Using Memorabilia to Help you Write Your Memoir

It's the little things that spark our memories. The way the air smells on a fall day. The color of someone's scarf. The way someone walks. Anything might become the vehicle that drives your memory, that ignites a story from long ago in your mind. And then you're off...headed down memory lane. 

Our lives are full of these memory triggers. Often I find one of the best tools to explore memories is an object of memorabilia. It could be a photograph, an old letter, a journal, a family recipe. It could be a teacup, a handkerchief, a pair of scissors - anything that's been around for a while and can help stir up memories. 

I came across this item of personal memorabilia the other day - my swiss army pocket knife. Ah, memories. Then I was off down memory lane. 


On my tenth birthday my father gave me a Swiss Army pocketknife. I scratched my name into its side. I used this knife to whittle a walking stick I once found on the shores of Lake Superior one summer. I sat on the dunes and carved small illustrations into the stick. I took the stick and the knife on many hikes in the woods.

My father died eleven years ago and this knife is one of the few things I still have that he gave to me as a gift. He was not a wealthy man. When he wasn’t working in the factory he was out on the water fishing with his buddies, or dreaming and fantasizing about the next time he could go fishing. He was an outdoorsman and this knife was his way of bringing me into that part of his life.

This March and April I'll be hosting a group of memoir writers, well mostly ordinary people who want to learn how to write their memoirs. We'll be bringing our own items of memorabilia to help launch us down memory lane. Photos, letters, journal, recipes. One woman promised to bring her plants. If you'd like to join us here is a link to find out more about this workshop series.