With 14 years of experience helping writers submit their work for publication, Writer’s Relief’s President, Ronnie Smith, believes there is no better time to submit memoirs and personal essays than the first months of a new year. For that reason Writer’s Relief has decided to open a number of spots on their invitation-only client list to memoir writers.
“The New Year is a time of reflection and of committing to success,” Smith said, “so it’s a great time for memoirs. There’s something that appeals to people about curling up with a good book in January and February. Agents and editors are no exception.”
Centuries ago memoirs were one of the most respected forms of writing, with novels way down at the bottom of the pile. It was believed that the real-life stories of enlightened observers were more meaningful to readers than stories that were “not true.”
And yet, despite the age-old popularity of memoirs, aspiring writers have often found it difficult to write about their own lives, partly because of the question of what is “true” or “not true.” Herman Rosenblat’s memoir Angel at the Fence, which was touted by Oprah in the same way she’d once championed James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, was the latest memoir to become the subject of public scrutiny when Holocaust historians questioned the feasibility of the book’s plot.
“There are two schools of thought about memoir writing,” Smith said. “Some believe that each and every syllable of a conversation that happened a decade ago must be rendered with perfect word-for-word exactness. But many editors understand that memoir is an art form—that’s why it’s called creative nonfiction. A work can be both true and have creative elements at the same time.”
Another common misconception that Smith encounters about memoirs is the belief that a memoir needs to cover a person’s entire lifespan or that it needs to be the size of a full-length book.
“Memoirs can range in tone and scope, discussing anything from a decade to a single day. Some memoirs inspire and motivate, while others point toward injustice and oppression in the world,” Smith said. “For as many unique personalities as there are in the world, there are unique memoirs.”
The memoir market is driven by two forms: the book-length memoir and the personal creative essay. Writer’s Relief has successfully placed creative nonfiction in a number of venues; however, Smith stresses the importance of knowing the market if one is seeking traditional print publications. She finds that short works (up to 5,000 words) have the best shot at finding publication in traditional literary journals and magazines. Longer works must be 40,000 words or more to be considered book-length.
“Our Review Board reads memoirs from many unknown and established writers who want to join our client list. We’ve found that even if a writer isn’t, say, a classical pianist-turned-astronaut who uncovered a real-life terrorist plot, there may be a market for the memoir if it’s meaningful and well-written,” Smith said.
At most traditional publishing houses and literary agencies, the memoir market is crowded and competitive, so the manner in which submissions are made is critical. Writer’s Relief is a unique company that strategically targets creative writers’ work to venues within the publishing industry, increasing the likeliness of publication.
Writer’s Relief accepts only those clients whose writing is strong and effective; however, new writers whose work shows promise are as welcome as veteran writers. For guidelines on how to submit a memoir or personal essay to Writer’s Relief, visit www.writersrelief.com.
“Because New Year’s is one of the best times to submit nonfiction to agents and editors, we encourage writers who have written either long or short memoirs to send them to our Review Board,” Smith said.