Penelope Lively gave a class on writing what you remember at Somerset House.

Top Tips

  • A memoir is concerned with memory. Think about how memory works? Is it linear, chronological? Or not? Let your memoir writing reflect the workings of memory itself.
  • Does the accuracy of memory matter above all? Or is the significance that you have a form of it – whether or not it would stand up in a court of law.
  • We all embellish memory, do a bit of reconstruction. The best memoir writing can read like fiction, even if it is not that. Look at the story element – foster that.
  • Try polishing a memory. Place it in context; what else do you know about that time, or place, or person?


Vladimir Nabokov Speak, Memory
Leo Tolstoy Childhood, Boyhood, Youth
Janice Galloway This Is Not About Me
Alan Johnson This Boy
Martin Amis Experience
Hilary Mantel Giving Up The Ghost