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Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature Second Edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1582975276
ISBN-10: 1582975272
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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.
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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: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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