Memoir, a 7-step Formula

Writing is the glorification of the commonplace, wrote Robertson Davies (Deptford Trilogy).

One sweeping difference between autobiography and memoir is that the former is often an intriguing record of the journey of the extraordinary person (Shirley MacLane, Barack Obama, Isadora Duncan) and of the ordinary, or commonplace, parts of the life they might have lived, bringing our heroes down to our size. We like to know the human side of our Giants. Conversely, memoir has come to signify the extraordinary life circumstances of us ordinary folk. The skill required to craft that memoir resides in all of us, no matter how commonplace, we think our lives. If you feel you have a story to tell, you do. That’s a start.

Autobiography is to Newtonian mechanics what memoir is to quantum physics. In quantum physics, the observer figures into the observed and can actually change the outcome of experiments (we might call it literary license). Am I saying you should alter (or invent) your memories? No. But I am saying that your memories alter you. And that by writing your memoir, don’t be surprised if you find your life imitating your art. (This phenomenon occurred when I wrote my memoir, Tango. I will talk more about it in the workshop.)

Joseph Campbell says, the old gods are dead—who will take their place? My answer is the skilled memoirist. She or he artfully peels back the layers of meaning and non-meaning that comprise our lives down to the sub-atomic level. The old gods and goddess—Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Norse, Christian, and any cultures preceding those—were created in the image and likeness of the human experience. Today, we understand those gods as archetypes. An archetype is a sort of abstract, yet palpable, energy that permeates a story (Psyche & Eros, say) and that resonates with universal understanding of its human value.

Archetypal Juice is one of the seven steps in my Memoir Formula. I will present it in its entirety in the workshop and help you understand why your story can make the world a better place.

This Seven-step Formula is a tool, a blueprint, to guide you, not a shortcut. The Seven-Step Formula can take you a week, a year—best not to put a time cap on it—to write your memoir. The order is a suggestion. You may skip around the steps as needed. In fact, I encourage my writers to be webular—not linear, not even circular. As your memories  well are.

See you there. Sign up here.


  1. The second class is on Yom Kippur and as a Jew I wouldn’t attend. What might the impact of missing class #2 and what way would have of making up for the lost class?

  2. Camille- sounds good. I look forward to it. Joyce

  3. I’m looking forward to being part of the class, Camille!