Margaret Bigger knows a tale when she hears one.
For 29 years, she has been recording either her own stories, her family’s or other people’s tales of war, prohibition, weddings, funerals and church-going, self-publishing and editing collections of stories, or writing books of her own.
A good listener and writer and a mentor-like editor, Bigger has written or edited 24 books in her 73 years.
But it is her book “Recalling Your Memories on Paper, Tape or Videotape,” published in 1996 and now in its second printing, that launched her career as a teacher about saving memories and creating memoirs.
Across a tray of hot tea, the Southern author recently talked from her Foxcroft East home about teaching others.
“Actually, I was teaching the class over and over again and thought it would be good to write a book and use some of my students’ experiences to make it much more interesting,” she said. “So I sort of backed into the book from teaching.”
Bigger has taught the memory-writing course since 1989 at Central Piedmont Community College, Queens University of Charlotte, the Shepherd’s Center in Charlotte, at retirement centers in three states and as an annual fundraiser for the Charlotte Writers’ Club.
She divides the course as she does her book: tips to getting started, suggested topics to gnaw on, how to organize your life story, writing for the public and how to help parents recall memories.
“My number one piece of advice is to be interesting with a capital ‘I,’ ” Bigger said. “And do not start with, ‘I was born …’ So was the rest of the world.
“Start with the most interesting thing you remember as a child and go from there.”
Bigger also advises to start with a strong lead, not only for the book but for every story or chapter.
“Nobody has a boring life, really,” said Bigger.
“I also tell people that, after they find that launching point, to weave in details about people, places and things,” she said.
In addition to her memoir classes, Bigger is perhaps best known for a small book, “There’s No Such Thing As a Perfect Wedding,” a compilation of tales from brides and many Charlotte ministers about the semi-disasters that can ruin the big day.
The book was published by Down Home Press in 1991, and landed her on 11 national television shows and numerous talk-radio appearances. She followed up with two other wedding tale books, much of the information gleaned from her 20-plus years as a volunteer at Siegle Avenue Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.
“A long time ago, I discovered that in order to be a published author, you have to be a published author,” said Bigger, who got her first taste of writing as the features editor of the Myers Park School newspaper. She was among the first graduating class. “So I started writing newspaper and magazine articles like crazy, as a freelancer.”
Her first book, published by Eakin Press in 1984, came shortly after. It recalls her father’s years as a salesman traveling through Oklahoma and Texas in the 1920s, when there were only 40 miles of paved road.
“We went back and found people to talk to who remembered traveling off road to sell in some hard times. His stories were awesome,” said Bigger.
Bigger, who says she has written her last book but will continue to teach, attended Hollins College and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She recently celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary to Charlotte attorney Richard Bigger.
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less