I’ve enjoyed judging the memoir vignette competition for the last several years as a sponsor. What I love is being immersed in worlds other than my own, and being invited into the hearts and lives of others. I urge you to edit your work, and even get it edited by a professional before you submit. You want to send the very best version of your writing. Take a chance and submit—you’ve got nothing to lose!
Here is a tip list for how to make the best impression for a memoir judge.
- Check for typos over and over again. Present your work as perfectly as you can. That is a signal that you care about your work.
- Create powerful scenes, where you bring the reader into your world with sensual details of sound, colorful descriptions, texture, and smell.
- Use techniques such as reflection to tell the reader what you are thinking and feeling.
- Make sure your scenes show something significant.
- Create an arc for your story, a beginning, middle and end, and find a way to offer a universal message to your readers.
- Write with passion, panache, and authenticity to create a story that goes beyond “this happened to me.”
I look forward to reading your work! The entries are blind so I don’t know who the writer is, to help make a fair and just assessment of each piece.
The Vignette Prize Category Details
Up to 1,500 words. The root of the word memoir is “memory.” A memoir is a story told in the first person about personal experiences—that actually happened—this is important. The contract with the reader of a memoir is that what you are writing is true, and the truth is shaped into a story. Of course you may need to change names, and create the essence of dialogue and even weather, but the essential truth of people, places, events is there. A well-written memoir will use dialogue, scenes, sensual details, and draw the reader into a world the writer creates. The reader will be changed by the memoir story, and learn something new about people and how we all live here on the earth together and yet set apart by the silences that must be broken to connect us.
Write several drafts, tell your story fully, and keep that inner critic quiet. Read it aloud, and listen to your voice as you approach a later draft. Most of all, enjoy writing, remembering, and sharing your work. As we say at the National Association of Memoir Writers: Be brave—Write your Story.