Instructions for Memoir Revisions (and Late Assignments)


Nice work on the Memoir Assignments. The first round has been graded. Check for your grades on Blackboard.

There were some strong A papers and many B range papers. One issue that has  come up: the instructions and the grading rubric we looked at during class time specifically require that you respond to one of four categories we specifically discussed and practiced in class: writing to un-silence the silences; writing about your relationship with money; writing about your life in chapters; or writing about your relationship with your name.  In some way, your memoir must address one of these three categories.

This rest of this post offers instructions for your memoir assignment revisions and the required  Note to the Reader.

Please note that:

  • Revisions are optional and not required (unless you did not turn in an assignment for a grade yet).
  • See my notes on your work on the rubric and the text on Blackboard
  • All revisions must include a two paragraph revision note at the top–see  the instructions below on this same post.
  • Revisions and late papers must be turned in on Blackboard between Thursday, May 19  and the end of the day on Sunday, May 22, 11:59 pm.
  • No revisions or late papers  will be considered after that date and time.

Instructions for the Revision Note

  • At the top of your revision, write a two paragraph reflection titled Letter to Reader. (Revisions submitted without this note will not be considered for a higher grade.)
  1. In the first paragraph of the letter, tell the reader what you intend the memoir to do for its readers. You might answer the following: Why did you choose this particular category (names, money, or unsilencing the silences)? What do you want the reader to understand most clearly about your life after reading this memoir? (This helps me understand  your overall purpose or intention.)
  2. In the second paragraph of the letter, let the reader know what changes you made on this revision and why you made them.  

After you’ve drafted this letter, think about whether the changes you mention in the letter match up with the revision that follows. Will I be able to see the changes that your letter suggests? If not, then use the letter as a revising tool to make a few more adjustments to your revision.

Then, turn in the revision and the Revision Note on time in the Major Assignments folder on Blackboard.

As always, email with questions:

Tips for Revising Memoir

As you work on these with critique and advice from your peers, keep in mind the following revision techniques:

Read the whole version out loud and ask yourself:

  • Does the memoir have the overall effect I am seeking from my audience? Is there a section that needs more dimension or detail?
  • Description: how has at least one character changed through the course of the memoir? Can I add details about the setting?
  • Language: where is the language unclear? Are there paragraphs?
  • What do you like most about your memoir? How can you emphasize these strengths even  more?

You can also draw ideas for revision using these questions from memoir materials on Purdue OWL:

  1. Why was this event of particular significance?
  2. What did it mean?
  3. Why is it important?

Memoir is power! You are giving shape to your own life story. As we discussed in our session on Writing Your Life in Chapters, writing memoir has been shown to improve self-esteem because you are giving yourself agency over your own, growing life story.

You also send me questions by email if you have them:

ENG 1141 Memoir Assignment

Memoir Assignment

Assignment Description

In class we’ve discussed basic elements of memoir. These elements include:

  • Writing about an event or connected series of events that actually happened in the past. In memoir, the reader expects that events relayed happened to the writer as described. To achieve this in your writing, be as precise and clear as possible about what you remember.
  • A clear sense of time and place. To achieve this in your writing, consider making a timeline before you write your memoir or while revising to try and make these as clear as possible.
  • Writing with a self-reflective purpose. To achieve this in your writing, ask yourself questions about the subject as you write. Make sure you offer reflection and resolution about the events described.

The Purdue OWL offers this quote on memoir from Carol Spindel: “The knowledge expressed in the memoir has the legitimacy acquired through first-hand experience.” Good memoir also provides reflection on the events that have happened to the writer, so it “can give readers insights into society, and even into the larger meaning of life itself”.”

Instructions and Prompts

For this assignment, you will write a short personal memoir that reflects on a specific period in your life in response to one of three topics we explored in class. The four topics to choose from are those we worked in in class and on discussion boards:

  1. Write a short memoir that enables you to “unsilences” the silences in your life. We worked on these as a free write in our class.
  2. Write a short memoir exploring your relationship with money.
  3. Write a short memoir, exploring the story of your name.
  4. Write a series of “micro-memoirs.” You can use the braided essay technique we tried in class, highlighting a specific relationship. You could also write a series of essays on a different topic.

Feel free to develop what you have already written OR start a new one. Here is a post with all of the prompts and readings used in class related to the the  topics  listed above: Memoir Topic Review (with Prompts)

General Tips for Writing Strong Memoir

The following questions are provided as a reminder that when writing memoir, you must to help the reader understand and follow your story. Do you need to clarify the following?

  • Where does this take place? Name a city, a neighborhood, a street…show and say where this happens. Help your reader see and sense where your story takes place.
  • When does this take place? Are you writing the story of a relative or friend that took place in 1959? Or, are you telling your own story from Spring 2021? Ground the reader in the  year your story takes place.
  • Who is involved? The reader should know who the main characters are. You can make up names to hide identity if you wish, but you must give names to the important people, even if it is: my grandmother or my mom. Give the reader people to care about as they read.
  • What questions are you asking yourself as you reflect on this period of your life? Help the reader understand why you are telling this story.

Page Length Requirements

A well written 1 3/4 page submission may qualify for a C.
A well written 2 1/4  page submission may qualify for a B.
A well written 3 1/4 page submission may qualify for an A.

  • These page counts do not guarantee the above grade.
  • Double space your submission and use a 12pt font. If you write a series of micro-memoirs, just skip a line between the sections. Don’t start a new micro-memoir on a new page.
  • Submissions less than 1 3/4 pages will not pass.

Due Dates

DUE: Tuesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 12 for our in-class workshops. Have work ready for your peers to read for our synchronous workshop. In-class workshop participation  will be included on the Memoir Assignment grade.

DUE: Sunday, May 15, end of day on Blackboard for a grade. Upload your revised assignment for a grade before the end of the day. Those who turn their work in on time will have a chance to revise for a higher grade.

Criteria for Success

To do well on this assignment:

  • Show effort and thoughtfulness in your writing. This is an introductory course. You are not expected to be an expert memoir writer. You are expected to show that you are trying.
  • Show consideration of the components of memoir  discussed in class
  • Take note of and observe length requirements
  • Include a thoughtful title for your memoir
  • Participate and bring work to the in-class peer review
  • Turn the assignment in on time so you can revise

Grading Rubric-Memoir Assignment

Memoir Rubric ENG 1141-D307 Introduction to Creative Writing SP 2022

Late Paper and Revision Policy

  • If you turn in the work on Blackboard on time, you will have one chance to revise the assignment, adding a Revision Note, for a chance for an improved grade.
  • If you do not turn in the assignment on the first due date, you can turn in your assignment on Blackboard when the revisions are due. Late papers do not lose points for being late. You will, however, lose your chance to revise your work.
  • No late papers or revisions will be allowed after the second due date.


Memoir Review: Topics (with Prompts)

These are the four types of memoir we’ve discussed in this class in synchronous and asynchronous sessions. For the Memoir Assignment, you are choosing one of the four types below. Each has a prompt or prompts to help you get started. You are encouraged to develop what you’ve already written in class, but you can also use the prompts to start again.

    1. Writing Memoir to Un-silence the Silences in Our Lives
      Prompt: Writing Memoir to Un-Silence our Silences
      Example: Sakinah Hofler: How to Use Creative Writing to Bear Witness
    2. Writing about Your Relationship with Money
      The Prompts: Writing about Your Relationship with Money
      Examples: 1) Junot Diaz, “The Money” 2) Roxane Gay Financial Independence: The Most Important Thing a Woman Can Do for Herself  3) Refinery 29 Money Diaries
    3. Writing about Your Relationship with Your Name
      The Prompts: Writing the Story of Your Name
      Examples: 1) Việt Thanh Nguyen, “America Say My Name”;  2) Beth Nguyen, “America Ruined My Name for Me” ; 3) “What’s In A Name?: A Lot As It Turns Out” (article); 4) Mohamed Hassan-(un)LEARNING MY NAME (video)
    4. Writing the Micro-Memoir and Braided Essay
      Prompt: Writing the Micro-Memoir and Braided Essays
      Examples: Brenda Miller’s “Swerve”Michael Komatsu’s “When We Played”Examples of Micro-Memoirs

Session 23: Discussion Board and Fiction Assignments (extra day)


Thanks for writing and thinking about memoir in yesterday’s class. The Discussion Board is now open. Before our next class on Tuesday, May 3, please contribute two paragraphs of in-class writing from our session on Writing About Money OR Writing  about Your Life in Chapters.

Remember, there will be a reading quiz on Blackboard on Monday, May 9. The items on the reading quiz are on this earlier post: Readings for the Memoir Quiz

Finally, the Fiction Assignment Revisions and Late Papers folder will remain open on Blackboard until the end of day today (Friday, April 29, 11:59 pm) because there was a technical glitch for students uploading second drafts. The technical glitch was fixed last evening, but I’m leaving it open in case others were affected during the day yesterday.

Next week, we write about names, “micro memoirs,” and discuss the Memoir Assignment.

Write on!

Session 22: Follow Up Information

Nice work on writing and sharing the memoir exercises today. Writing about your life can bring about many benefits and help us understand who we are for the time being.

Before this Thursday’s class, please read:

When we think about writing about money on Thursday, we will think about the many different aspects that have led us to believe what we believe about money in its many aspects, who or what experiences led us to think that way, and even how we define what “money” means for ourselves and others.

Also remember that Fiction Assignment Late Papers and Revisions are due on Blackboard by the end of the day on Thursday, April 28. For instructions on the Fiction Assignment, go here: Fiction Revision Instructions and Revision Note

As always, if you have questions, feel free to stop by my office hour today  from 4-5 pm on ZOOM:

Write on….

Session 21: Follow-Up Posts (and Readings!)

Nice work today, all, as we start our journey into memoir writing. A couple of reminders before you all leap into spring break:

  • Fiction Assignments are due on Blackboard today (April 14). For assignment details, see this post:Fiction Assignment. After they are graded, I will post instructions for the revisions.
  • Readings for the Memoir Quiz (Monday, May 9) are on this post: Readings for the Memoir Quiz  May 9 will be here before you know it! You could get a head start during spring break.

For today’s discussion of memoir, we looked at the following resources. These are not assignments, I’m adding these here in case you want to rewatch or read further:

As always, I am writing this to you live! I have ZOOM office hours if you have questions, T/Th from 4-5 pm:(

See you in class on Tuesday, April 26 and in the meantime, write on,

Prof. Sears




Readings for the Memoir Quiz

The following essays will be included on the Memoir Quiz on Blackboard (Monday, May 9) along with questions about the memoir form. Use your class discussion notes and read the texts before you take this quiz on Blackboard. Class discussion dates are indicated here, so you can find them in your notes:

        1. Jose Olivarez’s “Maybe I Could Save Myself by Writing”
        2. Junot Diaz’s “The Money” (April 28 class session)
        3.  Việt Thanh Nguyen, “America Say My Name (May 3 class session)
        4. Beth Nguyễn “America Ruined My Name for Me” (May 3 class session)

May 9 sounds farther away than it actually is! I suggest you read these short memoir pieces over spring break and review them again before the quiz. They are good reads! This is our last reading quiz of the semester.