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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Ideas for Organizing Your Memoir or Family History

Nan Barnes

On several occasions we have discussed the decision facing every memoir writer or family historian regarding their book’s organization – chronological or topical. A recent interview with author Jan Vallone about her memoir, Pieces of Someday, offers some interesting ideas on organization.

Vallone says she decided to use “cues from my favorite books” when deciding how to organize her own. Here are some of the ideas she incorporated into her memoir along with the book which inspired them.

  • “a series of stories told un-chronologically” Floating in My Mother’s Palm by Ursula Hegi

  • “Each story raises a question not answered in that story but in one that follows shortly.” Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje and Tesserae by Denise Levertov

  • “To give the reader a foothold in time, each chapter is dated.” Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn

  • “To unify the stories I used various motifs that run across them.” All of the above

  • “To keep the reader focused on vocation, I included several epigrams dealing with calling.” An Accidental Biography by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

This method of drawing upon the techniques and styles you admire in other works can help you decide how to develop an organizational structure that fits your own story’s needs.

To read the entire interview with Jan Vallone, click here.