Dip into Writing Mother Memoir – Become a TellTale Soul

Shrimp Dip Made Classic

Shrimp Dip Made Classic

Yes, this photo is a basic shrimp dip. . .we’ve revved it up into a recipe of sorts, a classic formula for thinking on one’s feet, to be revealed in Kathy Myers’ creatively short bio-vignette following my remarks.

Last week I had the pleasure to lead a mini Mother Memoir workshop at Marlene Cullen’s The Write Spot Blog in Petaluma, CA. I found myself surrounded by a room full of story writers, creative writers who proved to be deep thinkers. There would be no end to the flow of resourceful energy!  The evening promised to be interesting. It was by all accounts.

Preparing to write a true and telling tale about one’s Mother is a big deal. Embracing her individuality, even bigger. So when I asked the newly minted TellTale Souls to open-up to looking at “Mom” from the inside out, to drill down to her very essence, before putting pen to paper, I first saw contemplative change reflected in their faces. Then I heard the hum of wheels turning in their minds as they willingly wrapped their arms around this uncommon, although remarkable, notion of considering mother an individual unto herself. New design tacks were forged. Then each was off on his journey seeking Mom so to write a bio-vignette capturing her intrinsic character and spirit.

One woman said, “I think you really primed the pump of creativity on this topic.”  Another woman said, “When you started off by telling the class ‘Mother Memoir had the power to move people and change awareness.’ I didn’t really believe it. But I do now.”


Enter Kathy Myers: Lynn Henriksen’s suggestion to write a “mom memoir” reminds me of a pivotal moment in my writing life. The plays at the Junior College always have themed lobby decorations and displays. Our director suggested the cast post a photo and a brief blurb about the “Steel Magnolias” in our lives. My first thought was of my mother, who died twelve years earlier, but still attended my performances in my imaginary audience. I wrote a brief vignette that I thought captured her essence:

Juanita McNinch

                                                                                         ~ Kathy Myers
I will never forget that evening…

My mother moved about the room graciously greeting her guests with welcoming hugs of warm appreciation that they had come. She occasionally checked the buffet table and made sure the shrimp dip bowl was never empty. She spotted a young couple standing awkwardly on the periphery of the group. He had been the kid next door many years ago. His wife was wearing a shift that showed off her protruding round belly.

“So when are you due dear?” mother asked.

The young woman flustered and blushed. “I’m not pregnant. I guess I’m just fat.”

Without missing a beat, and without averting her gaze from the woman’s eyes, mom leaned in and said as if it was the God’s honest truth, “Don’t be ridiculous. I thought I recall your mom mentioning it in her last letter. I must be confused. Have you tried my shrimp dip?”

My mother had grace under fire; even that evening; the gathering after my father’s funeral. Her steely spirit continues to inspire me—tonight and always.

Some of the other cast members were moved by my piece, and requested I help them honor their own magnolias. I was encouraged by their feedback, so I signed up for a creative writing course the following fall. Now I’m glad that I have the ability to write, a good sense of humor and can whip up a pretty mean shrimp dip—all abilities I inherited from mom. She would be so proud.


Kathy tells me she working on a new Mother Memoir, Mastery of the Twenty Minute Diaper Change.  I hope she’ll share it with me, since I can’t wait to read it!

Daughters and sons from 9 to 90 use The Story Woman’s TELLTALE SOULS METHOD to move memory into memoir in a uniquely creative way, “Keeping Spirits Alive.”

You can easily find the stories I’ve posted from the book by searching “Bio-Vignette No.”


  1. Kathy Myers says:

    Thank you for sharing my mom’s “bio-vignette.” You’re right, there was a lot of energy in the group last Thursday. We would have chatted for another hour if you hadn’t reigned us in. I’ll get busy on the next piece. It’s such a pleasure to recall details about time with my mother. I wish I had more time with her, but my memories can keep her close.

  2. admin says:

    It was my pleasure, Kathy, to post your wonderful bio-vignette, and to have you share a bit about your mother with us! I’m really looking forward to seeing your next story. I love your style. If you want to send it to me, please use my email (you have my address); it easier for both of us that way…

  3. Pamela says:

    What a neat way to give out a recipe. :-) Sounds like the Petaluma group had a wonderful time with you – so, are you thinking of publishing a volume TWO of mother memoir vignettes? I think that would be a great idea!

  4. admin says:

    Thanks, Pamela. Yes, I’m collecting stories now. So, please let your friends know I’d love to read their Mother Memoirs. And a big thanks for your terrific story, “Traveling to the Ocean.”

  5. I love Kathy’s shrimp dip story. . . what a great sense of humor her mother had (has?) and quick thinking, too! A trait I wish I could learn. Lovely writing.

  6. admin says:

    Marlene, It’s all due to your inviting me to lead a TellTale Souls workshop for your “The Write Spot” group last spring that I received Kathy’s and Diane’s wonderful Mother Memoirs for my collection. Both women are beautiful writers. Thanks, again!

  7. Diane and I are going to mention TellTall Souls at the Aug 21 Writers Forum workshop. Let’s get more stories published!

  8. Thanks, Pamela. Yes, I’m collecting stories now. So, please let your friends know I’d love to read their Mother Memoirs.

  9. Thanks, Pamela.

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