And then there are those who think that because they have lived, their life story should be fascinating to everyone. You know the type. Maybe a husband or son served in a war. The mother or wife has some stories, but probably not many, because most men who return from war don't want to talk about it. Still, even with the question, "What did you do in the war, Daddy?" unanswered, they feel the world must be lusting over their experiences.
Some want to write about their 50-year happy marriage. In and of itself, that's a great achievement, but probably not a great story. Others want to tell us all about their awful divorce from the cad/bitch, how their son/daughter came out and ruined their lives, how their grands are the greatest/worst grands ever. Few want to tell a story about how they FELT when the son/daughter came out, other that to express shock or disappointment. Why disappointment? Maybe they wouldn't have grands and great-grands. Why shock? Didn't they see the signs? Cue the disappointment response again.
The seniors I work with didn't grow up in a narcissistic world of selfies and Instagrams detailing every waking event. And yet, and yet, when they reach a certain point in their lives they revert to being a bit narcissistic in wanting not only to write their life stories but to have a big press print them.
I walk a fine line between wanting to tell them their lives just aren't that fascinating and encouraging them to continue gathering stories.
I listened to several women at Va Festival of the Book this month talk about their desires to write memoirs. When panelists asked what their tag line was, each and everyone launched into a multi-paragraph discourse on why their lives were so fascinating we were sure to invest many hours reading their tomes. One even said her completed manuscript ran nearly 200,000 words, and that was after she cut out huuuuuge sections. (You read that right: 200,000 words.) Every panelist gave these would-be authors their propers. They probed and tried to get the story down to something reasonable. They listened.
After talking about the status of memoirs in general, as in if you're not famous, probably no one will buy your memoir outside of friends and family, one asked the perfect question: "So have you slept with anyone famous?"
And that, my friends. sent ripple of laughter through the audience and ended the conversation.
In closing, if you want to write a memoir people want to read, start with telling the reader who you slept with who was famous. My memoir would begin with, "I'll confess I felt left out during the Clinton years. I think I was the only woman in the D.C. area whose name DIDN'T come up in conjunction with Bill."
How would your memoir start?