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Memoir is not an autobiography by Renee Schuls-Jacobson

People who love to write generally have strong emotional associations with certain words. For example, I love the word “emphatic.” It reminds me of the way my father’s fist sounded against his big wood desk the night I argued about staying up past my 11PM curfew. And the word “corduroy”? It reminds me of a kid I used to know who had a chronic case of impetigo. (He wore corduroy pants to cover his oozing sores.)
I guess it’s fair to say that words have never been just words for me. Each word has meaning far beyond a dictionary definition. Each word is a magic trick, made up of letters connected to our most powerful memories.
One of the questions I’m often asked is what is the difference between an autobiography and a memoir. A memoir is not an autobiography: an autobiography spans one’s entire life, and a memoir focuses on one particular moment or series of moments around a theme. In a memoir, you want readers to walk away knowing you, and that one experience, on a much deeper level.
Over the years, I’ve developed a highly introspective and intense method, which helps writers see where exactly their story starts and stops. I can’t wait to share my experience with beginning and intermediate writers again this semester.


An former educator with over twenty years of classroom experience, she has taught at Brighton High School and, more recently, at Monroe Community College. A published author, poet, and storyteller, Renée has a blog at A professional artist, Renée also provides art instruction. You can see her work on her Facebook page – RASJACOBSON ORIGINALS – and at