IPEd Conference 2021: Editing on the Edges

Memoir: The varnished truth

Memoir is non-fiction with a creative edge, hence the title, ‘the varnished truth’. It sits between fiction and non-fiction. These narratives are fertile ground for editors interested in the ambiguous territory between imagination and reality.

This workshop explores the recent the interest in life stories, the makings of a successful memoir … and the pitfalls. The techniques editors employ to help writers craft their life stories are crucial. Every manuscript is different but the secret usually lies in finding a pleasing balance between intimacy and universality, and in the development of a sustained, authentic voice that readers wish to dwell in, one that mirrors their own lives or allows them to experience something utterly different.

Memoir gives a personal voice to many who have lacked a platform and an audience. As well as pushing genre boundaries, contemporary memoir is also breaking ground in terms of perspective, theme and experience. Because it is so personal, there are often edgy issues such as race, gender, sexuality, class and disability. Memoir requires an awareness of matters of sensitivity, confidentiality, privacy, defamation and copyright for editor, writer and reader alike.

This workshop offers insights for experienced editors as well as those who are newer to the profession. There is a growing interest in and market for memoir, both in trade publishing and via self-publishing routes, opening up professional opportunities for editors.

Memoir combines and extends skills in different levels of editing. A blend of developmental or structural work with copy editing is often needed. There is also scope to offer services in related fields such as writing coaching, ghost writing, beta reading, manuscript assessment and self-publishing.

The relationship between editor and memoirist is sometimes delicate. Many are first-time authors and sometimes the editor is the bearer of unwelcome news for those whose heart is set on big sales and royalties. Finding the right balance between honesty, professionalism and helpful advice is the key in a genre where their life is in your hands.
Pam Hewitt
Pamela Hewitt is an accredited editor who has worked in editing and publishing for over 25 years. After a career in educational and academic editing, she established a freelance editorial practice specialising in memoir, fiction and narrative non- fiction. Many titles she has edited have won literary awards. A qualified teacher, Pamela has presented editing and writing workshops around Australia and internationally.

Her website is Emend Editing.

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Online, 28 to 30 June 2021
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