Memoir Update

I have abandoned the memoir project and feel better for it. To update other writers who may be considering entering this competition, some language in the rules concerned me enough to pull the plug on my not-progressing-anyway memoir. The first is that the memoir must be fully vetted by the entrant (you) for permissions from anyone who is mentioned in the work.

Ah, but my plan was to write it, and if by some miracle I became a finalist, I would then ask permission. My memoir takes place when I was 15-20, often homeless, shiftless, hungry. Just about everyone who made my life very difficult then is still alive. So…that solved my problem with what to write next. I do have this memoir, in a notebook, with many fictionalized stories of this fecund time in my life. Someday I’ll publish it, maybe, just not today.

But what if you have a memoir that wouldn’t hurt anyone else’s feelings at all? What if it’s an internal struggle, like victory over depression, or a medical issue, like winning the cancer war? Nobody’s going to sue you for libel on that account. However, there is more language that might stop you short. The sponsors claim every entry as their property, and further, they can use it any way they want to. This is amazing! I thought AARP was in the business of helping seniors, but the “unconditional, irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to publish, use, adapt, edit and/or modify” a writer’s entry “without limitation, and without consideration to the entrant” seems very unfair to me.

And we don’t even get to be called writers, but “entrants” ~ I think that galls me the most. Anyway, my writing to-do list just got much shorter. And for that I’m thrilled. Not so thrilled that I need to find my way back to my WIP, but it’s time. My fingers have healed: the holidays are finished. It’s time to write.


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  1. I would never enter a competition with these rules! it’s wrong, exploitative, and just plain ridiculous. I understand getting permission from people mentioned in your memoir, but not the giving away of your rights to your own work. Bah, humbug!


  2. Kris, Isn’t it the pits? Writers and the process of writing is cheapened when something like this happens. It’s kind of an “over” feeling, like respect and money for writing are GONE.


  3. It is always hard negotiating that sort of stuff (the memoir, I mean, not the competition). When I produce personal art, I am very conscious of the fact that it is coming from my own personal point of view. You don’t really know what is going on with other people. You don’t want to put words in their mouths that they haven’t actually used in your presence (assuming your memory recalls accurately anyway).


  4. I remember you thinking about memoir there for a bit, right, John. Yes, a tricky business. I prefer fiction. I can always get my licks in and plead innocent:)


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