The 1882 Foundation hosted a memoir writing presentation and workshop at the I Street Conference Center on Sunday, June 11. The speakers were Veronica Li, a writer of fiction and nonfiction who published a memoir about her mother called Journey Across the Four Seas; Sverrir Sigurdsson, a retired architect who recently published his memoir Viking Voyager with his wife Veronica; and Sabrina Hsu, Head of Collections Services Section of the Asian Division, Library of Congress.
Stan Lou, Talk Story Director, said that Veronica is “the epitome of Asian American memoir writing. Her writing speaks to our community and our experiences.”
The speakers shared tips and essential elements of writing a memoir, including the historical context, plot, and descriptions of physical settings. They recommended that future memoir writers first identify major turning points in their lives, then decide which key events they want to write about. Consider the backstory, the turning point itself, and the aftermath. Memoir writing requires introspection and reflection. Memoir writers can also use creative license, adding embellishments to bring out the truth rather than distort it.
Sabrina shared resources to research family history that are available at the Library of Congress. Researchers ages 16 and over can get a Reader Identification Card, which grants access to the Library of Congress reading rooms and the ability to request materials from collections via the Library of Congress Online Catalog. The Library of Congress has thousands of American and international genealogical and local historical publications, as well as access to My China Roots, a database of overseas Chinese records.
The event ended with a Q&A moderated by Veronica and Sverrir about the memoir writing process and advice for aspiring memoir writers. The entire event recording is available below:
Special thanks to Veronica Li, Sverrir Sigurdsson, and Sabrina Hsu, 1882 Foundation summer 2023 interns Alina Lee and Amanda Young for photo and video support, and I St Conference Center staff.