Writing about places as a memoir adds another layer to the information.You are not just informing your readers about the history or the sites, but giving them a first-person account of how you experienced these locations.
I always come back to Vivian Gornick on this point: “What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” If a book-length memoir is a slice of life, then a flash memoir is a moment. It is, rather, a singular instance of insight—a “flash,” if you will—that imbues even the shortest piece of memoir with meaning. In his preface to In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones, Bernard Cooper writes, “To write short nonfiction requires an alertness to detail, a quickening of the senses, a focusing of the literary lens, so to speak, until one has magnified some small aspect of what it means to be human.” The flash in “flash memoir” refers to its brevity, yes, but it also—and more importantly—refers to its “flash” of insight into human experience.A longer format, such as an autobiography, allows more room to explore a theme, compiling those memories that paint a much bigger picture.Unforgettable characters populate your life from the time you are born.Reading short memoir essays in this way—“seeing beneath the surface” of a piece to the larger sense the author is making—will make you a better writer when you try your hand at writing flash memoir and longer memoir. For now, enjoy reading like a writer and seeing beneath the surface of the memoir pieces you read.A memoir is a first person account of an autobiographical experience that can be written in a short form like an essay or as a full-length book.Years ago, when I lived in Boston and worked for The Horn Book Magazine, novelist and children’s author Alice Hoffman read her work at a local bookstore.After her reading, a woman in the audience asked Hoffman what she recommended for an aspiring writer who had started several novels but hadn’t finished them.The online journal Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction offers a treasure trove of flash creative nonfiction pieces that are 750 words or less.By pinpointing how a piece of flash memoir moves you as a reader, you are in fact practicing the art of reading like a writer and cultivating a writer’s sensibility for how to engage your readers at an emotional level when you return to the page.Perhaps it was a friend who impacted your life, whether in big ways or small.A memoir teaches you how you evolved simply from the association of the people around you.