5 Secrets To Writing a Memoir That Sells

5 Secrets To Writing A Memoir That Sells With Theo Nestor

By Laura Tarasoff

5 Secrets To Writing a Memoir That SellsIt had been an exceptionally beautiful day for November in Seattle. The attendees had taken time between sessions to soak up the sun and each other. Writer.ly PubCamp organizers did an exceptional job at keeping the length of each workshop comfortable and the transition between them seamless.

So as the final workshop of the day began, no one was exceptionally anxious for the day to be over. The participants scattered themselves across the room to make the room feel full, yet intimate. Theo Nestor came to the podium and began her time with a list of points. She leaned lightly on the stand, holding her glasses as she spoke, then lighting them to her face to refer to her notes.

Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And a Guide to How You Can Too) (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over(Crown, 2008), which was selected by Kirkus Reviews as a 2008 Top Pick for Reading Groups and as a Target “Breakout Book.” An award-winning instructor, Nestor has taught the memoir certificate course for the University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education program since 2006. Nestor also produces events for writers such as the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat and theBlack Mesa Writers’ Intensive, featuring talks by literary leaders such as Cheryl Strayed, Julia Cameron, and Natalie Goldberg.

5 Secrets to Writing Memoir That Sells:

1. Find and define your own frame.

What does your story look like? What genre does it fit into? Publishers are interested in genres that have sold before but are told in a new way.

2. The Narrator must be vulnerable.

The author can create intimacy with the reader through confessions of small flaws or mistakes. This helps the reader connect with the story.

3. Writer shares wisdom.

With this connection made with the reader, the author can share what piece of wisdom they are looking to impart.

4. Underscore the drama.

The author must explain to the reader how they were undone and how they were able to bear the unbearable.

5. Illuminate.

Shed light on the unusual aspects of your story. Draw the reader into your story so they can relate to you. Make it real to them so they can relate.

After her brief points, Theo took questions. Two that stood out were:

Q: How do you handle family members that aren’t happy with what you wrote?

A: You have to decide what is important for you to tell. If changing the name or location doesn’t negatively affect the story, change away.

Q: How do you learn how to write a memoir?

A: Read them. Read as many different memoirs as you can to get a feel for what is best for your story.

The relaxed atmosphere in the room contributed to the feeling that the workshop flew by. Several people stayed after the allotted time, sharing their story and recapping the day.


Laura Tarasoff is a poet and author learning the process in hopes of having her first book out soon. In the meantime, she writes for local newsletters and is creating an app of the trails of beautiful Whidbey Island, WA. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter @LSTarasoff