo has been with me for a long time and I have delighted in every class. I have learned numerous things in Taekwondo, kicks and punches as well as self-restraint and persistence. Taekwondo has helped me in both personality and body, making me more grounded,…
My Struggles In The Middle School
You know that kid that aced every test? Well that was me, or at least until 7th grade. I never struggled with test, I didn’t understand why, it just came to me naturally. I didn’t every study, look over the work we did in class,…
The Lessons I’ve Learned In Middle School
In middle school I’ve learned many things, but the two most basic are you have no friends, and life’s not fair. Don’t even try to say I’m wrong, because I know. You may think that you have a friend, maybe one you’ve known since kindergarten,…
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Experiment and Have Fun: Memoir Writing Prompts for Older Adults Sometimes, the best way to get started writing your life story is to stop trying. Deanna found her groove when she let go, let herself warm up, and let herself play.
A great memoir essay could revolve around a memory of growing up or an account of one day in your life that proved to be consequential. It could be about your first job or it could be about your experience leaving home and being around college students for the first time.
An intermediate level course is a good place to introduce the memoir. However, if the instructor takes the time to explain and introduce the memoir form, it can be adapted for introductory courses. Difference Between the Personal Essay and the Memoir. While the personal essay can be about almost anything, the memoir tends to discuss past events.
The last thirteen years of my life have shaped me into the person I am today. Throughout my years in school, I have learned many lessons, gathered morals, and made memories. These experiences will carry on with me into my next stage of education; college. As I look back, I see my past as successful and filled with surprises.
Faced with the prognosis of terminal cancer at the age of thirty-six, Paul Kalanithi wrote an unforgettable memoir that tackles an impossible question: what makes life worth living? A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.
A memoir essay is a type of writing where you put both your thoughts and ideas as well as your desired memories together. It is also known as an essay length adaptation of a memoir. The word count ranges from 1,000/2,000 words to 8,000 or 10,000 words. Nothing more, nothing less. Your memoir essay is different from your autobiography.
This memoir essay is for all the girls who went through puberty early in a world that sexualizes children’s bodies. Ford weaves together her experiences of feeling at odds with her body, of being seen as a “distraction” to adult men, of being Black and fatherless and hungry for love.
The best examples of short memoir, narrative personal essays, reflective essays and creative nonfiction by famous writers Life Scars by David Owen The Same River Twice by David Quammen 30 more great articles about life Death After Life by Joan Didion When Things Go Missing by Kathryn Schulz Now We Are Five by David Sedaris
This is the class that had me most nervous because, asides from my dance experience when I was a little kid, I have no dance experience. I swim and did a little track and volleyball in high school. I had seen hip-hop, jazz, ballroom and… Dance Self Reflection My Experience Of The False Dilemma Fallacy 522 words | 1 Page