Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Second Edit

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Since Writing the Memoir came out in early 1997 it has sold roughly 80,000 copies and is consistently praised as "the best book on memoir out there." It is thought-provoking, explanatory, and practical: each chapter ends with writing exercises. It covers everything from questions of truth and ethics to questions of craft and the crucial retrospective voice. An appendix provides information on legal issues.

Judith Barrington, an award-winning memoir writer and acclaimed writing teacher, is attuned to the forces, both external and internal, that work to stop a writer; her tone is respectful of the difficulties and encouraging of taking risks. Her nimble prose, her deep belief in the importance of this genre, and her delight in the rich array of memoirists writing today make this book more than the typical "how-to" creative writing book. In this second edition the author has added new material and reflects on issues raised since Writing the Memoir was written, early in the memoir boom.

"No student of memoir writing could fail to learn from this wise, pragmatic, and confiding book. One hears on every page the voice of an intelligent and responsive teacher, with years of thinking about memoir behind her."—Vivian Gornick

Judith Barrington is the author of Lifesaving: A Memoir and numerous individual memoirs which have been published in literary magazines and anthologies. She is the author of three volumes of poetry: Trying to Be an Honest Woman, History and Geography, and Horses and the Human Soul (forthcoming in 2002). She has taught creative writing for the past twenty years.

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: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces

Customer Reviews

Really Specialzed Interesting But Not For Everyone

 on May 14, 2016
By thirdtwin
Might inspire you if you’re set on putting the most major and memorable events of your own life to paper- if that idea doesn’t interest you or you don’t feel you have the discipline to stare at a blank page often you can give this book a pass.

Good for the Beginner, Good for the Seasoned Writer

4 people found this helpful.
 on July 5, 2010
By Marie-Jo Fortis
I got this book because I am presently writing a memoir -or memoirs- and I felt I needed some guidance. Or at least reassurance. This, Barrington provides with a lot of clarity without being overly didactic. Legal issues –if not about writing techniques, certainly useful here– are addressed in the last pages. Although the volume seems to be targeted toward beginning memoir writers, its sections on finding one’s own voice, tense choice, selection of memories, as well as the exercises that come at the end of each chapter can also jumpstart the more seasoned authors. Writing is an ever-learning experience. You occasionally need to be reminded of what you already know. Not only can this solidify your own art, but it can deepen it as well. Memoirist Judy Barrington has created here a practical how-to with a writing that flows and never gets boring. And the fact that she provides generous excerpts and excellent references of beautiful memoirs is, in my opinion, a lovely gift that provides additional inspiration to any author writing in that genre.

Another useful book if you are writing your memoir as the author has a different slant to consider

 on February 9, 2014
By Kay C. Wentzel
Had not considered the author’s ideas on this subject so was interested in considering her view about the ‘truth’ part of writing a memoir. Surely a puzzle to some but very much a concern for the memoir writer

Advice for creative writers

 on May 6, 2017
By lcat
It is excellent in every aspect. It is a go to book with numerous practical suggestions fro aspiring writers of memoirs.

This book has been helpful–recommened techniques are easily understood and applied

2 people found this helpful.
 on December 18, 2014
By Ron
I am writing my first memoir. This book has been helpful–recommened techniques are easily understood and applied. The end-of-chapter “Suggestions for Writing” reinforce each chapter’s key-learning’s.

Very helpful book

2 people found this helpful.
 on January 7, 2014
By Stand straight
Suitable for all who are interested in writing a memoir. It gives practical advice and suggestions. It gives many examples of memoirs

Brava, one book every memoir writer Should Have

 on February 3, 2015
By Lynne Shapiro
Great book one of the best I’ve read about different problems writing memoirs. . Brava!

Good one

One person found this helpful.
 on September 16, 2014
By nilufer gokmen
I bought this book for my grad level Creative Non-fiction class and also I’m working on my memoir capstone. This one is a good source because it is very easy to read and the exercises in it are fun to write.

Form, Musing and Voice

 on April 29, 2013
By lillith
This book is the text used in my community college class. I was pretty intimidated the first day of the class when a couple of folks read but as soon as I got into this book my fear changed to enthusiasm and joy. I have already written and read a paper and just finished another about my childhood neighborhood. The book makes this process so easy by giving examples and encouragement.

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