I have been reading Jenny Lawson's (The Bloggess) book Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) for the second time. I think I am enjoying it more now than when I read it originally. Lawson's book makes me want to put down in writing all the crazy stories from my childhood. Heaven knows there are more than a few. They are definitely not as unique as Lawson's experiences, but it would be great to have them for my children.
As I have been mulling this idea over, I realize how I remember things is not going to be parallel to how other family members or friends remember things. I guess every memoir is not truly non-fiction. It is non-fiction from a single point of view, which is basically just fiction with a higher than average number of facts thrown in.
I also worry about the legal aspects of my memoir. Will people want to sue me for defamation of character? So, I looked it up and found this article from Writer's Digest. Turns out, my opinions are protected expression. The situation becomes a sticky wicket when I claim it to be fact and don't have any proof. Basically, I can't say 'my great-uncle George (I don't have an uncle George, this is just an example) once stole a whole set of fine china from Macy's Department Store so he could trade it for crack cocaine' unless I have proof (like a police report, signed confession, photographs etc). Otherwise, I open myself up to a lawsuit by my uncle George, unless he's dead- in which case his heirs can not sue me, because it's not allowed.
Moral of the story: wait until people die to defame them in your memoir.
I have started a list of all the significant memories from my childhood I could possibly make into entertaining reading. I will get back to you when I have decided how to proceed. I might be calling up some family and friends to check my facts a bit, or get their take on things. Don't think this means you will get any kind of credit as co-author if my little collection becomes famous. Perhaps I will mention your name in the acknowledgments page if you're nice and send me emergency care packages while I am holed up writing all this stuff down.
You can purchase Jenny Lawson's book here (it just came out in paperback).