Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews
Vicky Bijur, New York City literary agent.
(Broadcast date: February 11, 2009)
After the interview, I still had a few questions for Vicky, and she agreed to elaborate. Here you go:
Memoirs traditionally don't cover an entire life but just a period in the life, but can a memoir take place completely in the past? What if you want to write about a time in, say, the '80s, or '90s. Is that okay, or does a memoir need to end with the present?
I don't think I can generalize. I do think readers like to know what happened to the subject of the memoir. But I wouldn't ever say there is a hard and fast rule for how to end a memoir.
Is a non-linear structure fine, or is whatever works fine?
Again, I don't think there are any rules here.
Is it possible to write just part of a memoir and submit as with any other nonfiction book proposal--30 pages of text and other material, such as overview, bio, marketing?
Barbara, I don't feel there is one answer to this question. The answer probably depends on too many factors--how well known the author is, the author's publishing history/track record, the quality of the writing. But the memoir is such a writerly, literary form of non-fiction, that it is probably more important for an editor to see it in its final form.
Do you see the memoir form becoming exhausted?
I don't think so. My impression--based on purely anecdotal evidence--is that I read all the time of deals for new memoirs.
On the show you talked about how we need to support newspapers. I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, and even though I don't read it daily and feel guilty about wasting paper, I keep my subscription because I want papers to continue. Is this what you were talking about?
Yes. I feel good about paying for my newspaper. I am worried that if content is free, the newspaper industry won't be able to finance the sort of coverage and investigative reporting they can currently support.
We also talked about the reviewing media and how the loss of book reviews in newspapers and the addition of online reviews is changing things. Can you embellish?
I wish I had more information on if and how online reviews/online buzz sells books. All I know is that the print review media is contracting, and there seems to be a lot of chatter online about books.
If you have a question for Vicky that wasn't't addressed on the show, or here, post it in the comment area. I'll get it to her, and post her response.