Composition Writing Studio


From Schneider, Barbara The Writer’s Portfolio:

Memoirs are personal narratives that focus on some event in a person’s life that had at the time is happened—or later came to have—some real significance. Writers have to bring readers into that moment and hold them there. Great memoirs not only show the reader the world through the writer’s eyes, but craft a mirror in which readers can also see some aspect of themselves.

A memoir differs from an autobiography. An autobiography tries to faithfully recreate the historical record of the writer’s life. A memoir is not as interested in the facts as it is in truth. A memoir writer chooses a single moment and draws it deep.

In her essay about writing memoirs, “To Fashion a Text,” Annie Dillard, award-winning journalist and poet, writes, “The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two critical points: what to put in and what to leave out” (55). What writers put in a memoir is their memory of an event, and it must be remembered down to the bones so that the writer can bring it to life for the reader.

The following list of resources is available in the handouts section to help you get started:

Page Limit: 2-7 pages

Restrictions: Anything you submit is considered public, so do not write about things you would prefer to keep private.


These are both great outtakes from William Zinsser:

This is from a young writer who is a current hit:

Book references:

The Writer’s Portfolio

See Section 4, Chapter 20, pages 310-344.

Little, Brown Handbook on descriptive writing

Other kinds of memoirs:

Literacy narrative

Favorite place




Last Updated: 6/27/22