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July 29, 2019

Dear Editor:

I want to write a memoir but don’t have much writing experience. Should I even try this? —Fergus D.

Of course you should try it. It is your life and your story, and you are entitled to share it with the whole world. That’s what writers do. You’ll probably find that stirring up all those old memories is challenging as well as rewarding, and I bet there are lots of people who’d like to know more about you, the life you’ve lived, and what different places were like when you lived in them.

First of all, I’d suggest you get a copy of Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser. Read it carefully and underline all the suggestions you feel are appropriate for your story. Then start writing.

The goal, it seems to me, is for you to tell your truth. “Think small,” as Zinsser says. “Don’t rummage around in your past for ‘important’ events.... Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them it is because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives.”

And try to squash all that self-doubt. Readers want to see what you saw, feel what you felt, learn what you learned. If you can approach your memoir with courage, confidence, curiosity and discipline, you are bound to find the readers you want—guaranteed.

Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks. If you have a question for the editor, please email Betty Sargent.