Red Letter Days

red letter day sYou’ve heard of an occasion being described as a ‘Red Letter Day’? It comes from past times when anniversaries and feast days were marked on ecclesiastical calendars with red ink.

But it is still an expression people use to highlight a notable occasion.

Can you recall any of your own Red Letter days? Good, because I think a special happening worthy of the label should be included in your memoirs!

Births, weddings, family parties, Christmas, reunions, sporting events, prize wins – there must be at least one of your memories you’d want to ring with a red pen? I bet you are already thinking of a special day, aren’t you?

If you are considering putting your short pieces of memoir together into a full-length manuscript, you could have several chapter headings linked to Red Letter Days!

Unlike short fiction, memoir can include lots of detail – people are often as interested in the setting as they are in the action. So the kind of food, buildings, decor, modes of transport, style of dress can help to set the scene and can be of interest in a way that would hinder the progress of a short story.

That’s because nostalgia has a big part to play in some styles of memoir. Often, there’s an ‘ordinary’ life told in an interesting way, and the detail is what intrigues the reader.

It is your job to make incidents and occasions relatable to that reader, if only through describing what was on the dinner table or the clothes they wore.

I hope you’re generating an idea now for a piece of memoir writing? That day you won the spelling contest as a seven-year-old? The day your granny let you borrow her wedding gown? The time the cat had kittens and your mother said you could keep one? What about when your picture appeared in the newspaper? Or when you finally passed your driving test?

Give it as long as it takes – but no less than 700 words – and enjoy re-living your Red Letter Day!

And if you are the competitive sort, consider sending a 4,000 word entry to the Fish Short Memoir Competition. Julie Wang, author of ‘Beautiful Country’, will select 10 short memoirs to be published in the Fish Anthology 2022, which will be launched during the West Cork Literary Festival next year. Plenty of time to work on your entry – the deadline is January 31st 2022. More details here.

New here? Welcome! There’s a bit of background as to what this is all about here, otherwise just call back next week for another creative writing prompt/exercise to inspire you to keep writing. There’s a new post every Wednesday afternoon at 5pm, Dublin time.