I hear it often. Wanting to write your own memoir, or life story, but not sure where to start. Here's a tip. Instead of staring at the blank page, wondering where to start, and feeling overwhelmed, why not start writing a personal profile -- an overview of your story in 1000 to 3000 words. And if you can't write it yourself, get someone to write it, or help you write the piece. It's amazing what emerges -- a spark, ideas, a theme, a voice, structure, or even style or tone. I've been collaborating with a couple of business women lately, and it's worked for both of them, even though the story each of them wants to tell is about much more than their respective businesses. Happy writing. Michele Text and image copyright Michele Gierck www.michelegierck.com.au
If you enjoy reading memoirs, or if you are learning all you can about them, (perhaps even threatening to write one), this is a book you'll want to make sure you get your hands on. I've just finished it for the first time. Feel like I need to read it again, because I was so delighted with the story and the way it was written, the way words and images melded into amazing descriptions, that I charged through it. One of Mary's lines at the end of the book says a lot about the effect this first memoir of hers has had on readers. 'Reading Liars' Club seemed to crowbar open something in people.' I can totally understand why.
Once in a while, if you are really lucky, you come across a picture book that is so beautifully researched and written that your heart begins to sing as you read. I was totally drawn into LOOK UP WITH ME Neil deGrasse Tysone: A Life Among the Stars (words by Jennifer Berne), that I feel compelled to let the world know about it. (The illustrations are by Lorraine Nam.) If you are grown-up, or yet to grow up, and have ever looked up at the stars, or would love to, see if you can get your hands on a copy of this book. The Introduction by Neil, and the Author's Note by Jennifer are fabulous bookends to the story.
Personal writing is rarely just about the end product. It's a process. And that process can be a real gift, requiring deep thought and reflection. Yes, it often comes with challenges and surprises, but it's a bit like going fishing. You never know what you're going to find. (Or what finds you!) Even the difficult parts of life, when written about, take on different hues, and allow you to look from a different perspective. My two memoirs have been about powerful personal experiences: one in a war zone, the other accompanying my mother with dementia. I might have thought I was writing about human rights, or breaking down barriers about dementia. But looking back, I realise I was just trying to make sense of it all -- of the madness of life. That's why I encourage people who are thinking about writing -- perhaps daring themselves to give it a go -- to dive in. It's not so much the end product as the process of writing that's the real gift. Over the years I've been contacted by quite a few people wanting to write part of their own story, but wondering where to start. Here's my suggested strategy -- three questions to ask yourself.
- If you were to choose six parts of your life to write about (they could be events, experiences, life stages, transitions, or times when you learnt something significant) what would they be?
- Why do you now feel the urge to write? Is it because you promised yourself you would before your turned, 30, 50 or 75? Perhaps you want to hand stories down to family members. Or to reflect on your journey so far? Is it to tell the story of others through your own eyes? Or to let your creative self flourish and see what emerges?
- Who would you like the audience for your writing to be? Are you writing for anyone in particular? Or just for yourself? Would you like your prose or poetry to be published?
Hunkering down at home due to COVID-19 (coronavirus)? Now might be the perfect time to start that story you've always wanted to tell. Michele Gierck, a specialist memoir writer and professional biographer can work with you, via Skype or phone, to write, or help you write, your story. For those of you who are not sure where to begin, YOU MIGHT ONLY NEED A COUPLE OF SESSIONS WITH MICHELE TO KICK-START YOUR CREATIVITY. If you'd like to discuss your writing project with Michele, please get in touch with her via the contact page on her website. Although based in Australia, Michele has been working with people in the USA and Europe for a number of years. You can check out her author profile at, Amazon or on her website. Recent praise for Michele's writing, or help writing, memoirs: 'Michele genuinely loves what she does. This is evident not only by the finished product but the way she goes above and beyond throughout the process of writing a book. I highly recommend Michele.' (Tracey Hughes - Biography/Family History) "I decided to put pen to paper and write my migrant journey. I am indebted to Michele Gierck for her guidance, incredible insight and structural ability so that my story flowed, resulting in the completion of a magnificent outcome, both as a literary achievement and quality of finished book. I can confidently recommend Michele as a true professional.' Sam Tarascio, Founder and Executive Chairman of Salta Properties, one of Australia's Top 50 privately-owned companies. Image copyright Michele Gierck (Michele speaking at a literary event)
'Take your time to really hear others'< was a an article which appeared in Australian newspapers and led to ABC radio interviews around the country. The article was based on interviews Michele did in Australia and the US. The article seemed to hit home with quite a few people. If you have any memorable or interesting stories or experiences about listening that you'd like to share, feel free to send them to Michele via the contact page on her website. Enjoy Image and text © Michele Gierck
Writing your own story can be like scaling a mountain. It takes a lot of effort. Lots and lots. Along the way there will be times when you chug along; times when you sweat it out; and moments when the peak seems so far off in the distance that giving up seems more than reasonable. (My attempt scaling Mount Aspiring in NZ springs to mind.) Here's some ideas to get you going -- writing not mountaineering. Thinking about the following questions before you depart, might be one way to ensure you make it to the mountain top. (Or help you figure out, before expending loads of energy, that it's not for you.) If you're thinking of embarking on that journey -- of autobiography, biography or memoir -- here's some questions that might help. 1) Do you really want to do this? 2) Why do you really want to do this? 3) Who is your audience; who are you writing for? 4) Which voice do you want this written in? 5) Am I happy to do this even if it's not a best seller? Or published by a major publishing house? Or I have to self-publish? 6) If I could only tell six stories/scenarios/scenes or reflectionss, which ones would they be? 7) Why do those six stories/scenarios/scenes or reflections stand out? Are they linked? ps It's quite normal to change your answers as you venture along the writing track. I hope this helps. Remember, nearly every book, whether for the family or the wider world, starts as an idea and a blank page!
This is such a stunning book: so insightful about the meaning and purpose of our lives, so beautifully written, and incredibly honest. Basically it's bloody fabulous (as we would say in Australian parlance). And so sad when the 37-year-old author, a neurosurgeon and scientist, dies. It's an absolute must-read, especially for anyone facing their own mortality, (that's all of us isn't it?) and for those who surround and love them. An inspiring story that will live on long after the last page is read. Long live the memory of Paul Kalanithi. Que Viva! After my latest book, Fraying: Mum, memory loss, the medical maze and me, was published, I was often asked to speak about end of life. Fraying was written from the perspective of a daughter, with no medical qualifications; a daughter struggling with the medical maze and the decisions to be made. When Breath Becomes Air is from a medical professional's perspective, one who becomes the patient. The questions Paul and his wife, Lucy Kalanithi, must face, and dare to ask, are confronting. But they are also, in essence, questions about what it means to be human, and at what point living becomes too much of a burden. This book is a precious gift to readers. Michele's website: www.michelegierck.com.au
How good it is to find your special spot. A place to relax, to calm, to be. A place to listen, to be drawn into the moment. (No phones, ipads or laptops here!) There's been quite a bit of media and a number of talks given since the release of my latest book, Fraying: Mum, memory loss, the medical maze and me, in March. Now, it's time to get back to basics, create a calm space ... and write. Yes, all the talks and interviews are enjoyable, but at heart the joy of writing is one that for me cannot be quelled. If I don't write, I feel a part of myself is missing. For those interested, I will be back speaking again in September, during Dementia Awareness Month. More details soon.
One of the most rewarding aspects of writing personal profiles, at least for me, is the opportunity it provides to step into the world of another. Then to really listen, not just to what is said, but to get a sense of the person's essence, and to commit that to the page. My most recent profile was hip-hop artist and Burundian refugee, Fablice from The Flybz. War, loss and years as a refugee have not dented his spirit or his hope for the future. What an inspiration. So too his song, Child Soldier, with the iconic singer/songwriter Paul Kelly. To find out what else inspires Michele visit: www.michelemuses.wordpress.com