Must a Memoir Be Linear in Time?

“I want [my memoir] to be a collection of non-fiction short stories, so it’s not linear. You can pick it up just anywhere and read a story about some part of my life with images and photographs and artwork and things that I have done and collected and mean something to me.” ~ Sissy Spacek

Spacek’s first published work, a memoir called Barefoot Stories, tells tales that are amusing, charming and leave the listener yearning for simpler times. See this example where she describes a simple, family ritual.

“Before my dad would let us go barefoot, he would have to decide that it was warm enough for us to take our shoes off. All of the other kids in town would be running around barefoot from Easter time. Every day my (two older) brothers and I would look at each other and think maybe today’s going to be the day.

“We’d go out into the backyard and Dad, he’d be real serious. He’d kneel down and feel the ground and we’d wait with bated breath to see if that was the day. Most days it wasn’t the day, but finally he would give us the sign that we could take our shoes off.

“I learned that sometimes waiting for things and wanting things is even better than getting them.”

She says she learned all the truths that are most important to her before she left that little town in Texas.

“There certainly have been a lot of funny things that have happened to me along the way” — such as surreptitiously riding a cow before getting the horses she so badly wanted — “but I have always felt so rooted in my childhood. And it really helped me face the challenges and the adventures that we all face during our lifetime. And I hope that when people read it, they will think about their life and their childhood.”

Spacek doesn’t know what all of her stories will be, but she does know they are not intended to be instructive. “I don’t want to teach any lessons, because I don’t know that I know more than anybody else.”

Spacek says she always has been fascinated by books: novels, books about art, poetry, even self-help. She has started reading Jeannette Walls‘ Half Broke Horses. And she just got her friend Rodney Crowell‘s memoir about growing up in Texas, Chinaberry Sidewalks. Crowell is a singer/ songwriter who produced a record that Spacek made after her Oscar-winning turn as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, released in 1980.

“Of course (writing) is something that is very new for me, so at this point I know everything,” Spacek says, laughing. “Talk to me in eight or nine months and I will be humbled and brought to my knees.”

Spacek lives in the Virginia countryside and is married to film director and production designer Jack Fisk. They have two daughters, Schuyler, 28, and Madison, 22.

See the rest of this USA Today article HERE.

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email:  If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.


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