Memoirs: Recalling Personal Experience
* Adapted from John Trimbur’s The Call to Write, 4 th edition
RHETORICAL SITUATION: In your life and career beyond RWS 305W, often you will need to
communicate the significance of various life experiences through descriptive details and important insights.
Whether in a job interview, a profile, a mentorship, a personal statement or networking in the field, your
ability to share life lessons in an engaging way is at the heart of the memoir assignment. Your audience is an
educated readership interested in who you are.
GENRE: Writing a memoir involves memory work; memoirists draw on their pasts, looking back at events,
people, and places that are important to them in order to recreate through written language moments or
episodes of lived experience. Your job is to not just recreate experiences, but to imbue them with
significance readers will understand.
The memoir writer is both participant and observer; the impulse to remember helps remind us of how we
were…Memoir writers take incidents from childhood, focus on moments of revelation, show how crisis and
insights have challenged their perspectives, experiences and values. Memoir writers write from a desire to
bear witness to things that might otherwise have been overlooked or forgotten. The memoir is an act of self-
discovery and also written for the public to read; memoirs impact the audience in an emotional way.
PROMPT: For this assignment you will recall a person, place or event from your past and write a
memoir. You will need to use details and sensory impression to re-create the moment for your
audience. Your job is to reveal the meaning of the past so that readers understand the significance
the memories hold for the present. Through your writing your audience should be able to visualize
the moment. You should chose to revisit a memory that you have some distance from (not a recent
break-up say, or a current family crisis).
make or were disappointed; use the memory as a starting point in which you reflect and put it in a larger
ANALYSIS/REFLECTION: At the end of your memoir include two developed, focused paragraphs
that analyze the writing choices and craft elements you specifically employed; where did you
observe/learn them, how and why did you implement them, and what function or effect do these
techniques and strategies bring to writing in general, this genre in particular and reader experience?