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Andrea Jarrell
How to Make Your Memoir a Page Turner
June 14, 2018


Andrea Jarrell
Author of I’m the One Who Got Away

I’m the One Who Got Away is a life-affirming, recovery story about having the courage to become both safe enough and vulnerable enough to love and be loved.  As one reader said, “it’s a coming of age story — middle age.” The Los Angeles Review of Books review said it this way:  “In I’m the One Who Got Away, Jarrell has composed a collage of the people she used to be, to create a portrait of the woman she is — self-aware and unafraid. She gives the rest of us approaching our 50s hope that the best is yet to come.”

I am an essayist and memoirist who began as a fiction writer. To many, my memoir reads like a novel and that was my goal. As Allison Green (The Ghosts Who Travel with Me: A Literary Pilgrimage through Brautigan’s America) stated in a piece for the Brevity Magazine blog: “I found that creative nonfiction was the home I didn’t know I needed. It provided structure and focus. Now I liken it to form poetry; the truth as I remember it constrains the writing in the same way the sonnet form constrains writing. Unexpectedly, that constraint fosters innovation and surprise. It frees rather than limits.” I’ve been a storyteller and writer all my life. Thus far, memoir is where I feel most alive as a writer. This particular story had been in me for a long time — part of it was something I grew up with but as an adult new experiences made deeper meaning out of the original story.

“Page turner” and “riveting” are two of the ways many readers have described I’m the One Who Got Away. I didn’t anticipate this reaction and have thought a lot about what accounts for it. While I can’t guarantee a formula for a page-turner I believe I understand the elements that have compelled readers to keep reading: surprising opening, overall structure, scene and dialogue, character development (many readers have said they root for every character even the “bad” ones), and length.

You will gain/learn from Andrea’s presentation:

  • The pros and cons of chronology.
  • The importance of scene and dialogue.
  • How to create a cohesive whole from episodes.
  • What to do if you weren’t actually there.
  • Tips on creating complex characters.

Andrea Jarrell’s debut memoir “I’m the One Who Got Away” was named one of the Best Books of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Jarrell’s essays have appeared in the New York Times “Modern Love” column, Harper’s Bazaar, Literary Hub, Narrative Magazine, the Washington Post, and many other sites, journals, and anthologies.


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