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Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature [Paperback]

by Bill Roorbach
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1, 2008 1582975272 978-1582975276 Second Edition
How to Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature

From drawing a map of a remembered neighborhood to signing a form releasing yourself to take risks in your work, Roorbach offers innovative techniques that will trigger ideas for all writers.

Writing Life Stories is a classic text that appears on countless creative nonfiction and composition syllabi the world over. This updated 10th anniversary edition gives you the same friendly instruction and stimulating exercises along with updated information on current memoir writing trends, ethics, internet research, and even marketing ideas. You'll discover how to turn your untold life stories into vivid personal essays and riveting memoirs by learning to open up memory, access emotions, shape scenes from experience, develop characters, and research supporting details.

This guide will teach you to see your life more clearly and show you why real stories are often the best ones.

Frequently Bought Together

Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature + Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Second Edit + The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bill Roorbach has published six books (both award-winning fiction and nonfiction) and makes appearances at colleges and conferences across the country. He holds the Williams H.P. Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, MA.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; Second Edition edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582975272
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582975276
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than I expected. December 16, 2009
When I found this book, I was in search of the perfect genre for two stories swirling through my head. The stories that I wanted to write did not seem to fit any particular genre until I read this book on memoir and personal essay. Like many people, I believed that memoirs where restricted to the lives of the famous. This book opened up a whole new world to me by defining memoir and showing how it is developed.

At times the author seemed unorganized and the book lacked the structure I normally preferred in an instructional book. As I continued to read, I discovered that he was in control and teaching me the skills needed for this unique style of writing.
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Jump-start to Writing November 3, 2009
I'm reviewing this book even though I'm only a third of the way through it. First, this book isn't one to just read through. Bill has included writing exercises in each chapter that are designed to allow you "access to memory, access to material, access to ideas, access to the unconscious, and finally, access to meaning" in your writing (Roorbach, p. 7).

I'm trying to do the exercises in order, but I'm not being too strict with myself about adhering to a schedule. I've found one exercise (chapter 4, "On...") that I like so much that I've done it three times, and I think it really is prodding me to examine some personal thoughts through writing. I have no doubt that this book is helping me to get at the core issues that I really want to write about.

Bill's writing voice makes for easy, enjoyable reading, and sometimes I find it a bit hard to stop reading and do the exercises. But, I do think they're worthwhile. There are 11 chapters: 1 Getting Started; 2 Memory; 3 Scenemaking; 4 Big Ideas; 5 Characters and Character; 6 Stage Presence; 7 Finding the Facts; 8 Metaphor and Meaning; 9 Saying it Right; 10 Building a Building; and 11 Getting Published.

This book has earned a permanent slot on my bookshelf and I think it's going to be one of those books that get revisited on a regular basis.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow Writing Life Stories December 5, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the book that I have been searching for for a long time. As a busy mom of three, I needed a "teaching book" that would give me concrete activities that I could work into my writing time. Reading this book and working on the subsequent "assignments" gives purpose to my very short writing time that I can squeeze into a day. If you are interested in writing memoir, but don't know where or how to start...this is the book for you.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended July 17, 2009
Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature
Excellent guide for anyone writing memoirs. I used it as the textbook for a writing circle I run. Although the group doesn't focus on memoirs, the exercises are very good for anyone wishing to work with creative non-fiction.

The participants enjoyed the writing exercises, such as re-creating the first neighborhood they remembered living in as a map. An unexpected effect of memory-searching was that for several of us, old buried memories surfaced spontaneously in dreams.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Writing Life Stories September 16, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This product is great as part of a writing course or for tips for beginning memoir writers or for writers struggling with creative nonfiction.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writer to writer May 8, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very well written, I read it twice.
If you're a writer it will remind you of those little things you forgot to give your writing punch.
But of all the creative writing books I have ever read this one had two outstanding pluses.
It fills in the gaps about how to write dialogue.
The author is accessible through email.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars life story December 22, 2012
By Anna
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
bought this book to help me jump start writing my childhood memories. the essays are easy to follow and understand. if you're looking for something basic this is it. if you're looking for something super profound then look somewhere else. overall it's a great book and I have enjoyed it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That little nudge to get you going April 11, 2012
A few years back my best friend Eric died after a long battle with cancer. Months later a story started forming in my head about our time together in 1981. As the months went by the story got stronger and clearer in detail, so much so that I started to jot down notes, covering the walls of the spare bedroom with butcher's paper to build a timeline. Gracefully I declined invitations to social engagements: all was this story. His story.
Still I was stumped. How can someone like me go about getting my memories down on paper? I am not a writer in any sense of the word except for letters to my mum and e-mails to friends. Where does a non-writer turn for guidance when they have a story to tell?
You need look no further than Bill Roorbach's Writing Life Stories, now available in this revised 10th anniversary edition. As he promises, Roorbach does indeed show us 'how to make memories into memoirs, ideas into essays, and life into literature'. He does it through exercises that build on each other, and soon we find what we are looking for - which is, in his own words:

"Access to memory, access to material, access to ideas, access to unconscious, and, finally access to meaning... Welcome, welcome, you and your stories are in the right place."

In Chapter 2, Roorbach's Memory Exercise 1 asks us to draw a map of the earliest neighbourhood we can remember living in. We are instructed to include as much detail as we can. Who lived where? Where were the secret places? Where were our friends? Where did the weird neighbours live? Where were the off-limit places? Where did we get into trouble?
I found myself drawing Matua Peninsula with the Matua Primary School in great detail. The prefab classroom that Standard 2 was taught in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing Life Stories
Bill Roorbach came in our class and had us submit some writing to his blog. This book has some really cool exercises. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Johnazon
3.0 out of 5 stars Writing Life Stories
I haven't had time to read it all yet. I like comparing these kinds of books. Still working on it
Published 3 months ago by Judy Krall
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlock the stories within!
An excellent step by step process to unlock the stories within. Great ideas to motivate and generate incentive to write!
Published 4 months ago by Rosalie Donnelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing Guide
Clearly written, I used the exercises in developing my own writing. I went through the exercises two times and then compared the results in my own writing.
Natalie Baer
Published 6 months ago by Natalie Norman Baer
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
This was a required book for one of my college classes and I truly enjoyed it. It has great information for Ideas and Essays.
Published 6 months ago by roze
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book in good condition, pages not marked,
I'm delighted with this book. A friend loaned me a copy of this book a year ago. I didn't get around to reading it until a couple of months ago. Boy, was I surprised! Read more
Published 6 months ago by Barbara
5.0 out of 5 stars Very comprehensive, helpful
I like the way he explains things and teaches angles on writing that we can benefit from immensely. The book is jam-packed with exercises and guides for becoming a good or better... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Susan E. Schubert
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
Recommended book for a writing class. Shipped in the appropiate time. Also had to return a few copies and that was easily accomplished.
Published 9 months ago by Kristen Tobin
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and Dynamic
Perfectly written. Will re-read this book many times. It will be one of
the books on my desk for easy reach.
Published 10 months ago by starlyt
4.0 out of 5 stars Writing your life story
This book lays out the way to go with your own story. The examples are very clear.Good to have in your bookshelf.
Published 13 months ago by WC
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