8 Tips for Memoir Writers from Author Beth Powning


The memoir is more than historical. Memory is a vehicle to explore a question you need to find and then to discover the answer to that question. The search must be as fascinating to you as it is to the reader. Write not to record but to DISCOVER.


Believe in the value of what you have to say. Everyone has a different journey. Everyone’s journey is important.


Trust your instincts.


Start anywhere. Memory is not chronological.


Pay attention to your dreams.


Write in a diary or journal. Go back and read your journals. Don’t transcribe them, but digest them. Use them to glean the small physical details you may have forgotten.


Tell the truth. FIND the truth. It is elusive.


Travel blind. Never know where you’re going. Never plan. Don’t take a road map!

BETH POWNING has written three memoirs, Shadow Child, Edge Seasons, and Home: Chronicle of a North Country Life (with photos). Her most recent novel, A Measure of Light, was a Globe and Mail Best Book and the winner of the N.B. Book Award for Fiction. Visit Beth’s website at www.powning.com/beth. 

I had the pleasure of working with Beth as an editor on two of her books, and later we judged a memoir contest together. She has twice been the guest author for my University of Toronto SCS creative writing course Memories into Story. Here are her answers to questions my students asked:

“Simply plunge ahead. Writing is an adventure”: Interview with Beth Powning

Leave a Comment