The Summer Squawk About Memoir

08/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

You've probably seen it, Oprah's feast of memoir in the August issue of O magazine, a seventeen-page spread devoted to reading real-life stories. And if, like me, you're over 50, you also might have seen Abigail Thomas' piece about how to actually write this mysterious thing called memoir in O and AARP magazine.

As a memoir writing teacher, it's good to see that life stories continue to move to the front pages of mainstream media, further legitimizing memoir in the publishing industry. As much as some in the industry apparently have tried to shun the genre in the last decade, the number of memoir writers and readers continues to climb.

I think part of publishers' problem is that they don't yet understand the real power of memoir to transform lives. Our own and others. I'm not talking about memoir as a celebrity bio, but as a slim section of time carved from an "ordinary" life, a powerful chunk of memory and meaning whittled away from the whole.

Memoir provides a means for anyone writing to become the hero of his or her own life. To explore potent memories and find the wisdom that resides inside of them. When writers find these compelling slices of truth, and decipher what they mean, they change, making it possible for readers to change too.

As I tell my students, making a story from life experience, telling it honestly, invites others into our lives, as friends, confidants. We make a connection. That's why we write memoir, that's why we read it.

Long live the Age of Memoir.