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The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life Paperback – Bargain Price, June 9, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Smith (The Roots of Desire, 2006, etc.) helps kick-start the writing process.
Everybody has a story to tell. Some people dream of putting their stories in a book while others want to blog, write letters or record family history. Smith, who is also a workshop teacher, gives the honest nuts and bolts of memoir writing. She does not use standard and stale exercises or prompts to fill the pages of this slim volume, but rather a blend of anecdotes and unusual tips to help would-be writers "vomit up a draft." What makes this guide stand out from the rest is its complete lack of academic posturing. Smith does not constantly drop famous names or drone on about Paris. Instead, the author uses real, plainspoken examples from her life and writing, such as the memorable story of her mother's struggle with Alzheimer's. Seasoned writers should proceed with caution: Anyone who has taken Composition 101 will have heard much of this advice before, such as "write what you know" and "show, don't tell." But readers looking for a push in the right direction will find Smith's instructions highly accessible and inspiring. Her first-person narrative style is breezy and friendly, and the beginning lays out the three overarching rules for memoir writing. Chapters have catchy subtitles, with easy-to-understand examples, from how to choose a subject to style to editing. Other advice includes a list of go-to reference materials and how to navigate writing about sex.
Spare but practical resource for beginners--a good reference for library programs or community workshops.

(Kirkus Reviews )

About the Author

Marion Roach Smith, co-founder of TheSisterProject.com, has taught a sold-out class called "Writing What You Know" since 1998. She is the author of The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair (Bloomsbury, 2005); co-author with Michael Baden, M.D., of Dead Reckoning (Simon and Schuster, 2001); and author of Another Name for Madness (Houghton Mifflin, Pocket Books, 1986). She is a former staff member of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Prevention, New York Daily News, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Discover and American Health. Marion has been a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and writes and records daily and weekly spots on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112/XM 157.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 26746th edition (June 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446584843
  • ASIN: B009JVQ9CO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,011,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Janette Fuller on June 14, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life"', by Marion Roach Smith, provides original, humorous and effective methods to make the dream of writing your story a reality. The author encourages aspiring memoirists to "write on" with intent and purpose.

I always thought a memoir would be about me...me...me. Mrs. Smith advises the writer to ask the following question, "What is this about?" The writer must decide on a theme for the story and then use personal experiences to illustrate the theme. The theme might be "revenge", "betrayal" or "mercy" and certain personal experiences would illustrate that theme. By the way, Mrs. Smith advices that only one of these words should ever apply to the story's intent, and that's "mercy".

In a memoir, there are three basic guidelines;
(1.) Writing memoir is about telling the truth.
(2.) Every page must drive one single story forward.
(3.) Just because something happens, doesn't make it interesting.

This book was a real pleasure to read because it offers very practical information in a light-hearted and humorous manner. The book is for people who are tired of doing writing exercises, taking classes and reading books about writing. This book provides solid tactics for writers who are ready to WRITE. Mrs. Smith suggests that a writer should write five pages a day...five days a week. The job of writing a memoir is real WORK and should not be taken lightly. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is ready to "write on".
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As a veteran professional writer and reader of memoir and how-to books about the subject, I was eager to get my hands on this book.

I found much to like as there is much solid, practical information about getting going and staying with it that other books in this category lack. I applaud the author for taking on writing practice and prompts as a waste of time and energy. Instead she promotes the idea of "writing with intent," and tells you why and how to do it. She also expresses dismay over the over-wrought and downright false memoirs out there. It's nice to have company here.

Although Marion Smith encourages her audience to write honestly and clearly, toward the end I found myself scratching my head over sentences that seemed overly complicated. Others just dead-ended, not moving the story forward (as she advises over and over). And then there was the story I didn't quite get, even though being a member of the menopausal set. The significance of "38DD" shouted out of the car window in response to elite athletes putting their accumulated mileage on oval car stickers. This appears in the segment named "Menopause Made Me Do It!"

I get the feeling this book was put out quickly by its publishing house. This book would really shine if it went through another revision. Pulling out and highlighting the salient points would be a great help. While it shares some attributes of "Elements of Styles," the information is not delivered the same way. "The Memoir Project" would benefit from an index or chapter recaps together with a more generous layout, which would eliminate the tight chapter sequences.

Another copy edit and new layout would bolster this mostly fine and much needed effort. In my opinion, it could catapult this book from okay to classic, much like Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird." I'd buy an updated version in hardback if it became available.
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I disagree with the other reviewers that say this is a really funny book. Moreover, it is only about 100 pages and not really meaty, as at least one other reviewer claims. I bought the book based on the fact that my husband had heard an interesting interview with the author on NPR. I just checked the NPR website to read the interview and would recommend a potential purchaser read that first. It contains the meat of the book.

In sum, a pleasant enough little essay, but not much more than that.
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Format: Paperback
This book lacks nothing. Period. It is as slender and as meaty as The Elements of Style. After reading it, the writer will write. She'll rewrite, remove, rewrite, rearrange and replace her excuses with writing that a stranger can read, believe and care about. A warning - there will be extensive blood loss, myriad murders and "Frankensteinian" autopsies along the way. When you're ready to get it down and get it read, Marion will get specific on your ass like no other writing teacher or author you've encountered and you will love her for it. I promise.
I've loaned this book to aspiring memoir writers and to friends with no inclination in that direction at all. All have thanked me enthusiastically. It is good and inspiring reading from a generous author who is committed to writing, teaching and living with purpose, humor and integrity. Whatever your intention, something fine will rub off on you. I promise.
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Marion Roach Smith shares stories of her family and work experiences that officially make self-disclosure a mandatory tool for educators. Her clear (often hysterically funny) anecdotes elevate the beginner to a new level of comfort. Her careful guidance has enabled me to write with a newly acquired confidence. The instruction and support she offers provides all that is necessary for getting past the I'm-not-ready-yet stage. As the teacher, Marion provides specific techniques with clear, worthwhile examples for the beginner. I venture more experienced writers will benefit, also. Don't overlook the Bibi Geggy tale on page 80 and the lesson for us that follows. You will find lots more tales of learning how to write in this delightful, practical, book. Hey, I can write now.
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