Two ways to write a memoir
Allow you to introduce you to my friend, actress, writer and storyteller, Bernadette Nason
I first met Berni about 30 years ago when we were living in Dubai and have stayed in touch ever since. Back then she was working as a Personal Assistant to the manager of a successful hotel. Today, she has reinvented herself as an actress, storyteller and writer and lives in Austin, Texas.
This month has seen the publication of her second memoir, Stealing Baby Jesus, just in time for Christmas. Her previous memoir, Tea in Tripoli, was based on the period of her life, before Dubai, when she had the kind of ‘you’d never believe it’ experience made for publication. Two memoirs and yet they are each written very differently.
Tea in Tripoli is written just like a novel, with lashings of what I call SPICE (Specifics, Place, Incident, Character, Emotion), which makes it a pacey, entertaining and funny read. Berni excels at writing honestly and authentically about the things that have happened to her and is skilled at identifying which of the ‘Incidents’ she has experienced to string together into a full-length memoir of a short period in time.
Stealing Baby Jesus, however, is a tightly crafted piece of work, inspired not only by the countless times she has acted in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but also by memorable Christmases throughout her life. This time, Christmas stories have been strung together chronologically, keeping to the festive theme while also taking the reader on a journey through her life. It’s a clever device, neatly executed. I’m not going to tell you what the story that became the title is all about because that would spoil the surprise.
While Berni has, so far, written two memoirs in two different ways, I have spent time analysing a number of memoirs and discovered there are several other methods too. Go to Expat Bookshop and download yourself a free copy of my Inside Secrets guide to find out more.
There is no doubt that being a storyteller and actress has lent Berni with an eye for a story and an ear for what makes a story into a page turner with a protagonist we care about.
This month, I interview her as part of my In Conversation series about how and why she decided to write her books and how acting and storytelling have helped her to craft compelling words. As you know, the current pandemic has put paid to the chance of work for actors and storytellers and this made the writing and publication of Stealing Baby Jesus even more pressing. In the eight months since the world went into Lockdown, Berni has written, edited and published her book, which is quite an achievement.
I hope you join us both In Conversation on Thursday 12th November at 14:00 UK time and come prepared to ask questions of your own.
Jo Parfitt's Monthly Inspirer