I seldom read every article in a magazine that comes to my house.  Without time for hours of reading every day, I do a lot of skimming instead of deep reading.  I wish it were not so.

However, with a long trip ahead and a little determination due to having chosen to make the new literary journal Memoir (and) a blog topic, I was able to read every article in the most recent edition of this publication.  After I did so, I went back to the two previous issues to read as much of them as I could.  I wanted to give you, dear readers, my most informed judgment about whether this publication is a good investment at $20/year.

When I began writing short memoir, back in 2006, I got the bright idea that someone ought to create a journal or magazine devoted solely to this genre.  Sure enough–just a few weeks later, I saw the first notice of the Memoir Journal Foundation, and the first call for material for Memoir (and). I missed an opportunity to meet Joan Chapman when she did a workshop at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, so I decided to become a charter subscriber instead.

Volume 1, Number 1, the inaugural issue, is dated Spring 2007.  The size is a hefty, glossy 7″ X 10.” The cover art is arresting–a painted, shadowed young female face, at 2/3 view–with amber eyes sending rays of light toward the left side.  Above the face and to the left of the nameplate is a picture of a Medusa, wreathed in snakes.  The title page proclaims the the subtitle subjects: “prose, poetry, essay, graphics, lies, and more. . .”  Now you know why The Writer magazine calls Memoir(and) “edgy.”

I recommend that everyone interested in writing and reading memoir subscribe to this journal.  Here are five reasons to do so:

1.  The friendly debate between the founding editor Candida Lawrence and the managing editor Joan E. Chapman.  Each issue begins with the two editors staking out positions they exaggerate as much as possible for the sake of argument.  Should memoir be philosophical, is stable narration possible, are all ideas embedded in things, is a cigar sometimes just a cigar? I caricature them, but only slightly.  Their arguments provide provocative questions that guide the reader through all the types of memoir included in the pages to follow.

2.  The combination of photos, graphic art, poetry and narrative essays helps expand the definition of the genre and adds new angles of vision.  One of my favorite writing assignments, one that produced some of the best student writing when I was a teaching assistant at the University of Texas, was to give students a copy of one of Diane Arbus’s mesmerizing photos and ask them to write essays in response to the haunting images.

3.  These stories make you think.  They are a little less likely to inspire or make you laugh or cry than I would like.  They seem determined not to be sentimental, and that is good.  Their grit forms a good antidote to my own tendency toward Romanticism.

4.  Relatively unknown writers have a great chance to be published in these pages.  The submission policy is strictly blind.

5.  All writers and aspiring writers pay their dues in part by buying publications that support other writers.

If these five reasons convince you, click on the link above, and subscribe.

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Shirley Showalter

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  1. […] If you go to the About section of this blog, or just click here, you can find an announcement of a new contest from Memoir (and) journal I reviewed here. […]

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