Tag Archives: memoir

It’s just not enough that it’s written by YOU…

When I read a manuscript of a memoir or a non-fiction book proposal I bring the same set of expectations to the table as I do when I read fiction. That is to say, the things that are important to me in fiction are still important to me. You need to pay attention to pacing, characterization, voice. Crickey, please pay attention to voice! There still needs to be a certain amount of tension or conflict, to keep me turning those pages. If I don’t want to find out what’s next, why on earth would I bother to offer you representation, or want to sell your book? I’ll just pass. If your memoir or non-fiction book proposal isn’t in some way unique, quirky or tackling a new subject (or an old subject in a new way), I’m just going to pass. It’s not enough that it’s written by you. Well, unless you are some kind of celebrity. Then let’s talk!

Publishing is a tough business. It’s not enough that you’ve written something. It’s not enough that you’ve labored over your work, delving into your painful past, or learning everything about The Corn Palace in South Dakota, or interviewing the guy who makes handmade ukuleles from recycled material, or stringing together your grandmother’s recipes with commentary about your fascinating cultural history. If you want to sell books, the first step is writing something truly compelling. Keep me turning those pages.

What keeps you turning pages when you read? Do you think you’ve got what it takes?


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a poet is a penguin—his wings are to swim with

mem•o•ry | ‘mem (ə) rē | noun (pl. –ries)

1 a person’s power to remember things : she had a great memory for jokes | she never lost her memory although she eventually lost her capacity for vanity.

the power of the mind to remember things : the brain regions responsible for memory are gossamer draperies, diaphanous, quivering shrouds.

the mind regarded as a store of things remembered : I searched his failing memory frantically for him.

the capacity of a substance to return to a previous state or condition after being altered or deformed. See also shape memory, changing personality, dementia, possibility of after-life

2 something remembered from the past; a recollection : my memory of his kindness is not a fabrication | my heart overflows with the memory of her love.

the remembering or the recollection of a dead person, esp. one who was popular or respected : she wants to spend the day at the grave drinking champagne, it will be a day devoted to the memory of an amazing woman

the length of time over which people continue to remember a person or event : she didn’t remember feeling quite this fragile in recent memory

3 the part of a computer in which data or program instructions can be stored for retrieval.

capacity for storing information in this way : it was shocking how quickly a man could lose so many Mb of memory, horrifying how the brain is no better than a laptop

ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French memorie, from Latin memoria, from memor ‘mindful, remembering,’ from the fissures in a breaking heart, from here to fucking eternity, from Linda to Molly & Herman

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