Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir Paperback – March 1, 1998
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About the Author
- ASIN : 0140265309
- Publisher : Penguin Books (March 1, 1998)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780140265309
- ISBN-13 : 978-0140265309
- Item Weight : 5.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The "crisis memoir," as McDonnell calls it, has become an important form, enjoying great popularity among readers. She cites Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face, Mary Karr's The Liars' Club. McDonnell argues that writing is therapeutic, and that if you have experienced trials and traumas, writing your own crisis story may be a way for you to begin to heal and understand. She deals with such important questions as "talking back" to our inner censors, learning to remember painful experiences, using our imaginations to explore the past, and finding an appropriate voice for the story we have to tell. Each chapter includes useful examples, discussion, and four or five helpful writing exercises.
If you have a difficult story to tell and you're finding it hard to get started on the work of writing, read this fine little book. It will show you that you aren't alone in writing about the experience of pain--and that you can use your writing to help you survive.
by Susan Wittig Albert
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
In the first few pages of the book we see she's a formidable talent in command of her subject: "It isn't enough just to live a life; we must be continually explaining it to ourselves, sorting, remembering, casting out the less important stuff, interpreting, sometimes justifying ourselves to ourselves."
The first half of the book offers strategies (such as "learning to remember") designed to help generate material, while the second half provides techniques to use in shaping your story, complete with examples from published and student memoirs.
Describing the rich content of photographs - in particular, the material gleaned from a photo from her own past - McDonnell notices, "Only after I had written and rewritten this passage did I discover that I was at least three selves within it."
She goes on to describe the value of other documents and provides insight into what to tell - and what not to tell - in writing memoir.
In the end, McDonnell lends an artistry to her understanding of the form that is nothing less than sensational.