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Before they met, both had believed they were done with marriage, and even after they married, Joyce resolved that no one could alter her course of determined independence. Then, just after their one-year wedding anniversary, her new husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During the nineteen months that followed, as they battled his illness together, she discovered for the first time what it really meant to be a couple--to be a true partner and to have one.

This is their story. Charting the course through their whirlwind romance, a marriage cut short by tragedy, and Joyce's return to singleness on new terms, The Best of Us is a heart-wrenching, ultimately life-affirming reflection on coming to understand true love through the experience of great loss. To find love later in life. To do anything possible to help a loved one in crisis. To let oneself be changed by love. To write movingly about it all. She beautifully renders the joy of falling in love later in life and the pain of watching her husband die of pancreatic cancer.

Maynard's heartfelt story will resonate with those who have lost loved ones.

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I highly recommend it. Her readers will do more than connect; they will laugh, cry and rekindle hope that the best of us just might be possible. Importantly, it has Maynard discovering confidence, nobility, dignity and her best self. Her earlier memoirs may have had their naysayers, but no one can naysay The Best of Us. Joyce Maynard is unfathomably heroic.

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I think it is the most important writing of her life--profound, heart wrenching, inspiring, full of joy and tears and life. Everyone needs to read this book. Study up, learn from the best, and have wise and experienced people critique your work. Try, soak in the responses, revise and try again.

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Read a bunch of other books similar to the kind of memoir you want to write. You know your own story inside and out, but you might not know how other memoirists tell great stories. Look inside their bag of tricks—where do they speed up and leave things out? Where do they slow down and evoke intricate detail?

The Best of Us

Do they turn hard stuff into humor? How do they let you cry a bit before whisking you away again in a flurry of action? How do they handle family situations, perhaps hiding or changing identities of family members or friends to preserve privacy?

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Hint: writers will often mention this somewhere in the book, or in an interview. Mary Karr talks about this issue in several interviews and podcasts. Build in twists, turns and surprises. A memoir resembles a novel more than any other form of nonfiction.


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It might not be a bad idea to take some classes and workshops on writing fiction. Read great novels and pick apart the plots. You will need one for your memoir. Create a cast of characters. Your memoir is not just about one person, because no one lives in a vacuum. Who are the main person's people? Let's see them interacting. And when your memoir gets optioned as a movie, you need a strong group of characters to rope in lots of great actors.

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Speaking of characters, make them complex. The people in your memoir, including yourself, are complex and have good and bad sides. Especially the villains! Every villain and every hero has reasons for why they do what they do, and those reasons make perfect sense … to them. Everything Memoir. What KIND of memoir are you writing?


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July 24, Tags: memoir , types of memoir. Everything Memoir Flow Chart: What type of memoir fits you best? Be the first to comment. What the heck is a memoir anyway? April 19, What is the definition of a memoir? Post a comment.

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Tags: memoir , courage , honesty , Stephen King. April 8, Tags: memoir , facebook , community. Hope to see you there! Tags: memoir , writers , writing retreat , writers conference , Kathi Lipp , Writing at the Red House , amwriting.