Amanda's Circus

Lightship Memoir Shortlisted


Hurray! My memoir has been shortlisted for the Lightship Prize. They’ve whittled it down to ten stories – there were originally thirty longlistees. I’ve no idea how many entered but I’m thrilled and amazed that it has got this far.

I think it’s fair to say, it has been a pretty successful project so far and, perhaps more importantly, it has been quite good fun to write, not as interesting as working on my novel, but that’s a very different process.

I’m coming to the conclusion that writing this memoir is, in many ways, about constraint. Obviously, the creative process is functioning, you still have to tell a story, consider pace, voice, detail, dialogue, secrets and revelation, viewpoint even, but you do not get the same thrill of invention. Perhaps this is good discipline. It might be. Do I need the discipline? Hmmm, I’m not a great one for inflicting restraints or constraints upon myself, or anyone else I must add. I don’t really think the creative process takes kindly to restraint.

A memoir is a very different beast to a novel, perhaps it’s more like writing the music books. After an initial flurry of creativity, my music books are almost entirely constructed by the ‘business’ part of my brain – this is how I see it:


I imagine the poor blighters frowning in their grey suits, busy calculating, organising, copying, planning, filing and restructuring in whatever side of my head it is that they work – it’s certainly not the maths and logic part (those are not fully-functioning and the creatives have taken over their premises).thewomen3


Sometimes the creatives are consulted on the music books. The creatives can be found lounging in a pleasantly smoke-filled living room scattered with books, bottles on the floor, very comfortable chairs, takeaways available 24/7, and plenty of woodland and sea. They have no clocks and no ceiling, just sky which is sometimes dark but it never rains. They gawk a great deal, and gape a lot, but they’re a friendly, easy-going bunch who, rooting around in their debris, find almost everything absolutely fascinating and wonderful. On these music book projects the creatives are not often consulted, and sometimes they get frustrated; watching from their clutter, they know the business folk are getting bogged down in systems and norms, the creatives can smell an absence of originality through a fog of Marlboro Lights, old tikka masala trays and a heap of last week’s socks. They hammer on the door of the business side and are, occasionally, let in, but not often. The business folk pretty much hate the creatives partly because they know the creatives don’t bother to use ring binders properly but also because of the creatives’ unforgivably lackadaisical approach to backing up on Skydrive.  lounging-around-2

If the creatives are left too long they go on holiday, and who can blame them, but they leave their premises to fester like an infected blister, and that doesn’t do anyone any good and even the business guys want them back.

Despite all that, and apologies for swishing you about in the filthy murk of my brain,  I’ve decided to take the memoir further and develop it into something full length. I can see dozens of pitfalls.  For one, it could be dead boring to read. That’s actually the main concern. You can usually worm your way out of muddles. Repetition is a major pitfall. I’ve read a couple of memoirs where the subject goes from one bedsit to another, one meeting to another without graduation or tension, nothing culminates, and you don’t get a sense of journey, or a decent end to the story. Those are the pitfalls I’m thinking about at the moment. Of course I don’t want my creatives to get fed up and bugger off to Berlin in their quest for excitement (I’m thinking of going later this year myself or perhaps Krakow, can’t decide which). Luckily, I’ve discovered that Della Galton is running a day’s memoir course in Bournemouth next month, so I’ve booked myself on it in the hope that it will give me some ideas on structure. I think she’s perfect for this for me. On her website she describes her special strength as writing emotion and I think that, with this memoir, it is emotion that’s the whole point,  and a good story of course.

You can read more about Della Galton, her work and courses on her website and blog – useful writing tips too.

I had a few thoughts on memoir writing when this story was longlisted. If you’re interested, take a glance here: Memoir

4 Comments to "Lightship Memoir Shortlisted"

  1. mary fitzaptrick says:

    I really enjoyed your thoughts and ideas regarding memoir writing (I’ve also been shortlisted for Lightship prize…first time ever!). I agree with you about constraint – it is so tempting just to ‘make things up’. Like your blog v. much, glad I came across it.

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks, Mary, and congratulations. I find I make up quite a lot, little details mostly. And since these aren’t my own memories, I am frequently editing!

  2. dada says:

    Any word on the copies of lightship anthology three appearing. 1 + 2 were very good. I am in it – well will be in it when it appears, looking forward to reading others works

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