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The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life

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A recent study revealed that the Number 1 thing that baby boomers want to do in retirement is write a book....about themselves. It's not that every person has lived such a unique or dramatic life, but we inherently understand that writing memoir-whether it's a book, blog, or just a letter to a child-is the single greatest portal to self-examination. While there have been o A recent study revealed that the Number 1 thing that baby boomers want to do in retirement is write a book....about themselves. It's not that every person has lived such a unique or dramatic life, but we inherently understand that writing memoir-whether it's a book, blog, or just a letter to a child-is the single greatest portal to self-examination. While there have been other writing books, there's been nothing like Marion Roach Smith's THE MEMOIR PROJECT. Marion has written four books and she's been teaching a sold-out memoir writing class for 13 years. Her new book is a disarmingly frank, but wildly fun, distillation of all the unsentimental lessons that WORK. Tired topics like writing exercises, morning pages and "writer's block" are replaced with quirky, provocative tactics that teach you to write with purpose. Previously self-published in April 2010 (under the title Writing What You Know: Realia), the book has already proven hugely popular, and with its new title and updated content, it is sure to find an even bigger and even more enthusiastic audience.


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A recent study revealed that the Number 1 thing that baby boomers want to do in retirement is write a book....about themselves. It's not that every person has lived such a unique or dramatic life, but we inherently understand that writing memoir-whether it's a book, blog, or just a letter to a child-is the single greatest portal to self-examination. While there have been o A recent study revealed that the Number 1 thing that baby boomers want to do in retirement is write a book....about themselves. It's not that every person has lived such a unique or dramatic life, but we inherently understand that writing memoir-whether it's a book, blog, or just a letter to a child-is the single greatest portal to self-examination. While there have been other writing books, there's been nothing like Marion Roach Smith's THE MEMOIR PROJECT. Marion has written four books and she's been teaching a sold-out memoir writing class for 13 years. Her new book is a disarmingly frank, but wildly fun, distillation of all the unsentimental lessons that WORK. Tired topics like writing exercises, morning pages and "writer's block" are replaced with quirky, provocative tactics that teach you to write with purpose. Previously self-published in April 2010 (under the title Writing What You Know: Realia), the book has already proven hugely popular, and with its new title and updated content, it is sure to find an even bigger and even more enthusiastic audience.

30 review for The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    I loved this book. At an underwhelming 114 pages, she packed a punch, which meant that every word counted. The two most poignant things I learned were 1) the difference between memoir and autobiography (and my, do I see now that there is a vast difference) and 2) memoir is all about angle. You can reuse the same life events and tell them a million different ways when you see them through different lenses of time (in the moment rather than when the dust has settled) point of view (the widow, her I loved this book. At an underwhelming 114 pages, she packed a punch, which meant that every word counted. The two most poignant things I learned were 1) the difference between memoir and autobiography (and my, do I see now that there is a vast difference) and 2) memoir is all about angle. You can reuse the same life events and tell them a million different ways when you see them through different lenses of time (in the moment rather than when the dust has settled) point of view (the widow, her sister, or their neighbor), perspective, etc. I love that, out of the same finite number of life experiences you can create meaning in millions of combinations. Though this was a library book, it's one I expect to purchase so I can refer to it. It really was THAT good.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janette Fuller

    "The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life", by Marion Roach Smith, provides original, humorous and effective methods to make the dream of writing your story a reality. The author encourages aspiring memoirists to "write on" with intent and purpose. I always thought a memoir would be about me...me...me. Mrs. Smith advises the writer to ask the following question, "What is this about?" The writer must decide on a theme for the story and then use personal experience "The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life", by Marion Roach Smith, provides original, humorous and effective methods to make the dream of writing your story a reality. The author encourages aspiring memoirists to "write on" with intent and purpose. I always thought a memoir would be about me...me...me. Mrs. Smith advises the writer to ask the following question, "What is this about?" The writer must decide on a theme for the story and then use personal experiences to illustrate the theme. The theme might be "revenge", "betrayal" or "mercy" and certain personal experiences would illustrate that theme. By the way, Mrs. Smith advices that only one of these words should ever apply to the story's intent, and that's "mercy". In a memoir, there are three basic guidelines; (1.) Writing memoir is about telling the truth. (2.) Every page must drive one single story forward. (3.) Just because something happens, doesn't make it interesting. This book was a real pleasure to read because it offers very practical information in a light-hearted and humorous manner. The book is for people who are tired of doing writing exercises, taking classes and reading books about writing. This book provides solid tactics for writers who are ready to WRITE. Mrs. Smith suggests that a writer should write five pages a day...five days a week. The job of writing a memoir is real WORK and should not be taken lightly. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is ready to "write on".

  3. 5 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    Saw this recommended somewhere; however, I just could not get into it. Found it to be a weird hybrid of personal anecdotes with writing advice. And by writing advice I mean such gems as "carry paper with you and write notes". And then more personal anecdotes. Whatever rocks your boat.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joy Weese Moll

    A slim volume, itself an example of memoir, that illustrates, teaches, and encourages the writing of memoir in all its variety of forms and functions. Don’t look at The Memoir Project if you’re looking for writing exercises. Marion Roach Smith doesn’t recommend them. Instead she offers this invitation: So let’s begin together, literally on the same page, and with a tacit agreement that from this moment on, we will write no exercises; we will write for real. With a goal. p. 7 Although, if you’re use A slim volume, itself an example of memoir, that illustrates, teaches, and encourages the writing of memoir in all its variety of forms and functions. Don’t look at The Memoir Project if you’re looking for writing exercises. Marion Roach Smith doesn’t recommend them. Instead she offers this invitation: So let’s begin together, literally on the same page, and with a tacit agreement that from this moment on, we will write no exercises; we will write for real. With a goal. p. 7 Although, if you’re used to writing exercises, some of the ideas she offers could be approached that way, but with a goal in mind for what to do with the piece once it’s written — write a holiday article for a magazine, an op-ed piece for a newspaper, or take something that happened this week and turn it into a column or blog post. More thoughts on my blog: The Memoir Project

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beverley

    I was really disappointed in this book. I found it to be more memoir than a 'how to' book about writing memoir. The writing advice given was pretty generic and could be found anywhere. There were a few useful points I took from the book but these were almost exclusively in the last few pages of the book and could have easily been encapsulated in essay form. The book read to me mostly as a self-promotion of the author. But maybe that's just me; her voice and personality just didn't gel with me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I recommend The Memoir Project for anyone writing a memoir because the time investment is short - 111 pages - and you might just find the gem that makes your project work. The book landed on in my To Read pile about 1 1/2 years ago, when I was interested in memoir writing. I later abandoned that idea in favour of writing fiction, so read the book quickly for general writing advice. From the start, the author expresses a opinion I hadn't heard before: avoid writing prompts and exercises, which ar I recommend The Memoir Project for anyone writing a memoir because the time investment is short - 111 pages - and you might just find the gem that makes your project work. The book landed on in my To Read pile about 1 1/2 years ago, when I was interested in memoir writing. I later abandoned that idea in favour of writing fiction, so read the book quickly for general writing advice. From the start, the author expresses a opinion I hadn't heard before: avoid writing prompts and exercises, which are time-wasters that won't lead to getting published. Only writing with intent will result in work that others will want to read. All these years I've felt like an oddball writer, with my disinterest in journaling or morning writing exercises. I also enjoyed her remarks toward the end, when she discusses editing. "Murder Your Darlings," she says, might be the phrase most beloved by writers, who all feel assured this applies to everyone's work but their own. From actor Mike Myers' comment on acting, she applies the notion of 'heighten and add" to revision, which doesn't mean expand. It's an effective way to describe the process of heightening your writing to go deeper.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Harry Roger Williams III

    I give this five starts, which in the language of GoodReads means "It was amazing." What is amazing about Ms. Smith's accomplishment is that she has fit about 400 pages of information and ideas and inspiration into a mere 114 pages. I read some of it on the Red Line going to the State House or Boston Public Library, laughing out loud or exclaming "Wow!" enough to make my fellow passengers wonder, "What's with this guy?" I won't try to summarize it, I'll just wholeheartedly recommend this - not j I give this five starts, which in the language of GoodReads means "It was amazing." What is amazing about Ms. Smith's accomplishment is that she has fit about 400 pages of information and ideas and inspiration into a mere 114 pages. I read some of it on the Red Line going to the State House or Boston Public Library, laughing out loud or exclaming "Wow!" enough to make my fellow passengers wonder, "What's with this guy?" I won't try to summarize it, I'll just wholeheartedly recommend this - not just to would-be writers, but also to readers who wonder how some authors are able to get through to us so easily. Just as a teaser, I'll conclude with one quote, guaranteed to appeal to a librarian, in the enticingly-titled "THE MYTH OF THE WRITER'S BLOCK," on page 42: "The inability to move forward melts when you open a reference book." Call me a major fan of Marion Roach!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    Loved this book and the voice Roach has in it. While this subtitle calls itself "non-standard," the advice contained within is what you'll hear in college courses. She has great delivery and this a great volume of compacted advice. It may be that the newbie writer might need some practice for her condemned "writing prompts" to get the juices flowing. I read this in prep for a memoir writing workshop I'm teaching in April. This book has really excited me about working with memoir writers!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maryan

    Best book I've read to date on memoir writing. In just over 100 pages Marion Roach Smith informs, guides, challenges and encourages anyone who wants to start writing or continue writing any form of memoir or any writing at all. She also has a web-site filled with information. Gotta go write now!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    I enjoyed The Memoir Project both for its entertainment value and for its dead-practical tips on writing nonfiction well. This slim volume (114 pages) is well worth spending an afternoon on.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Flake

    This book is funny, wise, and practical. I absolutely loved it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    More like 3.5 stars. I liked this book but not as much as I liked Louise DeSalvo's The Art of Slow Writing or Walter Mosley's This Is The Year You Write Your Novel. In this short book with a long title, Marion Roach Smith is all "brass-tacks"---is that the right phrase to describe her no-nonsense, almost military approach to memoir-writing? Her basic guidelines are these: *writing memoir is about telling the truth; *every page must drive one single story forward; and *just because something happene More like 3.5 stars. I liked this book but not as much as I liked Louise DeSalvo's The Art of Slow Writing or Walter Mosley's This Is The Year You Write Your Novel. In this short book with a long title, Marion Roach Smith is all "brass-tacks"---is that the right phrase to describe her no-nonsense, almost military approach to memoir-writing? Her basic guidelines are these: *writing memoir is about telling the truth; *every page must drive one single story forward; and *just because something happened doesn't make it interesting. (Take that! and that! and that!) She pooh-pooh's writing prompts, morning pages, and writing from the right side of one's brain. "Writer's block"?---a myth, she says---just crack open a reference book such as Bartlett's Familiar Questions, or leaf through a personal photo album, high school yearbook, or journal and the memories and stories will flow. Her instructions make memoir-writing accessible to the many rather than the few. In your first scribblings,please don't aim to carefully choose each word as you go along---Roach Smith calls this "the death of writing." And while she likes Anne Lamott's "shitty first draft" idea (from Bird by Bird), she prefers her friend Gary's "vomit draft" because it requires"retching and moaning." If you require an unsentimental coach to guide you in methods for cutting and shaping your personal stories into "Barbie-Bodied" smoothly-driven, perfect-pitch memoir---in short or long-form---then this book is worth reading. Sprinkled liberally with anecdotes from her own life and writing, to me this book felt like the author found a way to make use of vignettes she slashed and cut from her own completed memoir writings. I took notes and read it slow because it was so pragmatic it would have had less-impact (been less helpful) had I raced through it. Then I returned it to the library....but it might be a book worth having in my personal library just to refer to from time to time. The tone of this book is sort of like that of an aunt [who you have to admit] is often right even though you don't love how she breaks things down to you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I lead a creative writing group that is 100% prompt based. So upon discovering Smith’s wonderful little book about writing memoirs, I remember feeling a little disloyal to my group. For Smith finds writing prompts “insulting”. She goes on to say, [Writing] is serious work. And it cannot be reduced to generic writing exercises and prefabricated prompts. And ask yourself these questions: Have any of those ditties ever gotten you published? Has scribbling from the right side of your brain, or gettin I lead a creative writing group that is 100% prompt based. So upon discovering Smith’s wonderful little book about writing memoirs, I remember feeling a little disloyal to my group. For Smith finds writing prompts “insulting”. She goes on to say, [Writing] is serious work. And it cannot be reduced to generic writing exercises and prefabricated prompts. And ask yourself these questions: Have any of those ditties ever gotten you published? Has scribbling from the right side of your brain, or getting in touch with your angel’s feather, or keeping morning pages put you where you want to be as a writer? After reading one of those books of exercises, or subscribing to yet another Web-based, prompt-list newsletter, have you actually finished that letter to your child that you long to give her? I doubt it. I suspect that those manners of nonsense have instead stolen what little time you had for writing. Harsh! I know! And yet, I love Smith’s writing even as she’s describing the challenges of writing. I hope you’ll check out The Memoir Project and spend some time exploring the craft of writing with Smith. But for now, take a prompt from this anti-prompt writing advocate. Dig out that tired, old story of your divorce and re-write it. Tell us the moment you realized you no longer love your wife. Don’t write about the years you watched your mother’s health decline. Tell us about the moment you realize your own mother didn’t know her daughter. Or the moment after hitting send in an email where you’ve resigned from the job you’ve hated for fifteen years. Focus on the important moments. And then do it again. Pretty soon you can string those moments together and you’ll have a fine memoir.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    I found this book to be one of the most helpful volumes on the craft of writing nonfiction that I have come across. While it concentrates on memoir, Ms. Smith's advice and suggestions are transferable to almost any type of creative nonfiction. I'll bet fiction writers can find some food for thought and tools for writing improvement here, as well. I'd recommend this highly for anyone interested in writing nonfiction, and even more highly for aspiring memoirists. Don't borrow it. Buy it. You'll pr I found this book to be one of the most helpful volumes on the craft of writing nonfiction that I have come across. While it concentrates on memoir, Ms. Smith's advice and suggestions are transferable to almost any type of creative nonfiction. I'll bet fiction writers can find some food for thought and tools for writing improvement here, as well. I'd recommend this highly for anyone interested in writing nonfiction, and even more highly for aspiring memoirists. Don't borrow it. Buy it. You'll probably return to it again and again, as I plan to do. I finished it today but plan to review the parts I underlined several times as I plow may way through the my own first (what Smith calls "vomit") draft. The author pooh-poohs writing exercises. On this point, I disagree with her. Although they can be excuses for keeping writers from their actual manuscripts and can provide a way for us to resist the hard work of actually DOING the writing we say we want to do, exercises can be a way for those of us who are rusty to flex our writing muscles and get warmed up again. Many exercises have helped me keep writing when "blocked" and also have been a way to practice fluency, much as finger exercises help strengthen the skills of a pianist. But her negative view of exercises frees her to write a book that leans on suggestions for doing the work required of the actual manuscript itself, and that is a refreshing change from many "how-to" books I've read. Definitely a keeper. I've even recommended it to my writing coach as well as my writing group.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I love memoirs when they're done well. They are so seldom done well. I think the reason for that is summed up by Smith when she says "...I'm really interested in someone's sniveling only if it somehow elevates my own." Exactly. When I read I want to read something that matters to me regardless of my lack of real-life connection to the author. My own writing sometimes gets frozen because I'm afraid I can't reach across that divide. This short book offers the tools to get past that and other hurdl I love memoirs when they're done well. They are so seldom done well. I think the reason for that is summed up by Smith when she says "...I'm really interested in someone's sniveling only if it somehow elevates my own." Exactly. When I read I want to read something that matters to me regardless of my lack of real-life connection to the author. My own writing sometimes gets frozen because I'm afraid I can't reach across that divide. This short book offers the tools to get past that and other hurdles of writing. Well worth the read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nita

    I listened to interviews with this author and read her blog so when I saw this volume, I had to have it. I hoped for more specific lessons. Instead, the book offered a somewhat entertaining (although not always) account of her writing history. It's a memoir about how she writes memoir. Some of the information is useful, but I don't understand her beef with writing prompts. Still, the book is helpful, especially the final chapters and was definitely worth the short time it took to read it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christy Woolum

    This is my favorite book on writing memoir... and I have read many. Roach Smith takes everyday ideas and demonstrates how to use those in writing memoir. Must read for all writers.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathi Gowsell

    Best book on writing creative non-ficttion that I've read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie R.

    Marion gave good examples of her writing and taught the lessons throughout the book with her examples. I got a lot out of the book and could go back to read it over and get more. Short and sweet.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    I can't believe how amazing this book was. I seriously went into it with curiosity and low expectations. Why? Because there are so many bad books on writing out in the world. But why read this one? Probably due to the marvel that is cookies and advertising. It caught my eye somewhere, maybe it was in a blog post, or maybe it was a behavioral ad on some website somewhere. I bought the book and there it sat on my Kindle app. Sitting on my couch thinking to myself, "I'm between books, why not try s I can't believe how amazing this book was. I seriously went into it with curiosity and low expectations. Why? Because there are so many bad books on writing out in the world. But why read this one? Probably due to the marvel that is cookies and advertising. It caught my eye somewhere, maybe it was in a blog post, or maybe it was a behavioral ad on some website somewhere. I bought the book and there it sat on my Kindle app. Sitting on my couch thinking to myself, "I'm between books, why not try something light, like, just the first few paragraphs of this little book on writing." Not kidding, I have those kinds of discussions in my head. Or with my son, even the cat isn't spared. What hit me first was some of the most beautiful writing I have ever seen. Crafted and arranged so well, the words never let me go. So, now I'm reading this on the writing alone. When I'm suddenly hit by the content and intent of the words. Right up there with Bird-by-Bird, another favorite book on writing. The formulaic (not really all that formulaic) way of boiling down the essence of what one is really writing about, that is such a golden key to carry with me for the rest of my life. Then the highlighting happened. I'm finished with the book and I'm pissed, it's over. I have to get over myself and go try the advice, gladly. Want to read great writing, read this, it makes zero difference if you want to write. If you want to write well, add this to your must-read list. Want to write memoir's, then this better be at the top of the list. Enjoy!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lynda Allison

    I originally purchased The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life because I was intrigued by Marion Smith's criticism of the use of writing exercises when I personally found them helpful to my writing process. She bases her criticism on the complaints of her students and suggests that they discard them in favour of writing with intent. I don't see these as unconnected. Purposeful exercises can help writers mine for precious gems that convey truth the way they see i I originally purchased The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life because I was intrigued by Marion Smith's criticism of the use of writing exercises when I personally found them helpful to my writing process. She bases her criticism on the complaints of her students and suggests that they discard them in favour of writing with intent. I don't see these as unconnected. Purposeful exercises can help writers mine for precious gems that convey truth the way they see it. Smith herself hints at a few helpful exercises like listing what someone took on the way out because "what they take tells us if they are going for good, going for show, or merely slinking off to someone else." Smith moves on to what has worked for the hundreds of students she's taught. I found her advice sound, affirming and helpful for improving memoir writing, particularly as she discusses how to find a "Little corner of an idea" to develop into a theme, what details to use as subtle illustrations to form an argument, and how to ensure that they add up. She suggests that, "Using your personal tale to illustrate a larger topic is an unsung wonder of memoir" and she proves it as she provides many examples from her own life.

  22. 5 out of 5

    kartik narayanan

    Read the full review on my blog https://wp.me/p89tYT-bg Other girls wanted to be veterinarians, to marry rich, to be Rockettes. From that moment on, what I wanted most was a place of my own in the Dewey decimal system. What is the book about? “The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life ” is written by Marion Roach Smith, a journalist , accomplished author of many blog posts, articles and books and the teacher of a renowned class on writing. Her website, which is quite Read the full review on my blog https://wp.me/p89tYT-bg Other girls wanted to be veterinarians, to marry rich, to be Rockettes. From that moment on, what I wanted most was a place of my own in the Dewey decimal system. What is the book about? “The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life ” is written by Marion Roach Smith, a journalist , accomplished author of many blog posts, articles and books and the teacher of a renowned class on writing. Her website, which is quite remarkable in its own right, is available here. The purpose of this book is to help you learn to write with intent. Marion Roach Smith explains the steps to writing your memoir (or any other work) in a direct and concise form. Along the way, she also gives us the tools and techniques required to do so as well as avoiding common pitfalls like ‘writer’s block’ etc. Read the full review on my blog https://wp.me/p89tYT-bg

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I am taking a memoir writing class, and so like everything else I've done in my life, I research as much as I can about it before taking the first step. This slim book, only 112 pages, is one of "three top-notch books" recommended by Isidra Mencos. Funny in many places, honest on every page, the book provides as much guidance about living a life as it does about writing. Marion Roach Smith's over arching message (after recommending you throw out all the writing prompts, practice writing strategi I am taking a memoir writing class, and so like everything else I've done in my life, I research as much as I can about it before taking the first step. This slim book, only 112 pages, is one of "three top-notch books" recommended by Isidra Mencos. Funny in many places, honest on every page, the book provides as much guidance about living a life as it does about writing. Marion Roach Smith's over arching message (after recommending you throw out all the writing prompts, practice writing strategies) is to write with intent (offering a very specific algorithm) and capture the small moments. She demonstrates techniques through small stories of her own, connecting the dots to bring a small moment to a larger theme. Yes, you have to pay attention to voice and structure and audience, as in any good piece of writing; she has made this writing project sound manageable so here I go (after reading my other sources, of course.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kemlo

    I loved this book! The title didn’t exactly grab me (not the current version, nor the one under which the book was previously published), but what’s inside the covers is 100% worthwhile reading, whether you intend to write a memoir or not. Yes, there’s how-to advice for writers, but the wit and stories (all brief and to the point) make this an enjoyable read as well. Unlike other books on writing that I’ve rated highly but am unlikely to re-read, this one is short enough (and engaging enough) fo I loved this book! The title didn’t exactly grab me (not the current version, nor the one under which the book was previously published), but what’s inside the covers is 100% worthwhile reading, whether you intend to write a memoir or not. Yes, there’s how-to advice for writers, but the wit and stories (all brief and to the point) make this an enjoyable read as well. Unlike other books on writing that I’ve rated highly but am unlikely to re-read, this one is short enough (and engaging enough) for me to go through it again and again. If you are thinking of writing memoir or already in the process of writing memoir or coaching writers who write memoir—or just writing anything at all, really—I highly recommend this book. It’s a gem.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim Sasso

    "Memoir Project" makes it sound more interesting than I found it to be, but that's probably because I read a lot of Writing magazines in my twenties and collected composition textbooks well into my thirties. For the most part, Smith's advice is nothing new, even though she effectively slants it to the personal essay, blog, or memoir. This book could be useful to the young writer but at my age, writing just for my own personal sanity, I am looking for things that spark my creativity and fire my m "Memoir Project" makes it sound more interesting than I found it to be, but that's probably because I read a lot of Writing magazines in my twenties and collected composition textbooks well into my thirties. For the most part, Smith's advice is nothing new, even though she effectively slants it to the personal essay, blog, or memoir. This book could be useful to the young writer but at my age, writing just for my own personal sanity, I am looking for things that spark my creativity and fire my memory more so than writing tips illustrated by someone else's essays.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    One of my favorite books about writing. Clear, concise, funny, and practical.

  27. 5 out of 5

    C.M. Subasic

    This small book on memoir writing is confounding. It is chock full of excellent ideas, suggestions, and advice on writing well. Roach Smith explains so well how to get started without being overwhelmed (write an essay, not a story first). The pages of full of ideas for finding your small stories and the truth hiding inside them. How to take a small idea and build up its theme. She also provides gorgeous example stories from her own life. There is the tale of how she discovered that her mother wa This small book on memoir writing is confounding. It is chock full of excellent ideas, suggestions, and advice on writing well. Roach Smith explains so well how to get started without being overwhelmed (write an essay, not a story first). The pages of full of ideas for finding your small stories and the truth hiding inside them. How to take a small idea and build up its theme. She also provides gorgeous example stories from her own life. There is the tale of how she discovered that her mother was having an affair. About lessons she's learned from her children, from life, from writing, from the world. She covers some of the stumbling spots for writers, such as trying so hard to be admired. What NOT to write about (revising history). How not to write (making yourself into the hero, rants or trashing people). And yet... these gems of advice come with a whole lotta attitude (become a serious WRITER or go home), and so many opaque colloquialisms, I'm left scratching my head. She is no fan of writing prompts and writing 'exercises.' She is not fond of "scribbling from the right side of your brain, getting in touch with your angel's feather, or keeping morning pages..." One of her first suggestions is to "be hospitable," which lost me. It's explained as cleaning your desk and carrying around some index cards to slow down the process. Writing little ideas as they come to you. For me, there was a missing piece in this idea. One other quibble: Chapter titles and subheads that are trying too hard to be... I don't know, funny or memorable, or 'cool'. Chapter 2 is called, "Galileo in Wal-Mart." The section headed by "Brush up on your Shakespeare" is about doing research and checking your facts. Luckily, the attitude, moments of confusion (for me) and overwrought titles and headings were not hard to get through and the gems of wisdom were plentiful. The tome offers insights not found in other books on memoir writing. One other reasons to recommend it: brevity. It is a slim 110 pages in the version I have. So, if you're interested in memoir and find the other books not helping, this one might give you some insights.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Suzy Taylor

    I've been following Marion Roach Smith for about a year, but I didn't start reading her blog regularly until about a month ago, when I decided that the genre of the nonfiction book I've been struggling to finish should be memoir. Roach Smith is a great teacher of memoir, and, even though I'm starting almost completely from scratch on my book (pretty much gutting it and starting over at Chapter 1), I'm encouraged because I know that the author will teach me what to do. I always appreciate books who I've been following Marion Roach Smith for about a year, but I didn't start reading her blog regularly until about a month ago, when I decided that the genre of the nonfiction book I've been struggling to finish should be memoir. Roach Smith is a great teacher of memoir, and, even though I'm starting almost completely from scratch on my book (pretty much gutting it and starting over at Chapter 1), I'm encouraged because I know that the author will teach me what to do. I always appreciate books whose authors are vulnerable and honest, and I found that here - not only honesty and authenticity but really good advice on what memoir is (not autobiography), how to approach it, how to think about it and how to write it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ronna Jevne & Harold Martin

    This is the "do it" book of memoir writing. The author gives us permission to just get writing avoiding the "insulting tasks" of "generic writing exercises and prefabricated prompts". At the same time as honouring the serious work of writing memoir, she is direct in her number 3 rule that "just because it happened doesn't make it interesting. Rule number 1 is "tell the truth", yet the author is sensitive about "do no harm". There is, for me, a warmth in the writing - a sense that the author has This is the "do it" book of memoir writing. The author gives us permission to just get writing avoiding the "insulting tasks" of "generic writing exercises and prefabricated prompts". At the same time as honouring the serious work of writing memoir, she is direct in her number 3 rule that "just because it happened doesn't make it interesting. Rule number 1 is "tell the truth", yet the author is sensitive about "do no harm". There is, for me, a warmth in the writing - a sense that the author has been there, has guided many a novice and veteran through the process of writing their memoir. She has been witness to the barriers and benefits along the way. This is my number one recommendation for someone wanting their story as a legacy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    Great reference book for memoirists. I've read many books on writing but somehow couldn't resonate with most of them, possibly because they were too wordy, or didn't offer practical, doable tips that can actually propel you forward with your writing. Having come across Marion's site, I was amazed at the amount of information she freely shares. Some of the information is in this book. The information can be used for any genre. With formulas and real life examples on how to write with intent, this b Great reference book for memoirists. I've read many books on writing but somehow couldn't resonate with most of them, possibly because they were too wordy, or didn't offer practical, doable tips that can actually propel you forward with your writing. Having come across Marion's site, I was amazed at the amount of information she freely shares. Some of the information is in this book. The information can be used for any genre. With formulas and real life examples on how to write with intent, this book is an excellent resource if you want your writing to be read. Highly recommend.

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