Memoir Writing: Heather Rosser

Sharing memories is part of what makes us human. Recently memoir writing has
become popular and people, often with little writing expertise, post their memoir
online.

I was already a published author before writing my memoirs. After returning
from working in Africa as a teacher and journalist I was employed by Macmillan
Education to write text books for African schools. I was sent to South Sudan soon
after it became independent in 2011. Most of the teachers I worked with had fled
during the civil war. They were committed to writing the new syllabus, including
Social Studies which was my speciality. One of them said ‘Education is our last
weapon, perhaps the only one we have left.’

After my mother died I discovered she had begun to record her memories but
she left many questions unanswered. I felt a need to find out more about her
childhood in North Wales, particularly her father’s experience as a seaplane pilot in
the First World War. Her unfinished memoir was the inspiration for my novel ‘In the
Line of Duty’. In the interests of research I made several visits to the Conwy Valley as
well as the Fleet Air Arm, the Imperial War Museum and museums in Llandudno. My
family accompanied me on several of those trips and made their own memories. Like
many novels, my book is partly based on facts, both personal and political.

Context is important and I enjoy researching world events at the time,
including the weather. It is important that the reader feels the heat and shivers
slightly when reading descriptions of the cold.

I like to include maps in my books to establish a sense of place. Letters to and
from family are also an important part of my research and these are written in italics
so the different fonts alert the reader to a different ‘voice’.

I like to write chronologically. Where this isn’t appropriate I include ‘Flash
Back’ or ‘Flash Forward’ at the beginning or end of a chapter. The African memoirs
cover short time periods, four and six years, but my latest, Our School in the
Lincolnshire Wolds, covers fifteen eventful years.

Times have changed since my first memoir was published and we now have to
deal with the concept of Woke. Personally, I feel that it can restrict the use of
vocabulary that was acceptable in the era about which one is writing. Perhaps this is
a topic that can be discussed by our members.

Posted in Works.