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Writing Your Life: Putting Your Past on Paper Paperback – December 1, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

We all have stories to tell - of a rapturous first kiss, a life altering moment of choice, or the shocking revelation of a long-guarded secret. And these stories are often as distinctive, fascinating, exciting and entertaining as those found in the memoirs and autobiographies that currently top the nation's bestseller lists. We just need to know how to tell them best. Veteran writing teacher, lecturer, and author of So You Want to Write a Novel, Lou Willett Stanek can help you translate your joys and ordeals, thoughts and triumphs into superbly crafted nonfiction - taking you step-by-step through the writing process with care, encouragement, and expert advice. She shows you how to unlock your memories, create settings and scenes, portray major characters and dramatic events. And she offers the key to finding your own unique voice, and to presenting your greatest character - yourself - without boring your reader or sounding egotistical.

About the Author

Lou Willett Stanek, a novelist, critic, and teacher, practices what she preaches. She bases her workshops on the theory described in this book. Dr. Stanek earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, an M.A. at Northwestern, and a B.A. from Eastern Illinois University. She also served as a trustee at Millikin University. A Midwesterner, Dr. Stanek now lives in New York and teaches writing at The New School of Social Research.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; First Edition edition (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380786257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380786251
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
We all have memories of people, places, and events in our lives others would enjoy reading about. My problem all these years has been finding a starting place. Dr. Stanek solved the problem for me, and I recommend you let her solve it for you. I read her book all the way through without putting it down, it was so much fun dredging up memories. I have pages and pages of notes about people, places, things, pets, adventures, embarrassments, and other fun things to write about--all from reading this little book. I'm now starting over and doing her exercises. What fun! Your children and their children and their children will bless you for writing your life stories. And you'll feel good about yourself too. Read this book soon!
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Format: Paperback
The first speech given by every novice before a Toastmasters's group is to talk about oneself. Having oneself as a topic is the easiest assignment, the perfect ice-breaker to help overcome first time jitters. The same can be said of the memoir. First time writers often don't know where, or how, to begin. As with all good teachers--Lou Willett Stanek gives the student/reader permission to begin. She eases the would-be writer through self-doubt. She explains the difference between autobiography and memoir. She gives the new writer a way to begin by writing a memoir. This book is a good place to start learning the joy of writing.
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I've read uncountable memoirs and books on writing memoirs, so have a basis for my judgement. After spending 10 years writing a memoir An Island In Time: Growing up in the 1940s, I continued reading how to write memoirs, and came upon Dr. Stanek's "Writing Your Life: Putting your past on paper." I liked the organization of the book, not spending a lot of time with how to write a memoir (although there are many good tips not to be ignored), but gleaning topics I could write about.
I didn't rush through the book, rather jotting down topics not addressed in my first memoir. I then finished a second memoir - An Island In Time II: Coming of age in the 1950's. Soon after writing this book, a publisher of pictorial history books contracted me to write Fox Island (Images of America: Washington).
Lou Stanek not only got me going in penning my second memoir, but I'm currently in the process of writing a third concerning my career as a teacher.
I usually sell my used books on writing after reading them; however, "Writing Your Life" remains in my library and I still check out its pages for inspiration.
In the first chapter Dr. Stanek says,"You have had an interesting, distinctive life, but who will know? think about your heirs. Family history ranks high as a legacy. My intention in "Writing Your Life" is to sort out the jumble of pain, pleasure, accomplishments and regrets you have accumulated."
Even if you don't plan on writing a book, get your life on paper.
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I wanted this book to have more especially after reading the reviews.

It was good and yet at times too wordy. I wanted it to be more to the point and less about the author and her life experiences. The manner in which Dr. Stanek's own life was presented could have been less complicated. I did not care for how it was interwoven into the chapters. At times it lacked clarity.

The exercises were good but could have been better.

I have learned more about writing memoirs through reading them.
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I got my penny plus shipping/handling worth out of this book. While Dr. Stanek maybe wordy she is very creative with her word usage. I was able follow her except until I got to the end of chapter 17, I nearly forgot what she was talking about. She gave a lot of ideas often triggered my memory that I stopped reading to write.

I wouldn't consider this a reference book but one to provide inspiration and to get the juices flowing.
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I'm just getting started in this business of writing my life stories, and this was the perfect book to read first. It is easy and pleasant reading although she can sometimes go a bit overboard with her own story telling. But that does not take points away from the quality of the book.

The book is not so much about the nuts and bolts of writing as it is about coming up with memories and ideas. She discusses such things as point of view, "show don't tell", avoiding cliches, and organizing your book in general terms but leaves more in depth discussions on writing to other books. You don't feel overwhelmed as if you've gone back to school to study english composition, something that could be off putting to any newbie writer.

At the end of each chapter there are exercises to do that are easy and fun. No drudgery to them at all; just do the ones that interest you or apply to your life. My own memories were stimulated while reading the book, and I sometimes had to stop reading to jot them down. I read the book without doing the exercises to avoid interrupting the flow of information but fully intend to go back and do them at my leisure.

I highly recommend that you read this book before any others on writing life stories. I'm very glad that I did. It is one book I know I will keep.
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