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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Alumnae News December 12, 2019

So You Want to Write a Memoir?

Illustration of a person with white hair lying on the floor, surrounded by objects, writing in a book
Illustration by Maria Hergueta

Modern Memoirs, an Amherst, Massachusetts–based self-publishing company established in 1994, specializes in personal narratives and family histories. It recently changed hands, albeit from one Smithie to another: Children’s book author and educator Megan Dowd Lambert St. Marie ’96 and her husband, Sean, an archivist, purchased it in July 2019 from founder Cathy (Kitty) Lebow Axelson-Berry ’71, with plans to expand its services. St. Marie offers several tips for penning your personal history.

Create a timeline to get focused and help recall important details and memories.

Begin en media res. Use a turning point in your life or family history to open your manuscript.

Reject a tidy, chronological structure and instead stitch your stories together like an heirloom quilt.

Draw on sensory memories. What smells, tastes, sights or sounds connect you to the past?

Use family photos, recipes and other objects and ephemera as prompts.

Hold space in your writing to work through questions raised by secrecy, oppression or repression, which can make some stories difficult to divulge.

Silence your inner critic. Your story is yours to tell.


This story is part of the Smithies Create column in the Winter 2019-20 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.