STATUS: It’s been a little exciting today. I have a debut author releasing in the spring and we’ve gotten these just incredible blurbs from NYT bestselling authors. Not to mention, we saw exciting cover art today as well.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? RUNNING UP THAT HILL by Kate Bush
One of the biggest mistakes I see in query letters for the memoir is writers who spotlight how cathartic and therapeutic the writing of the work was and how they now need to share it with the world.
This is a big mistake. Why? Because writing a memoir is not therapy or shouldn’t be, so this is not a positive thing to spotlight. The truly terrific memoirists (ANGELA’S ASHES and THE GLASS CASTLE come to mind) understand that the writing of the work is an art form and only a certain amount of distance to the subject material can create that necessary objectivity so that the story can be crafted. Key word here is “crafted.”
Now, I’m not suggesting that some of these writers didn’t experience a positive benefit from taking what were harsh and extraordinary childhoods and putting those stories on paper. They probably did but that’s not therapy and what these memoirists actually understood is that readers aren’t interesting in any one person’s therapeutic story; these readers are interested in an inside look to a world they’ve never seen or have never imagined. A world that is unbelievable but true. A world that is unique but resonates with us. A story that captures a universal feeling and the reader senses the connection.
That’s what makes the memoir powerful. And if a writer doesn’t understand the difference of what I’m trying to explain here, he/she will probably never have a memoir published.
And whether the writer understands this or not is usually very obvious and clear in the query letters we receive.
It’s probably one of the biggest misunderstandings out there about this genre.