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ANNUAL MEMOIR CONTEST OPEN OCTOBER 1!

Our Judge, Roxan McDonald!

Roxan McDonald has dedicated herself to helping people find their voice both on the page and in their lives. She currently leads writing groups in Santa Cruz, Carmel, and Monterey. Roxan co-teaches with Ellen Bass at Esalen Institute and 1440 Multiversity. For fourteen years Roxan was on the management team of two alternative high schools focused on serving at-risk youth.  Roxan taught creative writing, poetry, and memoir writing in alternative schools and produced eleven anthologies of student writing. She has studied with Ellen Bass, Chris Abani, Sanjiv Bhattacharya, Debra Gwartney, Marcy Allencraig, Joseph Stroud, Barbara Bloom, Jessica Brown, and Andy Courturier. She is an alum of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Breadloaf Sicily and is a member of Cheryl Strayed's Writers Camp. Roxan won the Mary Lonnberg Smith Award in poetry and her short stories, memoir excerpts, and poetry have been published in The Porter Gulch Review.  She won the Eshleman Scholarship for the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Roxan received an honorable mention in nonfiction for the San Miguel de Allende Writers' Conference Writing Contest for an excerpt from her memoir. Roxan is the author of the bestselling self-help decks Spiritual AF and Grateful AF. Roxan holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Education from California Institute of Integral Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University.

Definition of Memoir

Memoir is a written factual account of somebody’s life. It comes from the French word mémoire, which means “memory,” or “reminiscence.” This literary technique tells a story about the experiences of someone’s life. A literary memoir is usually about a specific theme, or about a part of someone’s life. It is a story with a proper narrative shape, focus, and subject matter, involving reflection on some particular event or place.

Memoirs are often associated with popular personalities, such as celebrities, sportsmen, soldiers, singers, and writers. It allows making a connection with what the audience finds captivating, interesting, appealing, and engaging.

Memoir and Autobiography

Memoir falls under the category of autobiography, but is used as its sub-genre. The major difference between memoir and autobiography is that a memoir is a centralized and more specific storytelling, while an autobiography spans the entire life of a person with intricate details such as the childhood, family history, education, and profession. A memoir is specific and focused, telling the story of somebody’s life, focusing on an important event that occurred at a specific time and place.

Examples of Memoir in Literature

Example #1: A Moveable Feast (By Ernest Hemingway)

Ernest Hemingway was an acclaimed celebrity during the times when the public treated American writers like movie stars. His memoir A Moveable Feast was published after his death in 1964. This memoir is a collection of stories about his time spent in Paris as a writer in 1920s, before attaining popularity. During these days, he was acquainted with many other famous writers, including Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.

Example #2: Speak Memory (By Vladimir Nabokov)

This memoir is about the description of Nabokov’s childhood, and the years he spent before moving to America in 1940; however, it is not the exact reason of writing this memoir. More notably, this book is about a tale of his art, as it serves as a model of that art. In addition, it includes themes, imagery, and symbols that build up a structure in the minds of readers besides making up the book. Like always, Nabokov’s prose writing is flawless, brilliant, and overwhelming, while his playful writing style makes his work seem fascinating.


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Contest Rules:

  • All entries must be formatted as WORD documents, double spaced in 12 point Times New Roman font.
  • Manuscripts must have 1inch margins.
  • Entry word count should not exceed 2,500 words.
  • Title of manuscript must appear in each page header.
  • Pages must be numbered in lower right hand corner.
  • All manuscripts must be original, unpublished work.
  • Author’s name MUST NOT appear anywhere on manuscript.
  • Submissions must be an original, unpublished (print or electronic) written work and a non-previous prize winner.
  • Contest Entry Fee payments must be paid at time of completing Contest Entry Form. You may enter up to three times.

    Please note: failure to comply with the rules will result in a disqualification. Disqualified applicants and non- winners are not reimbursed application fees.

    At contest conclusion, submissions will be deleted. Critique of your work is not provided for this contest.

Example of Subject line of email:
Subject: PSWG Annual Memoir Contest: (TITLE OF YOUR PIECE)

Example of Cover Letter:
Attached please find my entry to the PSWG Annual Memoir contest titled, “Title Here.”
Signed, YOUR NAME

Entries accepted beginning October 1, 2020 (opening).
No entries accepted after noon on November 15, 2020 (closing).

The annual memoir winner will be announced December 1 via email blast and the winning entries will be published on the website only with author permission.

Kathy Weyer, Vice-President, Contests: kathy.weyer@att.net

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