My Advanced Memoir students and I were fortunate to host the lovely Sandra Beasley, author, most recently, of Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl, for an author Q&A earlier this month. Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is primarily a memoir of growing up with, and learning to live with, severe food allergies, but it also offers many practical insights into the medical and physical aspects of food allergies, and society’s approach to dealing with them.

While the book contains a lot of technical terms and information, the narrative never gets bogged down with all the research that Beasley clearly put into it, as the author holds a conversational tone that keeps the reader engaged. One of my students asked her how she managed to achieve a balance between research and personal story.

“I had a formula,” she said. “I told myself that each chapter would be either two parts story and one part research, or one part story and two parts research. Looking at each chapter as made up of three parts helped me immensely, and I was able to achieve this balance for almost all chapters in the book.”

What a practical approach! And spoken as the true poet Sandra is – she is used to measuring her words, so why not measure her chapters?