I was scrolling through my Facebook page and spotted a post with the news of the passing of Ketut Liyer, the Balinese medicine man who became world famous after the release of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, Eat Pray Love.
The post reminded me that when all the buzz was happening around Gilbert’s book I had no interest in reading it. I thought that the memoir of a New York writer, shattered after a divorce, who took a year off to eat her way through Italy, pray her way through India and, serendipitously, find love in Bali would be little more than a cloy piece of self-indulgent navel gazing.
Gilbert’s memoir went on to sell more than 10 million copies and was made into a Hollywood movie starring Julia Roberts as Gilbert. Intrigued, I finally picked up a copy of Eat Pray Love in an op shop for 50 cents last year and read it.
To my surprise, I also enjoyed it. Gilbert can write and, despite a bit of that self-indulgent navel gazing and all that pasta and red wine in the first third of the book, her self-deprecating humour, sheer niceness and genuine search for a more spiritual centre won me over.
Few people write a memoir that stays on The New York Times Bestseller List for 187 weeks or get to have Julia Roberts play them in a movie. We all have a lifetime of memories to share, however, even if only to an intimate audience of friends and family.
Our memories are important, whether our life has been made up of life-shattering changes and dramas, or a quiet flow of comfort and happiness through the external changes in the world over many decades.
A memoir is not an autobiography, not an entire life story spelled out in every detail, it’s a record of life’s episodes that truly mattered, of family memories and details of times gone by that were so different to today.
When you sit down to write a memoir you are writing history, your history, and recording precious details of a life before computers, digital devices and social networking, even before television if you are over 60.
Preserved in a memoir are the stories of what may seem like a ‘normal’, even uneventful, life to you, but they will enchant your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you’ve had a difficult life, your stories of insight, courage and overcoming the odds will be an inspiration to others. If you have lived through a major world event or catastrophe your memories of that time will be a far more accurate historic record than anything even the most distinguished historian could write in times to come.
Maybe you were not born in Australia, but emigrated as a child. Your memories of your parents and the country and culture they came from are important to pass on. Read Benjamin Law’s popular memoir The Family Law for inspiration from his hilarious tales of growing up in an eccentric Chinese family relocated to Australia.
Any photos you add to your memoir will be seen in a new context. In a photo album in years to come they will just be historic photos, often without any identification of people or places. In a memoir they will be seen in context, as your words bring those people and places alive.
Your memoir, or memoirs if you choose to write several, needn’t even be about you. Perhaps you would like to preserve the memory of a family member who achieved great things, make a record of the mates you fought with in wartime, get other family involved and create a book of funny family stories (you know, the ones that make everyone crack up with laughter until their stomachs hurt!) or a book of favourite family recipes like Grandma’s puftaloons, Aunty Helen’s lemonade scones or your mum’s caramel meringue pie.
So sit down in a comfortable chair with something that brings back memories (a cup of strong tea and an arrowroot biscuit perhaps?), put on some music that takes you back to a special decade, close your eyes and let the memories flow.
Once you have decided on the theme for your memoir, Bookform is ready to guide you all the way --from your first sentence, to adding photos or drawings, to having your very own book print-ready to give to family and friends. If you need a guiding hand, we also organise fun and friendly writing workshops run by experienced published writers who can answer your questions and advise you along the way. Just check the Bookform website to see when a workshop will be held in your local area.
Your memories are important. Julia Roberts may never play you in a movie of your life, but your children and grandchildren will be delighted (and impressed!) when you present them with a copy of your very own Bookform memoir.