Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Writing About Your Life" by William Zinsser

Published: 2004
Read: 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4
Review: Good Reads
Author web site

"Writers are the custodians of memory, and memories have a way of dying with their owner."  

This sentence is one of many that are underlined in this dog-earred book.   Memories are all of I have of my beloved Josh and it is the reason why I write - in my personal journal, in weekly letters to him as I sit by his grave site and on his blog.

An easily read book that gives good, solid, encouraging direction and advice for those who have the desire to write about their own or a loved one's life.  Below are quotes that I found helpful as well as a recommended reading list.

Helpful quotes:

  • When the inner critic says "Who gave you permission to think your story will interest the rest of us?"  His answer: "Well, I give you permission.  All writers are embarked on a quest of some kind and you're entitled to go on yours."
  • "To write well about your life, you only have to be true to yourself."
  • "Think small and you'll wind up finding the big themes in your family saga."
  • "Look for the human connection as you make your journey.  Connect us to the people who connected with you."
  • "The best memoirs are frozen in a particular time and place and social or historical condition."
  • "It's O.K. to crank your personality up to a higher notch of enjoyment.  But don't exaggerate grossly; don't strain the reader's good will.  Stay recognizable underneath."
  • "If you're writing a memoir, choose one narrative that tells a coherent story and discard everything else."
  • "I think of intention as the writer's soul."
  • "Moral: Write about things that are important to you, not about what you think readers will want to read, or editors will want to publish or agents will want to sell....If it is important to you, it will be important to other people."

Recommended Books:
  • Growing Up by Russell Baker
  • The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
  • Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • The Liar's Club by Mary Karr
  • An American Truth by Annie Dilliard
  • Poets in Their Youth by Eileen Simpson
  • Orphans by Eileen Simpson
  • Reversals by Eileen Simpson
  • Colored People by Henry Louis Gates
  • A Drinking Life by Peter Hamill
  • This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff
  • The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison

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