1. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The market for memoirs

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Tenderiser, Apr 15, 2016.

    This is something that's puzzled me a lot lately. It's difficult to phrase it in a way that doesn't seem dismissive to memoir writers but... why is there apparently such a market for memoirs? When I was searching for agents nearly all the UK ones specified which categories of memoir they accepted (illness survivors, war veterans, etc) and plenty in the US accept them too.

    I don't think I've ever seen anyone read a memoir unless celebrity autobiographies count as memoir. I don't know anybody who reads them. I've never read one.

    It doesn't bother me that there seems to be a big market for them, I just don't understand it. Does anyone here read them? I'm interested to hear why they interest you.

    This is just idle curiosity--I'm not planning to write a memoir. I mean jeez, I had to do a 2,000 word assignment about a 'significant event' in my life and it took me four months to think of one.
     
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  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I do read memoirs, but that's because I'm a social history buff. I would only read a memoir if it was about a time or place that interested me.

    I just finished one that is excellent, called No Time on My Hands written by an elderly lady named Grace Snyder, who died at the age of 100 in 1982. Her memoir was written 20 years before she died, and it was about her growing up in pioneer high plains Nebraska. As a student of that period and place, I found it fascinating. She was a lively soul and a great character, and remembered a lot of detail. Furthermore the book was loaded with photographs of herself and her family.

    I have read quite a few memoirs from people who lived during those times, and I consider them to be the best examples of primary sources of information. Some are better written than others, but they all are fascinating to me. This is the kind of 'history' you don't get in history books.

    For me, the difference between a memoir and a biography or autobiography is that the memoir tends to focus on stuff that is important about the time and place, while the biography (of a famous person) or an autobiography (usually a famous person) is somebody's 'life story' containing personal insights, struggles, romances, births, deaths, career progress, etc. I think biography doesn't focus as strongly on time and place as memoir does. They do overlap, of course. But given the choice, I'll always choose memoir over biography.

    One of my best friends has written a fantastic memoir, intended for her grandchildren. While it will interest them because of the personal connection to their gran, it's also great social history, of growing up during the WW2 years in Yorkshire and afterwards. She has a separate chapter on Christmas customs. Another chapter on schoolyard skipping rhymes. Another chapter on food and cooking, one on housekeeping and daily shopping, one on toys and games, one on how they spent their school holidays, etc. She's a lively storyteller, and I couldn't put it down. She doesn't want to publish it (although she certainly could; it's incredibly well-written and lively) because it's full of facts and names that could embarrass people who are still living. She says she doesn't care if somebody wants to publish it after her death. I think her children and grandchildren would be daft not to try.

    If the writers have the kind of memory that remembers lots of details, then their memoirs will be interesting to somebody in the future. Once you're old enough to see how things have changed, it's always interesting to recall how things used to be, how things were done, what kinds of attitudes prevailed, etc. This is of huge interest to fiction writers who want to write about the period in question, and also for people interested in social history. The memoirs will be even more interesting to read, and reach a wider audience, if the writers are good storytellers as well.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
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  3. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Memoirs are really popular in the states for fans of non-fiction. They would rather read true life stories that are not political in nature. My older sister is into them. She likes to read memoirs of people that raise children with autism. Her son has autism and she uses these stories to help her cope with the problems she has. She is actually trying to get me to read some, not on autism, but of people who were in the Navy and retired.
    I always have stories from the Navy that I tell her. She thinks I would really enjoy some of their stories. This summer I think I will give one a shot.
     
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  4. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    One book that's been on the top of the US best-seller lists for at least the last half year is H is for Hawk. It's successful, I think, because the writer has three threads going in parallel: recovering from grief at her father's death, training a hawk that's notoriously hard to train, and examining T.H. White's attempt to do the same thing, which influenced The Once and Future King.
    So she had the built-in attraction of three audiences. Not to mentions that she writes like a dream.
     
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  5. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Time you read a memoir @Tenderiser...eh, get off your battleship and slum it with us boat people? I love them books, easy to read, nothing happens, the best ones have pictures, old ones you can colour in. I bet you like colouring books, at least a colouring book with a plot? Heh, I never seen one of those.

    At fourteen I served, you wouldn't understand nothing - a member, tea boy mechanic to David Stirling's embryonic Special Air Service. Later, I flew solo - Vulcans for the military, and lead an elite snatch squad, hunted cricket billionaire Imran Khan, that bastard - you might know his nephew, Citizen? Anyway, agency talk is not appropriate to fora.
     
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  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I do like a good colouring book. :D
     
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  7. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never had the guts to buy a colouring book...only dream - like in Smiths occasionally, when I maybe buy that horrible 'Writing Magazine.' For me, akin to playing toy soldiers in my pyjamas. I have not done that since 38 years old.
     
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  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Adult colouring books are all the rage now. I don't think anyone would judge you. :D

    Well... maybe if it was an "adult" adult colouring book.
     
  9. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Certainly, I might utilise a range of pinks [chortle, pig].
     
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