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The Memoir Challenge: Enjoying the Similarities and Differences Between Generations and Locations

Welcome to Always Write, Irene Waters. I met Irene in June reading one of her marvelous book reviews. We chatted a bit and I found out that she was interested in photo and writing challenges. She agreed to tell you about her favorite challenges and also what it was like for her to host a challenge.

Thank you for for being here.

Irene Waters Interview

by Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

What prompted you to begin to host a writing/photo challenge?

When the memoir challenge ended it left a hole which I decided to fill by running my own challenge with a twist. @Irene Waters

I enjoy participating in both photo and writing challenges. For photos I love Cee’s challenges as well as Lens-Artists and Paula’s Five word challenges. Although these are predominantly photo challenges I can’t help but weave story, often memoir around the photos I post. I came to writing challenges later. The first was a memoir challenge (no longer happening) and then I found Carrot Ranch’s 99 Word Flash Fiction. When the memoir challenge ended it left a hole which I decided to fill by running my own challenge with a twist.

Was this one of your dreams?

I can’t say it was a dream to run my own challenge although it was a dream to share memoir with others who perhaps hadn’t considered memoir a pursuit of interest.

What was your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it help photographers or writers?

 I had hoped that the challenge would give us social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location. The prompt could be responded to in any form the participant enjoyed – prose, poetry, flash, photographs, sketches or any other form. I hoped that it would give both writers and photographers a way of writing/ displaying memoir and finding value in reading the differences and the similarities between generations and locations. I love it when a conversation starts and one post prompts memories in a reader/viewer previously forgotten. 

How long have you been doing this?

The first challenge was in January 2016 and I stopped in 2019 when my husband and myself were both diagnosed with and undergoing cancer treatments.

How much time does it take? 

I made it easy on myself and made the challenge monthly. I knew how much work was involved and I knew I was time poor. Don’t be fooled – people who run challenges put a lot of work into them.

If you stopped hosting the challenge, why was that?

As I have already mentioned I stopped due to health challenges but it was getting difficult to keep going anyway. Although it was only monthly it was difficult coming up with topics that would not cause anybody any angst.

Did you start a different challenge?


What would you do differently?

Do as the Lens’Artists – find a team of memoir enthusiasts and take turns in setting the challenge.

What steps did you take to get your challenge ready? 

It was simply a matter of coming up with a topic and writing to the topic myself, posting and inviting people to join in. The challenge had been running only a short time when Charli from Carrot Ranch invited me to write a memoir piece monthly on her site with an invitation to readers to participate in my challenge. This certainly created an audience for Times Past which helped immensely.

How did you follow up with your participants?

I would get participants to leave a link on my site in the comments and then visit each of them leaving a comment on their site. Hopefully other participants also dropped by and read their work as well.

How did you attract people to participate? / How do people usually find out about your challenge? Are you a part of a group on social media that picks up your challenge and promotes it?

I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to social media. I have facebook, twitter and instagram accounts but I rarely visit them. I relied primarily on word of mouth so to speak and having the article on Carrot Ranch linked was a big plus for me.

Do you determine winners? If so, how?

I didn’t determine winners. I think everyone who enters any challenge is a winner – we all have our own stories and none are more worthy than the other. I must admit it is a buzz when you are chosen by Cee or Lens Artists as an example of work that appealed to them – but I don’t know that either of those challenges would consider them winners.

What do you do with the entries? 

I have a Times Past page where there is a link to every challenge. It makes it easy for people to find them and follow links if they wish.

Given your experience with both hosting a challenge and participating in challenges do you think they are a valuable tool for writers and photographers?

Absolutely. Firstly for many challenges are a way that a writer or photographer can have their work viewed by others. It is also a way of honing skills and getting the creative juices working. Most importantly it is a way to meet like minded people and have conversations that you can only have with another writer or photographer. It may just be a meeting of minds that sees a friendship begin.

I hoped that it would give both writers and photographers a way of writing/ displaying memoir and finding value in reading the differences and the similarities between generations and locations. @Irene Waters


Irene Waters published her memoir Nightmare in Paradise in 2019. She blogs at Reflections and Nightmares She is interested in memoir having completed a Master of Arts with her research thesis examining the difficulties a sequel memoirist faces. Another passion from childhood is photography. She enjoys combining writing and photography on her website. She lives with her husband and two dogs on the Sunshine Coast of Qld in Australia.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am – 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.

View all posts by Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist →

Thank you, Thank you

Thanks again Irene for participating in the Blogging Challenge Series on Always Write.

As a side note, Irene is collaborating with me in the Rodeo Flash Writing Contest.

Watch for Carrot Ranch Signs along the way.

47 replies »

  1. I enjoyed Irene’s Times Past challenges. They always instigated great dialogue, inner dialogue as well as with the lovely and talented hostess. I found Irene and her blog through Carrot Ranch as I was just getting started; at both sites she has set a good example. I hope folks also check out Irene’s book Nightmare in Paradise to see the artistry of her memoir writing, as well as a remarkable life well lived.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, D. You know she’s helping me with the Rodeo, right? I’m so excited!!! I’ll have to add that about her book in case it’s not on the post.


  2. How lovely to find Irene Waters here with a post about her Times Past challenges. I participated in a few of them and thought they were a great idea. I understand why Irene needed to stop, running challenges are time consuming. That is obvious to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lovely to see Irene interviewed here, Marsha. I used to love participating in Irene’s Times Past memoir challenge. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to share memoir on my blog and link to hers. We had a lot of fun. Irene is one of my earliest and first friends I’ve met through blogging, she encouraged me greatly in my early days of embarking on my memoir and I was thrilled for her when she published hers. I also used to take regular part in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. I have always used my own photos on my blog since I began over 7 years ago, mainly because I was concerned about copyright infringement and didn’t know, then, where to find free and safe photos to use. So I decided to use my own since I have always enjoyed photography. I thought they might seem amatureish but I discovered along the way that other bloggers seemed to enjoy my photos and so it continued. I haven’t been able to take part in any regular challenges for some time due to memoir and home life commitments, but I hope to soon once again. I have thought of setting my own, but not until I can give it the time and investment it deserves.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Sherri, I loved interviewing Irene. She is a dream. We’ve only met in the last three months, and I felt an instant connection with her as I did with you. I don’t know how I missed her all those years ago. Like you, I’ve been blogging about 8 years. I stumbled around a lot at first. I did the Weekly Photo Challenge, but not regularly. Even now, I struggle to be consistent. I wish you well with your memoir. Are you are healed from your foot problems? When you do get ready to host a challenge, consider taking on a co-host, like the Lens-Artists. I am looking for a co-host for a challenge Colleen has proposed that I take. Until we move, I probably won’t be very consistent. Too much to do! 🙂 Thanks for coming by and chatting. It’s always lovely catching up. 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

      • Thanks Marsha. I enjoyed the interview also. I couldn’t agree with you more – if you have a life outside blogging host challenges with another person or two. Unless you are superwoman/man. Have fun moving. Hope it goes well. Looking forward to Carrot Ranch Rodeo and thrilled you asked me to work with you.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Always a pleasure to catch up with you, Marsha. And yes, Irene is lovely and you equally so 🙂 It was great fun in those early years, but I realised I was getting zilch done on my memoir, so something had to give. And here I am, 3 years later since I backed off blogging from those heady days, managing just to keep the Summerhouse afloat and visit other blogs as I can, albeit intermittently. I can’t imagine taking on a challenge for a while yet so long as I’m still locked in these edits (and people must be thinking, what on earth does she have left to edit after so long?!!!!! An epiphany can take an awfully long time to come for that first chapter you’ve already rewritten endlessly lol. Seriously though, it’s so good to know we can catch up as and when. I am doing much better, thank you so much for asking. I am driving and walking again, yay! I hope you are keeping well. Great to see you and Irene running your Wild West Rodeo contest, can’t wait to read about it! Take good care, my friend, keep safe, and see you at the Ranch! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • Such a wonderful reply, Sherri. You are so kind. I still need to edit Girls on Fire and I started 7 years ago. Editing is huge. I’m not up to it again just yet. Maybe someday. Right now I’ll blog when I can. I’m living the new and reconnections.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Different seasons, isn’t it? I will return to more frequent blogging when I am through these edits and submissions, but right now I am clinging, just, doing what I can and where, managing a blog post every 4 to 6 weeks. I hope to cram in 2 or three before Christmas at the Summerhouse. Enjoy your reconnections and as you say, one day, when it’s right, you’ll return to those edits. They are huge and arduous and time consuming, that’s for sure. But for now, you are doing what you need to do and that’s what’s most important 🙂 Take care, Marsha, big hugs ❤

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Marsha…so sorry for my horribly late reply. Only just now returning to blogland and I can’t believe it’s been so long. I disappeared offline, it was the only way to sink into my memoir for a few months of super intense developmental editing. Not a lot to change per se, but a very careful approach required so as not to wreck it. The key was not to panic…and believe me, I was close several times! Ended up with a completely new beginning, structure and finally, finally, came to grips with what it’s really about. That all elusive golden nugget. Boy, I had to dig deep to find that one, but when I did, what a difference. Anyway, a lot going on behind the scenes, writing and otherwise. Challenging times for us all, for sure. Your prayers helped me more than you know, thank you so much. This has been exhilerating and exhausting…friends like you and your support help so much. I’m so sorry I couldn’t take part in your Rodeo contest. I wanted to do at least one, but couldn’t get there. Big hugs to you my friend, hope you’re keeping safe and well. Getting bad here as I know it is there covid wise. Crazy times but we have hope and faith and that’s what we need to keep hold of, as you well know 🙂 ❤

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for your reply, Sherri. I know how much work it is to edit. It overwhelmed me and I gave up! Good for you that you are sticking with it. Don’t worry about anything else. That’s enough on your plate! We have moved to Prescott, AZ and love it so far. Adjusting to living with his sister and her pets. I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like. But we are all healthy, so very happy! Stay safe and healthy, my friend. Lots of love and hugs.

            Liked by 1 person

          • You’re very kind, Marsha, and I really appreciate it. And wow, you’ve left California! A big adjustment by the sounds of it but happy and healthy is what counts! Thank you, my friend, and you too, and I’ll catch up with you soon! And a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you, I am thankful for you! Much love and hugs back to you! 🙂 ❤

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sherri. Yes those early days of blogging were good for us and I loved the friendship we formed. We walked through memoir together and both had our challenges keeping up with our blogs for one reason or another but like you I am trying to get back – life gets in the way sometimes – I love the people you meet and the conversations you have. Catch up soon.

      Liked by 3 people




Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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