Friday, September 25, 2015

Six-Word Memoirs: Getting Started with Memoir & Personal Essay Analysis and Writing

Why do we tell stories about ourselves? Why do we read stories about other people?

In this unit we'll explore memoir and personal essay writing, building up on our reading of The Faraway Nearby and All Souls this summer.

To get started, we're going to have some fun while doing some
self-exploration and self-expression by writing six six-word memoirs.

Here's the assignment:
This weekend you're going to write six six-word memoirs (or memoir vignettes).
Post them in the "answer" space in our Google Classroom.

Here are some helpful definitions:
A memoir is an account of one's life, including personal experiences and observations of one's surroundings. Memoirs differ from autobiographies in that they tend to focus (1) on memories from a particular section of one's life and/or (2) on personal development, whereas autobiographies tend to focus (1) on one's life as a whole and/or (2) on one's life as history.

A memoir vignette is a scene from one's life that leaves the reader with a particular impression of one's self, one's development, one's environment.

So each of your six-word memoirs could sum up a particular section of your life, or show personal development, or focus on a particular scene from your life that leaves the reader with a strong impression of yourself and/or your environment.

How to get started?

You might begin by brainstorming particular moments in your life that have stayed with you. These moments could be big and personal. Running away from home for four hours on a Sunday. Going to Boston on the train with friends for the first time. They could be big in your environment. The birth of a sibling. The remarriage of a parent. They could be small but memorable. The sight of tall ships in the harbor when you were six. The feeling of cold water on your back when your tent started leaking on a camping trip. Etc. You could weave in some general statements about your childhood too. I was too scared to talk to adults when I was young. I thought a lot about how to stay out of hell.

Then choose some parts of your brainstorm to shape into six-word memoirs. Think seriously about word choice, punctuation, and syntax. Consider connotation (the association words have beyond their literal meaning) and tone (ironic? contemplative? dour? witty? objective? emotive?).

Here are some examples:
Mom and Dad: teens, poor, loving.
Always on the Massachusetts coast, kid.
Trapped in class; free in trees.
Weymouth to Kingston; Boston to Gloucester.
Quiet, loud, tender, angry: my contradictions.
My self is a nesting doll.

Follow the links for more examples of six-word memoirs. Be
prepared to talk about some six-word memoirs that you've read. Think
about word choice, sentence structure, imagery, detail,
characterization, as well as ethos, pathos, logos: all that the
rhetorical strategies we've begun studying this year.

(At some sites the six-word memoirs are accompanied by photographs or
drawings. If you'd like you could create some art to go with your
six-word memoirs.)

SMITH Magazine Six-Word Memoirs

SMITH Magazine Six-Word Memoirs

Six-Word Memoirs: Life Stories Distilled : NPR

NPR Search : NPR

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