Finding Your Publishable Story

whats your story

So you would like to see your name in print? Many people ask me how to write a publishable memoir. This question always reminds me of Rod Haynes. Rod and I emailed a few times, regarding his book Rogues Island Memoir. I can’t say that I helped him much, I believe he had completed the book by the time he met me. But I was delighted to speak to someone who had published their memoir.

Rod chose to write about a certain period of his life – his childhood years growing up in the turbulent sixties and living with a sister who would eventually succumb to Cystic Fibrosis.
This is the way to seeing your work published. A published book has a central theme running through it, as in Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. So your job is to choose a slice of your life to write about.

images (25) Ask yourself “What is the one event that shaped my life?”

 Did someone in your family die? Did your parents divorce? Did a best friend come into your life and change the way you looked at the world (think about the movie “My Girl”). Did a natural disaster or war have an impact on your life? These are but a few of the challenges you may have faced, I am sure you can think of more.

Make a list of the core events in your life. Start with your birth (did something extraordinary happen when you were born?) and then move on through your childhood, young adult years, middle age, etc. You will end up with a list of five to ten items of events. From those events, can you choose one that impacted your life? For Rod there were several events that came together at one period of his life and changed his life forever. And there is the central theme – life change. When you have isolated an event, look at it from all angles and write down its key points.

How old were you? What was happening in the world at that time? What was the value or moral code that existed at that time and how did effect the event? How did all of these factors come together to create your epiphany? 

Now that you have an event picked out, tell us about it. Don’t think about publishing it. Just pretend your children or grandchildren are gathered at your feet and you are going to tell them a story. Once upon a time I…

Just tell the story!

Don’t forget to enter your school memories in the Back to School Memoir Anthology Fall 2013 – deadline August 1, 2013.

About Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.
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