Memoir Assignment Sheet

Assignment 1 – Memoir

English 101 M-W/T-Th

Dawn S. Davies


“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” -Mencius (Meng-Tse) 4th Cent. BCE

Memoir Assignment

Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to write a 3-5 page memoir about a personal experience. Although memoir is similar to the personal essay, there are a few differences. Memoir tends to focus more on life-changing or striking events, and has a heaver hand than the personal essay. If the personal essay explores a topic free from need for interpretation, the memoir interprets, analyzes and seeks a deeper meaning beneath the surface experience of particular events.

The memoir asks the following:

  • Why was this event of particular significance?
  • What did the event mean?
  • How has this event changed me?

Knowing this, write a 3-5 page essay that focuses on an event, a person or people, or place that is important to you. Use this exploration of a previous event to shed light on the present. Use the strategies about open form writing that we discuss in class. Break away from and-then storytelling. Use chronology. Use yummy, descriptive words. Make your reader see place, feel tension, connect to character. What should you write about? I don’t care. That’s the great part! Write about what you love. Write about what excites you. What about an event that you can’t stop thinking about today. When you like what you are writing about, your audience will feel it and go there with you.


  • Chapter 3 in Bridging the Difference: A Guide to Academic Writing
  • Blackboard list of possible memoir topics
  • Handout on open form prose
  • Assigned reading links


Be aware of the rhetorical situation in which you are producing this essay. The structure and language of your memoir should reflect an awareness of purpose, audience, genre, and discursive style. Remember that this memoir will be read by a relatively general audience during peer review. Do not share events that you would rather keep confidential.

The memoir should be written in Standard American English—with the exception of dialogues, which should capture the authentic voice of the characters (we will discuss this further in class).  I will focus specifically on grammatical issues on this assignment and will be looking not only for surface errors (typos and constructions that are linguistically valid but simply not SAE), but also for cognitive errors (structural problems that obscure or prevent meaning). I have attached a grading rubric to help show you what I will be looking at.


Due Dates:

  • Draft for peer review due Wednesday 9/2 for MW students, Thursday 9/3 for T-TH students. Bring typed draft to class that day.
  • Revision will be handed back on Wednesday 9/9 for MW students, and Thursday 9/10 for T-TH students.
  • Final Revision: Monday, 9/14 for MW students, Tuesday 9/15 for T-TTH students.

All papers should be typed in MLA format and in Times New Roman 12 point font. Black ink. Please make sure to staple multiple pages together. Use only original work created for this class please.

This assignment will not self-destruct. In fact, it will be available for as long as the internet doesn’t break down. As you have seen, it is chalk-full of useful information, so please refer to it often and save yourself from embarrassing, frantic two a.m. emails asking me about deadline or formatting.

Plan ahead. Do not bloviate. Use words I know.

In your service,

Dawn S. Davies