So…back in October 2015 I wrote a post about “the dreaded memoir.” To recap, my children’s composition curriculum always starts off the school year with “the dreaded memoir.” I don’t think my kids dislike writing more than most–just the same as most–but the memoir assignment always elicits howls and moans of, “AGAIN?”
Basically, they feel like they’ve written about every possible interesting event in their lives, so they’ve run out of ideas.
This year I decided to stop arguing with them and to join them. I wrote a memoir, too.
And found that I finally understood why they protested. I’ve now officially closed the books on the annual dreaded memoir exercise, with a BANG. The sound of a slammed door. No more memoirs, not even the one due last fall. I just wish I had figured this out when my kids were younger, because it would have spared them some agony.
Here’s what I said in my post last fall:
If your kid is bored with this assignment, she needs to choose a story she wants to tell, and work on making it exciting. Ask her to think about what makes any story exciting. The same tools will keep cropping up–dialogue, pacing, tone. Story arc. Tension. These are Hollywood tools. And yes, they belong in your writing.
I wasn’t wrong. Except that memoir is an exceptionally difficult literary form for EVERYONE. I have to concede that unless you really know what you want to achieve, you are going to end up with something that potentially doesn’t please you at all.
This is one example of a case where my kids were actually right all along. They didn’t like what they were asked to produce, year after year. They didn’t find their memoirs interesting and they didn’t think they did a good job. The writing guides we had didn’t help.
The right thing to do here is probably to simply STUDY a great set of memoirs.
I understand why the memoir is a standard format taught in every composition class, year after year. It’s because you feel comfortable asking kids to come up with material from their own lives. However, I think that in the end, writing a memoir is an enormous undertaking, probably more suitable to older teens who have opted into a creative writing class, rather than as an exercise in composition meant for a younger, more general audience.