Tag Archive for: memoirs

Sandra Cisneros’ memoir: A House of My Own: Stories From My Life


  Juliana Aragón Fatula’s Review of Sandra
Cisneros’ memoir,

A House of my Own: Stories
from my Life


I waited patiently for A House of my Own: Stories from my Life, Sandra Cisneros’ new book
release and ordered two copies. One for me and the other for my sister, Aimée.
We would read it together and discuss it via Skype. The book arrived and I
devoured it. I was supposed to wait for my sister to catch up; but I couldn’t
wait to read more of Sandra’s story.

I found myself sticking tabs where I
wanted to return.  In all I made sixteen
tabs. I was so absorbed in the reading that I stopped marking and began, you
know, travelling with Sandra to all of those magical houses she lived in around
the world.

Sandra writes about her choices in life,
“True, I have no biological children, but I have, as it turns out, become a
mother nonetheless. I have over one hundred creative writers I mother directly
and indirectly through my two foundations, The Macondo Foundation and the
Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation, along with thousands of reader of all
ages I work with through my public engagements in libraries and schools across
the country.”

And she writes about her houses and
privacy, “A front porch is supposed to be for waving at neighbors and chatting.
But for a writer it’s when you look like you’re not doing anything that you’re
actually writing: people who don’t write, don’t understand this.”

Sandra writes about memory, storytelling
and truths, “…as if with age we come closer to the bull’s eye of being admitted
the truth. The science writer, Jonah Lehrer, claims we never revisit a memory
without altering it. If this is true, then perhaps all memoir is a chance of
storytelling, and every story brings us closer to revealing ourselves to

of my favorite chapters are: Tenemos
Layaway, or How I Became an Art Collector
and The Author Responds to Your Letter Requesting my Book Be Banned from
the School Library
. Her sense of humor is evident in everything she does.
She is a trickster. A chingona. A badass. She describes her writing days, “For
work, on the days I go barefoot, when I sometimes forget to comb my hair, when
I’m anxious to forget my body and need to be comfortable, without any
underclothes binding or biting me, I like my everyday huipiles de manta, of
sack cloth. The one’s I can stain with coffee or a taco and I won’t grieve.” She
brings us into her house and spends time with us, like a dear friend. The kind
you can be yourself around. She’s real.  Sandra’s humor and Spanglish bring fond
memories of growing up in a bilingual home, “Si los gatitos nacer en el horno,
son gatitos o son bizcochos. Just because the kittens are born in the oven
doesn’t mean they’re biscuits.”

She mentions a writer she admires. “Maria
Dermôut was a mother after all, and then a grandmother. By the time she was
done with the ten thousand distractions of being both, she finally had a little
time of her own and could profess her love of all things Javanese by taking up
her pen. Dermôut wrote two novels. Only two. But one book exquisitely written
is worth five not worth remembering.”

Sandra Cisneros is a Chicana from Chicago
that grew up wanting a house of her own. She wrote House on Mango Street and went on to win numerous awards and
accolades. She generously shares her talent with other writers through her Macondo
Writers Foundation. The mission statement: “A community of poets, novelists,
journalists, performance artists, and creative writers of all genres whose work
is socially engaged. Their work and talents are part of a larger task of
community building and non-violent social change and their commitment to work
for underserved communities through their writing.”   Read
her memoir: A House of my Own: Stories from my Life.  Buy two copies and read it with a friend.   


So You Want to Write About Your Life?

Top Writing Tips from Memoirist Theo Pauline Nestor

I’ve been writing about myself or wanting to write about myself since before I can remember. When I finally got into a creative writing program in my 30s, there was no “Creative Nonfiction” track or even a class on memoir writing, so I wrote highly autobiographical stories for my fiction class; but as Dave Eggers once said about fiction writing, I felt like I was “driving with a clown suit on.” After graduate school, I was a mother of two, mostly at home. I discovered a new magazine called Brain, Child, which was filled with creative nonfiction written by mothers. I soon started writing for this magazine and discovered that my true genre is memoir and have been writing that ever since. In 2008, my first full-length memoir, How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed, was published by Crown.

When I’m not writing, I’m teaching a class called “Writing the Memoir” at the University of Washington and coaching individual writers. Many of the students who come to the class come with just a hazy idea that they want to write about their lives, and I love guiding them through the process of discovering what exactly they want and need to write about.

Here’s my best advice for getting started on memoir writing:

  • Read great memoirs—both those that are bestsellers and those that are critically acclaimed. If you want to write a memoir, you need to have a good sense of how they’re structured. If you want to sell a memoir, focus on reading popular memoirs published in the last five years. A few of the memoirs I recommend: The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Lit by Mary Karr.
  • Carry a notebook, just a small one. I actually didn’t set out to write a memoir about my divorce, but I had this notebook in my purse, and I was so miserable that I started pulling it out and writing down random thoughts to keep myself from going crazy. The very first note I wrote down was about a woman in my attorney’s waiting room with hair so thin I could see her scalp and a big stack of legal papers on her lap. This brings me to my next point…
  • Get in the habit of taking your observations seriously. One of the differences between would-be writers and actual writers is that writers follow their own thoughts “as if” they were the thoughts of a great thinker. Memoir writing is a collection of your insights and portrayals of your ordinary life. So when you have an observation or insight, take it seriously even if it seems to be about the most mundane topics—the patterns of shoppers in your local grocery store, your neighbor’s habit of watering the sidewalk with his sprinkler.
  • Get some good books about writing. In my opinion, there aren’t enough of these. But, I have a few that I fully recommend. For encouragement as a writer (and don’t kid yourself, we all need this): Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. For a good sound understanding of a memoir’s structure and some great getting-started exercises: Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer. I also recommend Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington.
  • Take a class or hire a coach. Many universities offer night classes in memoir writing and many writers, such as myself, coach writers over the phone or in person.

To learn more about my coaching, visit me at theopaulinenestor.com.

Theo Pauline Nestor’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in a number of places including Brain, Child, Alligator Juniper, msn.com, austinmama.com, happenmag.com and The New York Times. HOW TO SLEEP ALONE IN A KING SIZE BED was a Kirkus Reviews Top Pick for Reading Groups.

Thank you, Theo, for visiting The Stiletto Gang!