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Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Second Edit Paperback – February 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0933377509 ISBN-10: 0933377509 Edition: 2nd

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

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The Eighth Mountain Press; 2 edition (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0933377509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0933377509
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Seems like everyone wants to write his or her own memoirs these days. Memoirist and creative writing teacher Barrington (An Intimate Wilderness: Lesbian Writers on Sexuality, LJ 10/1/91) tells us how to do it. Her practical guide leads both experienced and novice writers through the writing process from idea to publication, addressing such technical problems as theme selection, voice, tone, form, plot, scene, and character development, as well as how to stimulate creative thinking and build necessary discipline. Barrington draws on the writings of Alice Walker, Kathleen Norris, Annie Dillard, Frank Conroy, and Virginia Woolf to illustrate her techniques. Her common-sense approach strives to temper the emotional honesty of the genre with the integrity of artistic skill. Libraries supporting a writers' group (for which Barrington includes a do's-and-don'ts section) will want several copies. Academic and school libraries might want it to supplement creative writing curriculums.?Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The current renaissance in literary memoirs pleases readers and inspires writers, while raising a number of questions about this most fluid and open-ended of genres. Barrington recognizes and addresses both the memoir's great appeal and the issues it raises pertaining to voice, structure, the transformation of fact into truth, and the elevation of personal experience and revelation into art. Like many fellow contemporary memoirists, Barrington is a poet who found herself "needing the expansiveness of prose," but as soon as she began writing her memoir, she realized how challenging a form it is and how unsettling the act of writing about one's life so openly, without the artifice of poetry or the mask of fiction, can be. After asking the key question, "What were the rules of memoir anyway?" she ended up answering it with this intelligent and insightful book, which combines stimulating literary analysis with a great deal of practical information and excellent advice. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book is very well written in format along with being easy to read.
Susie Rigsby
Writing the Memoir is a practical guide to the craft, the personal challenges, and ethical dilemmas of writing your true stories.
Judith Lethin
Additionally the writing prompts and suggested excersises are hugely helpful when challenged with BLOCK!
Kimberly Bishop

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 103 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
I decided that I wanted to write a memoir and then sought out to find books on how to write one. I read three before I got to this one, and I must say, that by far this is the best collection of writing insights, advice and encouragement I have come across. Every one of my questions and concerns were dealt with in this book. I began writing my memoir even before I finished reading "Writing the Memoir" and I did so with total confidence. I can't say enough about how helpful this book was.
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94 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin K. Potter on September 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
All in all, this book was easily digestable, and more importantly, very useful for those who want to experiment with biographical or memoir writings. Although the book is short and sweet, it also points to many other books (Bird By Bird, Writing Down The Bones, Autobiography of a Face, dozens more) that both legitimize the book and offer further reading.
The topics were thorough without bogging down the book: You will get valuable tips on how to describe things with all five senses, how to write scenes, how to move around on a timeline, how to tie your writing into "the bigger picture" and so on. There are also ethical and legal topics Barrington touches upon: when to use names, what constitutes libel, what to consider if you're writing about living people, etc.
Moreover, there are several writing exercises at the end of each chapter to help you develop ideas. The exercises are nice because they make the book flexible. If you don't do the exercises, you could read the book in about 2-4 sittings and get a good overview of the memoir. If you invested the extra time to do the exercises, you would be able to hone your craft to a much greater degree. It's really up to the reader...
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68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By "elizabethpollak" on July 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I teach memoir and have looked at nearly all the books on the subject. Writing the Memoir is by far the best (and as far as I can tell, the one most often used by classes). It's useful for a writer at any level. It's comprehensive, extremely well written, and has a kind tone. I'm a big fan of Judith Barrington's memoir, Lifesaving, and recommend that highly as well.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A reader on May 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Barrington is both a memoirist and a creative writing teacher and she has taken those experiences to create this "how-to" book on turning the stories of one's life into a shapely and compelling narrative. This practical guide leads writers, whether beginning or published, through the writing process. Barrington addresses the basic elements of writing fiction, such as theme, plot, and voice, and applies them to the nonfiction form. Moreover, she considers issues unique to nonfiction, such as writing about living people and telling the truth.
Barrington's aim in this book is to inform readers about memoir as a specific literary form and to teach the skills necessary to writing good memoir. The first chapter is titled "What is Memoir?" and attempts to answer that question for the reader. Barrington compares the literary memoir to other similar forms, such as autobiography and personal essays. She makes a distinction between "memoirs" and "the literary memoir," and gives examples of both to support her claim. The chapter introduces the elements of literary memoir that she will discuss in greater depth throughout the book, such as plot, voice, and moving around in time. The introductory chapter gives the reader a cursory understanding of memoir as a narrative form and prepares the writer to begin writing memoir immediately, without having to read the entire book first.
Barrington draws on her own experiences as a memoirist throughout the book, a method which serves to persuade the reader that Barrington has the authority to teach this form of writing.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Charleen Touchette on January 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Judith Barrington's WRITING THE MEMOIR is a great resource for anyone interested in memoirs. Even if you're like me and are not into doing the exercises at the end of each chapter, you'll learn much from this well-written and researched book. There are wonderful excerpts from writers like Alice Walker, Kathleen Norris, Annie Dillard, Virginia Wolfe and especially Frank Conroy, whose stories about his family picketing his book signings put in context the question of whether to write your story as fiction or non-fiction. This is a book to read and re-read. Writers compelled to write their memoir will return to it again and again.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have been telling my writing students to read this book since it first appeared. Barrington is herself a fine writer, known for her poems as well as her essays, and thus offers a model as well as solid advice/instruction for her readers. Most important for one who offers a guide not simply to writers, but specifically to those who choose to write memoir, she deals forthrightly with questions of truth, motive, ethics and responsibility - arenas often ignored or dealt with superficially, if not cavalierly. Her own recent memoir [Lifesaving] is a fine example of what writers may do when they approach both the craft and the art of memoir writing from the perspectives she offers in Writing the Memoir.
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