The Memoir Project
A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life
By Marion Roach Smith
(Grand Central Publishing, Paperback, 9780446584845, 128pp.)
Publication Date: June 2011
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.
Marion Roach Smith, co-founder of TheSisterProject.com, has taught a sold-out class called "Writing What You Know" since 1998. She is the author of The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair (Bloomsbury, 2005); co-author with Michael Baden, M.D., of Dead Reckoning (Simon and Schuster, 2001); and author of Another Name for Madness (Houghton Mifflin, Pocket Books, 1986). She is a former staff member of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Prevention, New York Daily News, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Discover and American Health. Marion has been a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and writes and records daily and weekly spots on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112/XM 157.
Everyone has a story to tell, but memoir writer Marion Roach Smith says making those stories interesting and readable is harder than it looks. She gives her dos and don'ts for memoir writing in The Memoir Project. More at NPR.org
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Smith (The Roots of Desire, 2006, etc.) helps kick-start the writing process.
Everybody has a story to tell. Some people dream of putting their stories in a book while others want to blog, write letters or record family history. Smith, who is also a workshop teacher, gives the honest nuts and bolts of memoir writing. She does not use standard and stale exercises or prompts to fill the pages of this slim volume, but rather a blend of anecdotes and unusual tips to help would-be writers "vomit up a draft." What makes this guide stand out from the rest is its complete lack of academic posturing. Smith does not constantly drop famous names or drone on about Paris. Instead, the author uses real, plainspoken examples from her life and writing, such as the memorable story of her mother's struggle with Alzheimer's. Seasoned writers should proceed with caution: Anyone who has taken Composition 101 will have heard much of this advice before, such as "write what you know" and "show, don't tell." But readers looking for a push in the right direction will find Smith's instructions highly accessible and inspiring. Her first-person narrative style is breezy and friendly, and the beginning lays out the three overarching rules for memoir writing. Chapters have catchy subtitles, with easy-to-understand examples, from how to choose a subject to style to editing. Other advice includes a list of go-to reference materials and how to navigate writing about sex.
Spare but practical resource for beginners--a good reference for library programs or community workshops.