Today is the official debut of Adventures of a Chilehead. It’s a quiet affair. No big party – it’s too cold and icy right now. No champagne – but I will celebrate and toast the book with a bowl of chile, complete with guacamole topping and a beer.
Books are much like debutantes — when they make their formal debut, the whole community has watched them grow up and mature. Likewise, regular followers of this blog have read a number of posts about this book's progress.
You know, for example, that it began as a simple story album and grew organically into a true memoir. You know that I learned many lessons along the way, and one that’s seldom discussed is the matter of length. People often ask how long a memoir should be. As with any story, a memoir should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story.
This book is short. You can read the stories in a couple of hours. And yet it does have all the components of a formal memoir:
- It has a story thread or theme, my love of hot chile, that runs through and ties individual scenes together.
- It remains tightly focused on that theme.
- It has a story arc, progressing from my first public involvement with surprisingly hot chile to the present, demonstrating change of perspective along the way.
- It is comprised of scenes, with a new adventure in each one.
- It hits the highlights without becoming mired in the mundane.
The book is short because it does remain focused tightly on its topic. If I’d wanted to make it longer, I could have pulled in other stories, or broadened the topic to food or cooking in general. But that was not my purpose. This is a tribute to my beloved chile, and to the goddess Capsacia, who revealed herself in the process of writing. I said all I had to say on that topic. Thus I coined the term, “mini-memoir.
I think of this term as the memoir equivalent of a novella, a written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. Novellas have no specific word count. They are generally more highly characterized than a simple short story, but less layered and complex than a full-length novel.
Although I had not heard the term “mini-memoir” before, I found it a delight to work with. Like a novella, it’s long enough to sink your teeth into, but short enough to avoid becoming bogged down. Especially with the advent of eBooks, mimi-memoir offers great potential. I chose to do a print version of this one, primarily because several people asked for one. They want to have the recipes handy in the kitchen. But a series of short eBooks would work just fine.
If you have several minis, you may eventually want to bundle two or three into a single print volume. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. If you haven’t already read it, pop over to Amazon and order a copy. If you order print, the Kindle version is included for free.
Write now: look through your pile of finished stories and find a cluster of related ones. Consider ways of organizing them into a mini-memoir, using the “Story Album to Memoir” post as guidelines to help you organize your thoughts. If you don’t have more than a couple of finished stories, think of a theme, make a list of story ideas, and start writing, one story at a time. Don’t fret about weaving them together until you have them all finished.