The Accidental Memoir
The Remarkable Way to Write Your Life Story
Authors: Eve Makis & Anthony Cropper
Publisher: 4th Estate, Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, London, UK, 2018 edition
Length: 128 pages
Hardcover Only: $20.47 Cdn | Shipped from UK via Amazon
Subject: writing guide | memoir writing | self-discovery
"That’s the beauty of writing about personal experiences:
With the right encouragement, everyone can do it.
Everyone is an expert of their own life."
Eve Makis, from her article on Lithub.com, May 6, 2019
Here's an interesting book you might want for your memoir writing tool kit. Whether you are thinking about gathering your own memories or know someone who needs to tell his or her story but doesn't know where to begin, The Accidental Memoir might be the tool to get you started. I was drawn to the book when I read Eve Makis's heartwarming story of how she encouraged her aging dad, a reserved and non-talkative man, to write down some of his stories—she knew little of his life. One Christmas she created a simple notebook with 'bespoke' prompts she hoped would trigger his memories and motivate him to write them down. At first, Eve says, he was underwhelmed by her gift (that probably would have been my dad, too), but from his eyes she knew he liked it. A month later he came to her house with notebook in hand; pages had been filled in; memories were flowing.
Eve's notebook idea was later developed "as an Arts Council project to help people tap into their own lives. Working with diverse groups from refugees to the elderly and prisoners, it has been a resounding success in unearthing stories that otherwise may never have been told." So says the online product description.
The book provides a great way to capture bits and pieces of your history. The prompts and accompanying illustrations are imaginative, with space to jot down a few thoughts. Filled in, the book itself can be a keepsake. Or it can be used as a reference when fleshing out more in-depth essays and memoir pieces. With dozens of engaging prompts, who knows what powerful insights you will capture once you begin.
To give you an idea, here are two samples I filled in:
"Write about a time when someone left home. A sibling, child, a parent or partner. What effect did it have on you?" I was the oldest and it was me who left home first. At the time, I didn't realize the impact it had on my family. Then my mom told me how much she missed me when I went away to college and how she'd go to the post office, sometimes a couple times a day, during a mail strike, hoping against hope that maybe mail still got through. I'll never forget how homesick I was but, in truth, I hadn't really considered how much she missed me or how odd the empty chair at the table must have felt to my little family. This prompt gave me pause to reflect on their perspective as well.
The second example, well, take a look at the page above. The prompt says, "On the opposite page draw a map of where you lived as a child. Annotate. Add street names, neighbours, play areas, local shops...". I wrote a few lines about growing up on our small farm in northerly Alberta. As I penciled in my little map, how the memories floated up. Our farm, and our neighbours' farms, one to the south and one adjoining to the west, made it easy to meet up with playmates our age. The whole farm became our playground, and what fun we used to have—roaming fields and meadows, testing creek depths, climbing old rock piles, picking Saskatoon berries, whiling away long summer afternoons.
The book is co-authored by Eve Makis and Anthony Cropper. Both are successful authors in the UK. Eve worked as a journalist and radio presenter before becoming an award-winning novelist. Anthony writes novels, short stories, and his play won an award for Radio Drama. He teaches creative writing in the UK and abroad.
"When you've finished all the assignments, pull the
printed part of the book away and you'll be left with
a well-structured, evocative memoir."
Alexander Masters, Foreword, The Accidental Memoir
The Accidental Memoir can be used for anyone desiring to document their lives, leave a legacy, or relive some of those magic moments of the past.