Smell and Memory  -- Memoir Writing Competition

The winner of our memoir writing competition is David Paul for his memoir, "Coffee with Cagney". Currently, we are no longer accepting new submissions.

Want to write your own memoir? Click here for ideas and tips.


Do you remember the smell of your the perfume or cologne of the first person you ever loved? The smell of the medicine you took when you were sick as a child? Even if you don't remember these smells, if you encountered them again, memories would likely come flooding back. Perhaps more than any other sense, smell to offer a direct route to memory.

What smells bring back intense memories for you? Write about the smell and the memory in 500 words or less, then use the form below to submit your memoir for publication on this page. Click here to go straight to the form, or read on for some ideas and memoir writing tips.

Not sure what to write about? Here are some ideas.

Do you remember any of these smells...

  • The smell of your elementary school classroom?
  • The smell of a relative's car?
  • The smell of your grandparents' house?
  • The smell of a meal that you loved or hated as a child?
  • The smell of a doctor's waiting room?
  • The smell of the place where you were when you realized something important about your life?

Try smelling these things, and see what memories the smells bring:

  • Cinnamon
  • Chalk
  • A bandaid
  • Crushed grass
  • Bath powder
  • New shoes
  • An old book
  • Orange peel

Publish your Memoir

Submission guidelines:

  1. Use the form below to submit your memoir for publication on this page.
  2. Submissions should be 500 words or less.
  3. Submissions should be related to the theme of "Smell and Memory."
  4. All submissions must be your original work and must not have been previously published (online or offline).

Contributions by other writers

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Jasmine 
You wouldn't imagine that a child of two and a half could recollect or describe a particular smell from memory. Even though, at that age, I had not developed …

Of Batter, Butter, Cinnamon and Sugar 
It was an annual tradition. On a Saturday in early December, Mother and I would venture to Elsie’s two-story Victorian home to bake holiday cookies, “Christmas …

Butterflies 
We approach the line and familiar smells engulf my senses as we circle around in a tight group and begin our prayer. "They that have …

Johnson & Johnson 
The smell of babies is what I love most; or better yet, my baby brother. This has been such a frequent smell since December 17th of 2010. I got to take …

The Smell of Dying 
I have been clean of meth for 5 years. My husband and I got clean together with no help from anybody and nobody knew that we were smoking it every day …

Charlotte Blues 
I arrived in Charlotte last week, adoring the beauty and warmth it welcomed me with. As I wondered how you are, I couldn’t help but wish you were here …

Diversity 
At age six I had already made my decision to be the ultimate master of music in every way. Disney World 2004, the pianist at Epcot caught my eye, and I …

My Childhood without Complaint 
In my life, I always remember every sentence what my parents declare that I should remember my past education that are my schools were full of perpetual …

Frozen Air 
My hometown, Grand Prairie, Texas was a blue collar town of about 30,000 people in the 50's and 60's. We had only one junior high school and one high …

Anonymous Man 
I'm lying on the couch...Took my 1st puff of the grass that my boy friend brought. He is on the floor..Rolling Stones playing loud on the stereo. The smell …

What Do You Remember? 
Many people have a smell that captures their nostrils, giving them times to remember. Freshly mowed grass is one I remember. However, for me I favour …

Transportation to Another Time and Place 
I stand with my hands dipped in the warm soapy suds staring out at our beautiful sunlit garden, with the birds singing in the trees. The beautiful lemony …

Singapore Sling 
Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle remind me of Singapore. I wander up and down Stowell Street eating dumplings and savouring the smells coming …

Wood Smoke and the Emerald Isle 
Wood smoke. When I least expect it my nose catches the fragrance of peat, coal and wood evoking childhood memories of Ireland. Cycling along the River …

Mary's Apple Stack Cake 
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday the smells of cinnamon, ginger and apples bring back the memory of her unique apple stack cake. Our family always …

Love in a Bottle 
I have a bottle of Chanel no 5 in the top drawer of my dressing table. I don’t use it. In fact I’ve only worn it twice in the ten years it’s been in …

Her Unique Smell  
I remember her smell. There was no other like it. It was unique. It was hers alone. And it remains in my memory even now, so many years later. The slightest …

The Aroma of Naivety 
I squint at the narrow street below as the remaining cars saunter away, the sun melting into the distant hills. I figure it'll take five more minutes to …

A Friend's Farewell 
I had expected the worst. Luckily however, when the heater blew most of the water had run harmlessly under the garage door. The clutter in its path was …

Pine, Smoke and Wildlife 
I love camping with my family. I love the smell of pine and cypress trees. I love the heat from the campfire. I love taking photos of wildlife and knowing …

The Blue Jar and Lysol 
I'll bet my dark chocolate bar that if you polled a hundred people, the majority would say it's a food smell that brings on their most intense memories. …

The smell of cut grass. 
I was cleaning out my closets yesterday. Getting ready for the change of seasons. I came upon an old jar candle that I’d kept in hopes of re-gifting someday. …

Saint's Bones and Lavender 
The sun beats down on the tarmac. It's the hottest day of the year. A tabloid newspaper prints an egg frying on a flagstone. There are photos of crowded …

The Scent of Harbouring Hopes 
The pungent aromas of a harbour evoke both, an intense sense of joy and a deep sadness. Harbours emnate both the best and worst smells someone's senses …

Earthen Despair 
The smell of light deprived earth, so many memories, deaths in the family, your best friends, hated enemies, all return to the earth, the wet stench rises …

Eucalyptus 
I grew up in Southern California. Every winter, my father would bring home armloads of fragrant eucalyptus. He would load the back of our station wagon …

Fresh Bread 
Fresh bread is the thing that stirs my memory - the tantalizing smell of fresh bread. What else in this world can beat its clean mouthwatering smell? …

Lotus and Roses 
A nap next to you, with an open book on the breast. Saturday everywhere, the time slowly reaches the moon in a kind of expectation. Gratifying sensation …

Buried in the Tomb of Time 
When I was a teenager, I woke up early in the morning and used to feel the cold breezes and drink the beauty of hills, valley, and green tea bushes. I …

A Wink in a Cloud of Smoke 
The electric company must be about to install a new pole in my yard. Hearing a loud “thud-thum-thum” was alarming enough to make me fly out the back door …

Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Mmmmmmmm the smell of chocolate chip cookies! She taste tears in her mouth, from the cries of why? Poor baby only wanted to play with her mother, not to …

The Smell You Will Never Know 
Smells are a bit like accents, you can only really detect other people’s. When I was a teenager, my best friend’s house had the most distinctive smell, …

The Smell of Sunshine 
I love the smell of sunshine. Sunshine you wonder? It doesn’t have a smell. Ah yes, it does. Close your eyes and daydream as I remind you. When it hits …

Old Spice Memories 
My dad is a tough man with a heart of gold on the inside; a big teddy bear who has grown softer with age. When I was a child, he wasn’t always around …

The Nose Knows. 
It is impossible for me to smell a bayberry candle and not be immediately transported back to all those childhood Christmases many years ago. My mother, …

My Smell Memories 
I love the smell of fruit like apples or pumpkin. When I smell pumpkin it always makes me think of Thanksgiving because we always have pumpkin pies. And …

Glitter and Other Memoirs 
I hated getting sick with a chest cold as a child. Mom insisted I stay tucked under the bedcovers while the blue glass humidifier puffed and hissed, …

Those Remembered Things 
Sometimes, from out of the blue, I remember something from my past and I stop and think, “Wow! I remember so and so or this or that.” What triggered my …

When Grandpa Married Grandma 
Every time I smell a musty old book, a sooty ashtray, or coal burning I can't help but be reminded of my Grandparents' house growing up. The little one …

Coffee and Cancer 
It was 1995, when my normal ordinary life was turned upside down. I was a 38 year old wife, mother, and a recent grandmother of one. I always considered …

Let Them Come 
Ever since 1999, in winter, waiting for the snowflakes to dance down and touch the ground, we'd lay our bodies down on the cold grass and stare up into …

Effervescent Earth 
An Earth sign by nature, I have an infinite fondness for anything earthy and I am intimately attuned to the dance of Nature. The sweet smell of Earth after …

Rain on the Road 
Do you remember sitting outside on the balcony, in the middle of storm, electrified by the lightning and thunder? The smell of rain on the road brings …

Coffee with Cagney 
It's 1949, and I'm ten. This is November and the days are filled with raw air and the feeling of Christmas coming. A bell jingles over the door of Hershey’s …

Breathe Deeply Dear 
Our second turn around the roundabout was a pleasure trip for my husband. Grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat, he drove us around and around. I sat. …

Mom's Sunday Dinners 
I was born and bred in Newfoundland. The memory I have in Smell and Memory is my mom's Sunday dinners. It did not matter if I had eaten that morning or …

I Never Wanted to Remember... 
It was an important meeting. We’d been working on that account for months and were rather lucky to get a date for the presentation. We were having our …

Fragrance of My Soul 
Fragrance of my soul He was my gentle brute, docile savage and my even tempered angry young man all rolled into one sexy package, my sweetheart. How …

"Monster Spray" (mom's perfume) 
Those weird teddy bear book characters that attempted to teach 5 year old children morals? The Bearenstein Bears? This was my childhood phobia. I had a …

Cigarette Smoke 
The bus stop I regularly go to, to catch the bus into town, is in the next street to mine and stands outside the local pub. No matter what the weather, …

The Smell of Salt 
When I was ten years old, I loved the smell of the ocean. There was something innocent about 1960 and going to the beach was an adventure. My noisy family …

My Father 
His breakfast usually consists of two things: a large bowl of something mushy and a tall jar of something verdant. I've never asked exactly what each consists …

Smelling Those Turkeys and Other Memoirs 
Growing up in Northern Maine, I can still recall how brutal the winters could be. Five or six feet of snow was a common occurrence, along with temperatures' …

Graveyard Perfume 
Stunned and in grief filled despair I stared at her tombstone. A scent came in answer to my whispered words “Mama Where are You”? In this unexpected …

A sense of life 
In the leap year of 1948 I slipped greased and puckered from my mother’s womb. My first breath filled my lungs as dawn bloomed on a cold, dry day with …

Chips With Lavender 
The Beatles were 'in'. Every lunch time their songs rang out from the shining, silver jukebox and carried as far as the odour of the cafe's chips and …

Traffic 
It all started when I went to Naomi’s party. It was a Friday afternoon in the year of 2009. The party was supposed to go from four through eight p.m but …

Fun Company 
Once upon a time in a land far away land there lay a little school in the middle of a small rural town. In the little school there was a medium-sized cafeteria. …

Rødtangen 
“Last one out is an ugly cow!” It was cold and I could feel the wind blow. I stood still and let my feet feel the sand. The sand was smooth and I had …

Whiskey  
He was a big man my grandfather, and although he wasn’t fat, his presence occupied an entire room. He was tall and full of bones, and his shocking white …

Perfume and my Science Teacher 
I was a seventh grade student in middle school. My favorite teacher that year was the science teacher. She was tall, and had beautiful smile, always wore …

Baked Apples and Other Memoirs 
It seems whenever Britain in the 'sixties' is mentioned in the media, it is either 'swinging' or 'groovy.' As a three year old living in a four-room back-to-back …

Beach Dreams and Other Memoirs 
I cannot be sure of the exact moment we 'entered' Africa. I use the word 'enter' as that was the specific word my siblings and I had used to thrash out …

Fruity, Exotic Splendor 
I have always hated cleaning. Always. But when I’m actively procrastinating (nearly all the time) or avoiding something (again, nearly all the time), …

The Smell of a Fresh Pine Tree  
Pine Tree. The smell of our pine tree meant the holidays were coming. The Christmas tree usually took up half of our living room and we spent hours arranging …

Time Capsule 
When I smell that unique smell of burning leaves, I’m taken back to my childhood. I remember my old house near the park and going to my first day of school. …

Enough... For Now 
I’ve always wanted more in life. I feel as though I am meant to be something more. I am not satisfied with my bleak, everyday routine. Don’t get …

Fried Oreos 
Shish kebabs, watermelon, ice cream at the door. Candy apples, roasted peanuts, icy pops and more. Tangy smells, sweet smells, burnt smells too, Salty …

Ashley 
The beginning of my junior year in high school changed everything. While I was in a summer relationship with a boy from my school, I met a girl through …

Christmas Magic 
My favorite part of Christmas is spending time with my family and making sure we are all ready for the holiday. I can always remember the smell of my house …

Whitewashed and Other Memoirs 
I can still smell the swishy jumpsuit I put on as I got dressed for the district game I couldn't play in. I can smell the yellow gatorade I drunk on the …

As He Lies Dying 
Two minutes left on the board, West Salem has the ball on the 15 yard line; the score is 21 to 27. We were all exhausted, lethargic, and drained we didn’t …

Twin Mattress 
Walking along Alscasia Avenue (an abnormally quiet street, even though there are many many many inhabitants), I listen to my music and enjoy my exercise …

The Apple Tree 
One of my greatest memories of my childhood was when I was about 9 years old... My best friend was Toney. We lived on Miller Street in 2 apartment buildings …

The Smell of Over Whelming Sadness 
In the hospital room that very cold frozen Christmas Day there was a smell I will not soon forget in any way. The smell was stale as if no new air had …

Vapor 
If you ask me about my biological father I will recite to you a condensed explanation of how he died and the drama that surrounded his circumstance. It’s …

Cedar and Mothballs 
The memories that smells can evoke never cease to amaze me. I was not yet four years old when my Nana passed away, yet whenever I smell the unmistakable …

Security 
I did not see much of my parents as a child. My father was in the military, and my mother was working her way up the corporate ladder. My mom would wake …

Not Just Any Bible 
I hold the study Bible given to me by my mentor and dear friend, Crawford, over 10 years ago. I hold my nose to the thick chunk of pages that are lined …

Wet Falling Leaves 
The smell of wet autumn leaves hovering in the air after a rainfall makes me reminisce about my childhood spent walking to school. I enjoyed hearing the …

Time to Go to Work 
I remember when i was little, how when I woke up our house would smell of coffee, because my mom was a big coffee drinker as I am now. I also remember …

The Sweet smell of the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh 
When one drives over a bridge in Pittsburgh one might be driving over any number of man-made-bridges crossing a river underneath...I can truly smell the …

Alone 
I walked, alone, through the park near the center of town. The sun shone brightly above my head. Children’s laughter was everywhere around me as I walked. …

Tucked In 
I am a little girl. It is bedtime and I smell like Ivory soap and Mr. Bubbles bubble bath. The sheets smell like the sun and wind. My nightie smells like …

Soccer Field 
I landed in a plane, but took off on a field. The light green grass of the soccer field, or pitch, as I have heard people from England and other countries …

Golf 
We drive there early in the morning, a place we love, a place we call our second home. The morning maintenance crew is still out tending to the long, lush …

The Confusion of a Child 
I was three years old and I was so excited to go to my auntie's house to play with my cousin, she had this huge baby doll and her eyes really blinked. …

Sticky Perfume 
It's a smell of attraction, intimacy, and it brings back beautiful memories of happiness that existed between my ex-girlfriend and me. I still remember …

Sundays at the Beach 
It is a typical warm and sunny Summer Sunday morning. My sister and are in the backseat of the maroon Ford that is so roomy, I think today's Smart Car …

Beachy Keen Days 
We could smell the lively scent of fresh water before we saw it, and with it a vague odor of the underwater life that lives in its depths. A small thrill …

Hospital Stench 
As I walked down the hospital corridor to my father’s room, tears trickled down my face. Suddenly, it was hard to breath, and I was overcome by an odor …

Of Tastes 
In the collection of memories of a child, food seems to always be the subject of observation. The child sinisterly waits until the adults in the kitchen …

Twenty Acres 
I dreaded the task of wading through the waist-high snow that stood guard in front of the lean-to. From the back door of Momma's house, the lean-to was …

Lost Thoughts 
A trembling hand reaches for the bell. It touches the smooth surface of a clear plastic. Behind it, familiar names are encrusted in faded red lettering. …

My Bike in the Woods  
It is the smell of the wind; fresh and clean. Yet that is intermingled with the pungent whiff of manure and oily thick fragrance of sheep wool. It is found …

A Scent of New Beginnings 
We all know smells trigger vivid memories, but can a memory trigger a smell? Results day. I hadn’t suffered the adversities of school since May’s exams, …

Swimming Pools in the Heat 
That smell reminds me of holiday. The smell of the pool outside the balcony doors, the chlorine in the air and the salt from the sea. Of changing into …

Ten cloves 
In my memory bank it's cold outside with maybe a sprinkling of snow and there is a fire crackling in the grate eating into the specially selected Yule …

Smoke 
For the longest time, I couldn’t smell cigarette smoke. It’s hard to imagine now, but not long back, people lit up without a moment’s hesitation in their …

Memories - A Day at the Sea 
It’s a balmy spring afternoon and I have just finished working in the garden. I’m sitting here in the shade enjoying a cool drink watching my grandchildren …

The New School 
It is 1934 and I am waiting on the highway for the school bus to take me to the new consolidated school. The chill November wind is a mix of persimmons, …

Kindergarten 1971 
I can think of no smell that remotely resembles my kindergarten room back in 1971. I recall my own son Ryan, as I walked him into the very same room in …

The Old Boiler 
You never knew when it was going to be boiling day, there was no seemingly fixed or planned time for my mother to do it, but of course there was for her …

Gnarled 
The damp sidewalks shine in the harsh afternoon light. A stiff breeze sends a pile of golden leaves swirling as they rustle and whisper secretly. And with …

The Sweet Smell of New Mowed Grass 
The aroma of new mowed grass tells me summer is coming. After enduring the harshness of winter, this welcome sign gives me the assurance better weather …

Reminiscent Odour 
Alternative to cooking, our usual resort was ‘Bombay Dream’ (a Pizza with luscious meaty toppings and tremendously hot jalapeños and chillies). Pangs of …

Secret Place Summer 
The late afternoon sun beats down, but cannot penetrate the thick canopy of the sprawling oak tree under whose lower branches I sit gazing out across the …

A Duck With Attitude 
"As we get older, our memory fails," so say many folks with hearing aids, false teeth and other signs of aging. I say, not true. I take the position …

A Dead Give-away 
When growing up our backyard had seven fruit trees. Due to the variety, we had fruit of some sort nearly every month of the year. There was an apple …

Smell of a Dog 
There's no smell like the smell of a dog. If you've ever washed a dog, you know there's a definite smell to your beloved Fido, but there's always a whiff …

Imaginary Stunt... 
It took a while for her to settle down in the new place. Though it took merely ten minutes to reach her office, she missed her bus travel. The lengthy …

Michigan in the Fall 
I don't know if any others in this contest are from Michigan; but its a very pretty place to be in the fall. I love the smell of burnt leaves. It's great …

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