What’s a Memoir Take Away?


Opening Salvos #8 by Matilda Butler

Opening-salvos-pizza Add a “Take Away” To Your Opening

What do pizza-by-the-slice and memoir openings have in common? Before I get into that, let me tell you about an intriguing interview that Kendra Bonnett and I just had with Jessica Bram. Jessica’s memoir, Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey, has recently been published. As a writer (The New York Times, Women’s Journal, Child Magazine, etc.), speaker (National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” etc.) and teacher (Westport Writers’ Workshop that she founded), Jessica both practices and preaches (well, teaches) about the craft of memoir writing. In the interview, Jessica answered umami questions such as: 

— When do you know if you have rewritten a piece 

    enough?

— What is the difference between positive and 

    constructive feedback?

— What do you do when you go off on tangents when you write? How do you recognize 

    a tangent?

— When you write a memoir, how do you “serve the reader?”

— How do you know when it is time to write about that traumatic time in your life?

— Can you write a memoir even if you don’t have an upbeat message?

— And more questions from women memoir writers.

Near the end of our interview, I asked Jessica to share with us her experience in writing the opening for her memoir. Although she talked about several factors she wanted to include as well as the many rewrites required to get it “right,” I think you’ll appreciate her concept of the “take away.” 

So, finally, I’m back to pizza-by-the-slice and memoir openings. We know about take away foods and pizza is frequently in that category. In many food courts across the country, you can walk up to a counter and purchase a slice. There’s more still in the pan, but you have something to eat right now. Similarly, Jessica talks about providing a take away for your readers right in the opening of your memoir. It is a small slice of your memoir. It gives your reader an immediate treat, something to think about, something that tells your reader where you are going.

Notice in the photo above how the cheese strings still link the slice back to the rest of the pizza? Similarly, the take away you provide in your opening needs to be written in a way that continues to tie it to the rest of the memoir. 

Want to learn more about Jessica’s advice on memoir openings? CLICK HERE

If you would like to hear her entire interview, visit our website: www.womensmemoirs.com 

One response to “What’s a Memoir Take Away?

  1. I like the idea of “the take-away.” It’s a variant on WIIFM. This is a phrase used in training circles: What’s in it for me? This is the main station readers are tuned to.
    In crafting a piece as Jessica shows, we move far beyond our personal needs to “serving the reader” as Jessica says.
    Janet Riehl

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