WMBTSD Giveaway Day Five: September 5, 2007

Today’s book is September 5th: How to Write the Story of Your Life (memoir writing) by Frank P. Thomas (Writer’s Digest Books 1989).

How to Write the Story of Your LifeHere’s a little bit about How to Write the Story of Your Life:

Makes memoir writing an enjoyable undertaking for both writers and non-writers alike. Includes topic ideas and excerpts from actual memoirs.

This is a classic memoir-writing book, often used in classrooms. Who is ready to write a memoir?

Here’s a sneak peek at the table of contents:

Introduction 1
Part One: How to Write Your Memoirs 5
Chapter One: Why a Memoir? 6
Chapter Two: Let’s Get Organized 11
Chapter Three: Writing Bite #1- Pick a Topic 16
Chapter Four: Finding the Facts 23
Chapter Five: Writing Bite #2- Your Birth 28
Chapter Six: Jogging Your Memory 34
Chapter Seven: Writing Bite #3- Your Preschool Childhood 37
Chapter Eight: Rediscovering Yourself 43
Chapter Nine: Writing Bite #4- Your Elementary Years 49
Chapter Ten: The Key to Writing Success 56
Chapter Eleven: Writing Bite #5- Your Teen Years 61
Chapter Twelve: The Outline- A Valuable Tool 66
Chapter Thirteen: Writing Bite #6- Your Young Adult Years 70
Chapter Fourteen: Questions I Am Often Asked 77
Chapter Fifteen: Writing Bite #7- Your Early Marriage Years 82
Chapter Sixteen: Treasure Your Family Photos and Documents 88
Chapter Seventeen: Writing Bite #8 93
Chapter Eighteen: Twenty-five Ways to Acheive Variety 99
Chapter Ninteen: Writing Bite #9- Your Middle Years 104
Chapter Twenty: Titles are Worth Your Time 111
Chapter Twenty-One: Writing Bite #10- Your Later Years 113
Chapter Twenty-Two: The Chronology- Your Life at a Glance 120
Chapter Twenty-Three: Writing Bite #11- Your Retirement Years 128
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Three Indispensable Pages 137
Chapter Twenty-Five: Writing Bite #12- 100 Bonus Topic Ideas for Variety 143
Chapter Twenty-Six: Expanding to a Family History 152
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Writing Your Ending 160
Part Two: How to Package Your Memoir 163
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Before You “Go to Press” 164
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Ideas for Reproducing Your Memoir 168
Chapter Thirty: More Questions I am Often Asked 172
Author’s Postscript 179
Appendix 181
Index 225

Okay, my friends, we are going to have fun with this question. And here it is. You must answer the following question in 50-300 words to be entered for today’s drawing.

Today’s question: Divide your life story into periods as suggested in today’s book. What titles for those periods could serve as “working titles” for you? Feel free to share a bit about what your title means…or not. It’s totally up to you.

For example, the working title of a memoir on my teen years (chapter five, above) could be “Bittersweet Lane” (because I actually grew up on Bittersweet Lane). What would your working titles be? Have fun with this!


24 Responses to “WMBTSD Giveaway Day Five: September 5, 2007”

  1. 1 Laura September 5, 2007 at 3:46 am

    Today’s question is a difficult one. How to categorize the years of my life. For starters, my first years would be “Imagination Station”, for I had a great imagination, and created worlds of play. Next would be “Contradiction”, for while I had several neighborhood friends, I was so painfully shy at school, I had none there. My high school years would be “Discovery Years”. In Drama class, I broke out of my shell, and made friends, one of which I still speak with daily. Following this were the swiftly passing college years, “Concordia Connections”, for there I learned as much about myself as about my education.

    My marriage years, while they lasted, would be the “Years of Joy & Pain”. Joy over having three beautiful children, all within 2 years; pain, the breakup, and learning to be a single mom. The following years have been years of “Discovery & Great Endeavors”. In recent years, I have taken my writing seriously, developed a life for myself, and am watching my children as they finish high school, and embark on a life themselves. The future chapters are “Yet Unwritten”, a good view on life.

  2. 2 Andrea McMann September 5, 2007 at 4:28 am

    Let’s see… I’ll be 25 next month, so I don’t have many chapters yet. I guess I’m not quite at the “memoirs” stage of my life. I would call the chapter about my birth “Home Sweet Home” because I was born at home. I might name my preschool years something like “It’s All Relative” because I have a huge family and they were a big influence on my life in my early years. My elementary school years would be titled “Teeth Aren’t Everything.” I had problems with my baby teeth. They didn’t look like all the other kids’ teeth, and I sometimes had a hard time because of it. I was able to rise above it and make my classmates see that there was more to me than my teeth. I don’t know about my teen years, but my early adult years could be titled “My Purpose In Life.” My son was born when I was 19. As the title states, motherhood gave me a purpose in life, and a sense of importance. Even though I’m not sure I would write a memoir about myself just yet, I’m interested in How To Write The Story of Your Life because I would like to write my grandma’s memoirs someday. She has led a remarkable life, and I would like to share her story with others.

  3. 3 Meryl K. Evans September 5, 2007 at 5:36 am

    Chapter 3: The Year of Living Dangerously

    1976 was an adventurous year in my childhood. It began with a spring fire at my grandparents’ house. By fall, I had pneumonia and spent a few days in the hospital. During winter break, I did just that — broke my arm in a freak accident on the trampoline at winter camp.

    Chapter 7: The Year of the Bull and the Bear

    Thank goodness my youngest arrived in one piece and perfectly healthy. He was the light of our difficult year where my husband’s company laid him off weeks before my son’s arrival. The baby also came several weeks early because I had another problem that called for surgery, so I had my first and only C-section (out of three births). I spent much of my leave in bed. As soon as I feel almost normal, my back went out. After many visits to the chiropractor to help me stand straight again, I fell ill from the after-effects of having cochlear implant surgery.

  4. 4 Shawn September 5, 2007 at 5:55 am

    Hmm. This is a tough one. I’d probably pick my Young Adult Years, and call it Taking the Long Road. It was just after college and the first five years of my career in journalism when I really found out who I was and who I wanted to be, despite some of those values and beliefs being pretty contrary to those with which I was raised. I’ve since realized some of my decisions have taken me the long way around, to quote the Dixie Chicks, and while that can be lonely and difficult, it is the only way I believe.

  5. 5 Karen M. Lynch September 5, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I know there is a chapter in my yet-to-be-written memoirs called, “Life Without Nipples” about my post-breast cancer/post-breast reconstruction life. I’ve already talked about the subject to my readers at [my blog] — there’s so much wrapped up in that one title for me I could write a book on it (not just a chapter)!

  6. 6 beediva September 5, 2007 at 7:03 am

    I have always seen my life in music and lyrics.

    Chapter One- My Birth or Fire and Rain (James Taylor)
    I was born early which is the only reason my father ever got to see me. He was shipped off to Vietnam days later and never returned. He was killed when I was seven weeks old. Some friends of mine wrote a hit musical later called “Boomers” and featured this part of my story. They tagged the scene with a member of the cast singing, “but I always thought that I’d see you again.”

    Chapter Two- Preschool Childhood or Lemon Parade (Tonic)
    These were the years before I made my armor against the world. I remember curling in my mom’s lap and feeling loved.

    Chapter Three: Elementary Years or Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? (Culture Club)
    I was what is now euphemistically called a “spirited child”. I’m sure my stepfather wished he would have known what he was getting himself into when he married my mom. In addition, my parents were very strict and my stepfather had a critical spirit. I remember feeling misunderstood, distant, confused and older than most of my friends. I feel as if the breaking of my spirit started during these years.

    Chapter Four: Teen Years or Unwell (Matchbox 20)
    These are some of my most painful moments and it would take a lot of time, courage and therapy to get me to revisit it.

    Chapter Five: Young Adult Years/Early Marriage Years or Born (Over the Rhine)
    I was born to laugh
    I learned to laugh through my tears
    I was born to love
    I’m gonna learn to love without fear

    This is where I was found by and hid from grace.

    Chapter Seven: Middle Years or I Want Everything (Out of the Grey)
    I am finding peace in the chaos, love in the ashes and beauty in the mess. I want to feel it all and not leave anything out.

  7. 7 Heather September 5, 2007 at 7:19 am

    Dang, this was a tough one! But here goes…

    Birth: And Baby Makes Five (born the youngest of five kids)
    Preschool childhood: Playing in Puddles (my earliest childhood memories)
    Elementary Years: The New Kid (we moved – and changed schools – several times during these years)
    Teen Years: Breaking Out (literally and figuratively)
    Young Adult/Early Marriage Years: The Rocky Road to Bliss (I married and had babies young, but it was worth the struggle)
    Middle Years: Are We There Yet? (coming into middle age, unsure of what lies ahead)

    Several years ago, I started writing a memoir about my horse, Tristan. She came into my life when I was 11 and she was seven, and she just passed away two years ago. Twenty-eight years together and lots of memories there, but the hard part is pulling all those memories from the cobwebs. Think I’d better check out this book!

  8. 8 marnini September 5, 2007 at 7:27 am

    This is a thinker (I love that)

    Elementary Years would be titled MY GREAT BIG ITALIAN FAMILY-many of my memories were with my cousins,aunts,uncles etc. We had a blast and were very close

    My late childhood/early teenage years would be titled THE BEST OF TIMES-I had great memories and made lifetime friends. I have boundless stories I could write on the summers I spent hanging out with my friends.

    Late teenage years to early addult would be titled MEETING MY HUBBY-we met at age seventeen. This year we will be together just as long as we were apart. There were highs and lows but I’m grateful we found each other

    These Years I’m living now would be titled UNDERSTANDING WHY YOUR PARENTS DID WHAT THEY DID-I’m at an Aha moment in my life-I am a parent and now could understand why my parents made decisions they made and why my mother would sometimes get overwhelmed by raising five children. I see them as human now and realize they did the best they knew just as I am doing now with my own children

  9. 9 Pattie September 5, 2007 at 7:46 am

    Pattie’s Life Story:

    Birth to age 8 – The California Years
    Age 8-10 – The Iowa Years, or How we Survived Living Among the Cornfields
    Age 11-17 – The St. Louis County Years, or The Longest Stretch of Time I’ve Lived in One Place
    Age 18-21 – The College Years: Making Lifelong Friends, Reading, Dating, Growing Spiritually
    Age 21.5 – Marriage to my Best Man Friend!
    Age 22-23 – The Seminary Years, or How I Typed All of Hubby’s Master’s Papers on an Apple IIc
    The Pastor’s Wife Years:
    Age 24-26 – The Rural Grad School Years, or How We Lived in a Town of 95 while Finishing Our Master’s Degrees
    Age 27-37 – Childbirth, the toddler/preschool/grade school years
    Subsets: Learning to Deal with Other Mommies, Raising Children when your Husband is the Pastor, and Playdates: Good or bad?
    The Air Force Years:
    Age 36- present – Moving Where the USAF Wants Us to Be, and How to Deal with Deployment Periods when Your Husband is in a Hostile Foreign Country and Your Kids Want Daddy.

    (word count: 180)

  10. 10 Mrs. Jones September 5, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Being Mexican and raised in the United States, I would likely start with “A Foot in Two Worlds” and then move on to “Does Not Translate” and “Passing for White.” I have blue eyes, fair skin, and learned English before entering school, so I escaped the typical taunting Hispanic kids get growing up in suburban LA. I also got to see both worlds first hand, which has always been incredibly fascinating. In telling one group about the others idiosyncracies, I became enchanted with a captive audience listening to my stories. I guess that’s where I caught the disease. My adolescent years would probably be titled “Bereft of Guidance.” I was a latch key kid who took full advantage of my autonomy and my mothers absence when she went back to school to “better herself” after her divorce. Some stories my mom has begged that I never recount, probably because she realized too late that in bettering herself, she left behind kids drowing in a wake that we have barely started to emerge from. I would like to speak to a teen audience in my book, so that’s about as far as I would take it.

  11. 11 Tricia Grissom September 5, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Interesting Question!

    Early years – Don’t Let The Vampires Get You – I spent half my nights terrified of the closet door and the thing under the bed.

    Teens – It’s Much Safter Under the Covers – My junior high hyena-land of chaos.

    Young Adult – Does This Life Make Me Look Fat? – Grew up fat, stayed fat.

    Having Children – I’m Not the Kid Anymore?

    Now – To Be Continued

  12. 12 Kelli September 5, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Birth to Age 5: Sunnyside Lane (where I grew up) or DIRT (where I spent most of my time)
    Elementary school: Tomboy
    Jr High: Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Bad Perms
    High School: Social Butterfly or How Many Different Ways To Cry
    College: How the 5 Year Plan Worked for Me!
    Twenties: The Career Girl Hates Her Job
    Late Twenties: City Girl Finds Happiness in a Small Town
    Early Thirties: Life as a Small Town Girl & Make Way for Baby
    Mid-thirties: Two, two, two lives in one: How to be a Mom & a Grad student
    Late Thirties: Here I am

    ***Okay, that was kind of fun. 😉


  13. 13 Rose September 5, 2007 at 11:42 am

    If I wrote a memoir each section would be a different color.

    Innocence. Bliss. The first 5 seconds.

    Chocolate ice cream dripping on my new school shoes. Dirt underneath my fingernails. Horseback riding.


    Endless possibilities. Daydreaming. The smell of dirty laundry and microwave popcorn. Lonely path into the unknown.

    Loving the city life. Gray wardrobe. 6 moves in 7 years. 3 countries. Fighting off the cynical side. Welcoming the stranger.

    Back to class. Delirious adventures. My new mantra: Did you just eat that?

  14. 14 Renee Roberson September 5, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Wow, this is a toughie, but a great writing exercise! Let’s see . . .

    Chapter One (My Birth): “Life in Leesville”
    My biological father was in the army when I was born in Louisiana. I can’t say too many great things about that time period in my life, as my mother (and me in the womb) were victims of domestic violence.

    Chapter Two: Preschool Child: “The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright(Deep in the Heart of Texas”)
    I have fond memories of roaming around on my grandparents’ land in Texas when I very young. They watched me while my newly single mom worked at the local diner. We lived in a trailer on their property. I went back in college, it all looks so small now, and the pond I used to love to run around and find fossils near was all dried up.

    Chapter Three: Elementary Years: “Growing Up a Gypsy”
    My mother remarried, and we moved so often people asked if we were in the millitary. We weren’t. I attended a different school (sometimes two) every year until I was in the seventh grade.

    Chapter Four: Teen Years: “Girl Disappearing”
    My step-father was very hard on me. That’s all I’ll say. He made me feel worthless and stupid and he and my mother greatly contributed to an ongoing battle with depression and an eating disorder. Despite that, I excelled in academics and cross country and received several scholarships to college. Good thing, because my parents had saved zero dollars for my education.

    Chapter Five: Young Adult Years/Early Marriage Years: “Coming Out of the Dark”
    I met a wonderful man, married and worked at an advertising career until the birth of our daughter. We now have two children and my family is my lifeline. They have helped erase the pain of my childhood, as I am focused on giving them the loving parents and fond memories I never had.

    Sorry to be so down! The truth hurts sometimes, I guess. It’s what makes us all unique.

  15. 15 Rita September 5, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I love this challenge…

    Section One: “Less Than Perfect.” About growing up with a father who 1. didn’t know how to father a daughter and 2. was probably in need of serious psychiatric help.

    Section Two: “Fistless Air.” About the liberating yet scary period of discovering a life after my parents divorced and before I married.

    Section Three: “Big Dreams.” About understanding who I really am and what it is that I want out of my life.

  16. 16 Kim September 5, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Early Years – Always the Runt – I started school at four and was ALWAYS the youngest and smallest!

    Teen Years – Rebel without a Clue – Okay, I’m pretty sure that speaks for itself.

    Young Adult Years (20-25) – Marriage at My Age? What was I thinking?Yeah, married at 21! What a mistake! Divorced by 25.

    Young Adult Years A Deux (25-30) – It’s All About Me (Okay Us!) My (now) hubby and I had a great time during these years. We finished our educations, started saving a nest eg, and finished getting his son to 18.

    Thirties – Okay, It’s All About US (For Real!)- DD was born and things have changed a GREAT DEAL. Wouldn’t change it for the world.

    Now – Chaos Abounds – Hey, I KNOW I don’t have to elaborate there! It’s all part of having a child at home under the age of 10, having a bome based business and oh yeah, homeschooling!

  17. 17 Kristina September 5, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    For me, there is only one possible answer: “Life Before My Water Broke at 20 Weeks into Pregnancy,” “Life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unity,” and “My New Life as the Mom of an Extreme Preemie.”

    I hardly remember life before my water broke in my second trimester, so my book would have to focus on the latter two periods.


  18. 18 nicolemarie September 5, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    wow. a definite challenge. but also really interesting and thought provoking. here’s what I came up with:

    Birth: Double Trouble (I’m a twin)
    Pre-School: How to Break your arm roller skating and other adventures of a show off. (breaking my arm is one of my first memories and I was always trying to get attention)
    Elem School: The forgotten years (honestly, i totally draw a blank when thinking about this time in my life)
    Teen Years: Closer to (not) fine (loved the indigo girls song closer to fine around this time, which is why I use that here, but at the same time I was dealing with some serious issues that really made me not okay.)
    Young Adult: Scaling the Ivory Tower (i loved college and when I left university all I wanted to do was go back and I did)
    Early Marriage: Learning to Let Go (it was/is a time for me to stop living in the past and move forward with my new life)

    and that’s where I am at this point in my life.

    that was actually kinda fun.


  19. 19 Karen September 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Hmmm, good one. OK, here are two:

    Blunders down under. After college, I spent a few years living out of my duffle bag. My most oxymoronic but totally amazing experience was as a firefighter in Antarctica. I never wanted to go home because I was convinced life could never again be so large–or cold. I wasn’t a writer then, and had no idea how really, truly, exponentially humongous life can be when you have a story to share.

    Sleepless in…well, just about everywhere. I’ve not only joined the ranks of the sleep deprived, but I’ve been let in on the secret world of wisdom and introspection that only comes from parenting. And as a bonus gift, I’ve been given a key to the goldmine of chilren’s books!

  20. 20 LauraE September 5, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    100 Steps to the Front Door

    Would be about our lives raising two kids in Echo Park in downtown Los Angeles.

    other potential chapters:
    No girls in the fort
    heart-shaped pizza

  21. 21 edna September 5, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Made in America
    I was the first child in my family born on American soil. I vaguely remember understanding my parents’ native tongue which is a Philippine dialect called Waray Waray. When I was very young, my dad took us overseas to live in Iceland. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t like everyone else there (who were primarily fair-skinned and blonde.) I grew up straddling two cultures and lost my balance a lot but with lots of practice, I became a dancer. 🙂

    California Dreamin’
    My earliest memories of school include being scolded for daydreaming too much. I still daydream–a lot. I learned that scolding doesn’t work.

    Dazed and Confused
    I borrowed this movie title to portray my teenage and college years. Need I say anything else?

    Bleary-eyed Contessa
    Getting married and having children was a whirlwind. Lots of activity, little sleep. When my kids were very little, I felt like a zombie half the time. But I adjusted and I learned to mind meld with my children, my husband and whoever would listen when I needed to. Parenthood is just as rewarding as it is demanding. How do we manage our very full lives? Multi-task, baby, multi-task.

    Work In Progress
    My kids are older now. One in college, the other in high school. A WIP, that’s me now. How I’m feeling. How my latest story is going. Being in development is it’s own reward and challenge. Some days I love it. I feel like I’ve got lots of options, lots of possibilities. Some days I can’t stand it, especially when I’ve got lots of personal editing and revision to do. Hey, it’s “all good.” 🙂

  22. 22 LauraE September 5, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    The title I like the most and know the least about would be the first chapter: 3:14 AM. The time I was born. Usually I would hear that title and assume the story was a suspense-thriller. But my mom never complained about the hour –she was so excited after having two boys that she couldn’t sleep because she finally had her girl.

    My next favorite chapters would be:
    100 Steps to the Front Door–About life in Echo Park.
    No Girls in the Fort
    Heart-shaped Pizza

  23. 23 Melissa September 5, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Baby, preschool, elementary school: “Things I Don’t Remember.”

    Teen years: “Average Discontent.” (Nothing special to complain about, but man, middle school and high school just kind of suck.)

    Young adult, early marriage: Hmm, something here about kids and parenting. We’ve been married eight years and have almost four kids, the oldest of whom just turned seven (the youngest is due any time). “Someday Sleep,” maybe. Or “How to Raise Four Kids and Take Over the World,” except that I don’t really know how to raise four kids and I’m not planning to take over the world. I guess I’ll have to keep thinking. This may be why I need this book!

  24. 24 Mary Jo C. September 7, 2007 at 9:17 am

    I know this contest is over, I could have sworn I pasted my entry on 9-5, but still wanted to contribute:

    Oh, this is a fun one!
    Some chapters would be…

    Ch 3 “Dancin’ Queen” (high school)
    Newfound confidence, boys, parties, dancing (some drinking!), boys, being grounded, did I say boys??

    Ch 4 “Country Name – City Girl” (college)
    I dove into Columbia College Chicago and soaked up the city culture and influences on my writing. Continued my love and submissions for fiction, but took the job that paid in advertising.

    Ch 6 “In Sickness and in Health” (gotta have faith!)
    My husband’s back injury, house on the market, lived with in-laws, suffered a miscarriage, cried and prayed!

    Ch 7 “Never Give Up!” (growing up)
    The chiropractor worked, our marriage persevered, our spirits grew, our family grew. We teach our sons the family motto…

    Ch 8 “The Secret” (year of rewards)
    OK, I’m not a cult follower of The Secret, but the basic concept works: change your attitude and outlook and the challenges become blessings, dreams become reality. Amazing, encouraging things have happened since I made this mental adjustment – but you’ll have to wait for the book!

    Count 175

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