Why We Write Memoirs

Writing our own stories helps us see the narrative thread in our lives, reflect on the consequences of events and maybe find redemption or closure. Life stories, memoirs, autobiographies — whatever term we use–have been wildly popular for the past twenty to thirty years.  In the 1990’s Frank McCourt‘s Angela’s Ashes and Mary Karr‘s The Liar’s Club, among others, sparked an enthusiastic response among readers that has yet to subside. Memoirs have elbowed their way into book discussion groups. Issues of truthfulness in memoirs have become front page and talk show news. Reality TV shows and social networking sites on the Internet, blogs, oral history organizations like StoryCorps, and an explosion of information sources about the life of celebrities, proclaim our fascination with this genre. The most popular nonfiction has a personal aspect to it. Popular histories focus on the role of the individual, self-help books reveal the struggles of the author, and true crime is always popular. Cookbooks are filled with personal stories about the cook and her family.

The best memoirs are shaped like novels:  with a beginning, full of exposition and character development; a middle, often with climactic events; and an ending that ties up what came before with a satisfying resolution. We know that in fiction, the writer has used memory, experience, imagination, and all the tools of creative writing. What we must know is that memoir writers make use of the same creative toolkit.

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Sun, Nov 2: Master The Skills Needed To Write Your First Novel with Toni & Shelly

Full Day Workshop

Master The Skills Needed To Write Your First Novel

9 am to 5 pm with a one-hour lunch break

For this full-day interactive Master Class, please bring the first chapter of your novel, or at least 6 pages, as well as a one-page  synopsis.  Email the chapter to Toni (Lopopolobooks@aol.com) well before the conference to receive a chance to revise before the class.  Be sure to double-space.  (tip: Single spacing brands you an amateur).
Editors in New York publishing houses tell literary agent Toni Lopopolo:

  • I’m looking for well-written, vivid, voice-driven books, in the adult, young adult, new adult, and narrative non-fiction books.”   
  • “I’m always in search of the next big voice in Romance.”
  • “—a distinct, compelling authorial voice, and a strong narrative.”
  • “I look for solid, voice-driven writing that makes the author stand out from the pack.”

This can’t be said too often: To impress a publisher enough to receive a contract for a novel, no matter the genre, a writer must know what skills he/she needs, then must master those skills.  Guaranteed to raise your present skills several levels, this Master Class will help any writer learn:

  • The importance of voice
  • The importance of story
  • The importance of your main character(s)
  • Why dialogue is not conversation
  • Conventions of style vs “rules”
  • The difference between story & plot
  • The importance of eccentricity in your characters
  • Ratio of narration to scenes
  • The golden rules of writing scenes
  • Rate of revelation
  • How to stay out of your own story! (author intervention)
  • How & Why to choose the best point of view for your novel
  • Why you must learn to cut; to kill your darlings
  • Your habit words
  • The secrets of verbs
  • The 20 terrible words
  • How to avoid the 10 Most Common Mistakes
  • How to read as a writer
  • How to create an irresistible storyline pitch
  • The best books to own on fiction writing (see below)
  • The importance of defining and reading your genre
  • How and when to approach an agent
  • The importance of a professional editor
  • Why action beats narration
  • What’s best for you: big publisher, small publisher, self-publisher

During this Master Class, you will be given short assignments and the time to complete them. Come prepared.

Get the books needed early from Amazon:

  1. Stein On Writing by Sol Stein
  2. Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
  3. The Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf

Bring these books with you.

<em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>About the instructors…
Toni Lopopolo spent 20 years in New York City publishing, then took her street creds to open her literary agent in 1991.  Toni served as executive editor at Macmillan, then St Martin’s Press. As an acquiring editor, Toni reviewed the best projects sent to her by agents.  But as a new literary agent, Toni realized, by what writers sent to her agency as “finished” manuscripts, that most writers who approached her to represent them had not mastered the skills required. To impress a publisher enough to receive a contract on a first novel, a writer must know what skills he/she needs, then master those skills.  Toni, in her capacity as an editor, writing instructor, and literary agent, developed methods to help writers learn those skills, practice those skills, and, master them.

No wonder students flock to Shelly Lowenkopf’s classes and well-published professionals come to him now for consults.  He spent most of his years in the working side of publishing as a “shirt-sleeves” editor, acquiring and developing genre, mainstream, and literary fiction as well as dramatic biography and theme-based nonfiction inquiry.  A versatile and ambitious writer as well, Shelly’s editorial skills reflect both sides of the desk.  His years of leading students to publishing contracts makes him an ideal other voice for Toni Lopopolo in demonstrating these necessary steps to significant and continued publication.

Direct quotes from some of Shelly’s student evaluations:

“This course, [Reading Like a Writer]  “ led me to publication.”

“I wish I’d had this course [<em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Developing a Literary Voice]a long time ago.”

“There are introductions to writing and there is Shelly’s Introduction to Publication.”


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Join Toni for a Masterclass at Los Angeles Valley College, Saturday, October 18

Master The Skills Needed
to Write Your First Novel
or Revise Your First Draft!

You need the skills to impress a publisher enough to receive a contract on your first novel.

Toni Lopopolo Literary ManagementHere’s your chance to learn what it takes, then develop those skills with the guidance of a Master. Toni Lopopolo is a professional editor, seasoned instructor, and a successful literary agent since 1991. For twenty years before she opened her agency, Toni served as executive editor at Macmillan, then at St Martin’s Press in New York City. As an acquiring editor, Toni reviewed the best projects sent to her by agents.

When Toni opened her own agency, she realized, by what writers sent to her agency as “finished” manuscripts, that most had not mastered the required skills. Agents are the great “filtering” system, the “gate-keepers” who send only the most sophisticated writing they find, to editors in publishing houses. So Toni  has developed proven methods to help writers learn those skills, practice those skills, and master them.

Saturday, October 18, 10 AM-4 PM
Los Angeles Valley College


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Line of Dialogue Remembered Since 1949

Orson Welles’s short speech in The Third Man: Italy vs Switzerland

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Benedict Cumberbatch reads a letter from Kurt Vonnegut

This video is amazing. So’s the letter. In 1973 they burned 75 copies of Slaughter House Five.  

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What Writers Can Learn From Watching “Fargo”

Alan Sepinwall reviews a screening of FX’s Fargo:

“…the level of suspense that Noah Hawley‘s script and Matt Shakman’s direction create is almost unbearable, and that tension was palpable and powerful throughout the screening….

“…That there isn’t any violence in between the elevator massacre and Linda’s murder only illustrates the power of making your audience wait for something to happen, assuming you’re a good enough storyteller to make it feel like something more than just the marking of time.”

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-fargo-a-fox-a-rabbit-and-a-cabbage-apple-pie-a-la-malvo

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How to Stop Saying the Word “Like”

Every language has its own vocabulary of vocalized pauses, which are meaningless words used to keep the conversation flowing smoothly.[1] In English, these are usually “um,” “er,” “ah,” or “you know.” In North America, especially among young people, it’s common to use the word “like” as a vocalized pause. This became popular with the rise of “Valleyspeak,” which is a stereotypical manner of speaking that originated in Southern California in the ’70s.[2] If you’re, like, totally hooked on using the word “like,” see Step 1 below to start speaking more professionally and stop being (like, so) annoying.


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