Book Review: The Memoir Project

Memoir ProjectThe Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & LifeThe Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith by Marion Roach Smith.

I am a dedicated library user, and generally only buy books when I know that I’m going to want to reread them or use them as a reference. Before I’d even finished The Memoir ProjectThe Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith, I knew that it was going to be a book that I’d want to own.

Despite having no plans or desire to write a memoir, I selected the book from the library because I love reading memoirs so much. I was curious about the writing techniques behind them, and some of the differences between what makes a memoir phenomenal, versus one that’s meh. It’s not simply the topic: some of the most fascinating memoirs have, on the surface, seemed like they’d merit a “who cares?” (Exhibit A: A Girl Named Zippy. Growing up in a super small town in Indiana doesn’t seem like fodder for a memoir that had me singing its praises to my friends. But it was and I did.)

That is where the book shines – she describes how every memoir must have an overarching theme, and every story in the memoir must move the theme forward. And my favorite part of her advice? “Just because something happened doesn’t make it interesting.”

Essential reading for anyone interested in writing a memoir, but highly recommended for all nonfiction writers. I’d even recommend it for fiction writers as well, as her advice for editing and making sure everything in the book moves the story ahead translates to fiction writing also.

Another bonus? The book is short and easy to read, so no worries that you’ll get bogged down in lengthy technical discussions. It’s fantastic.

Publisher’s Description:
A recent study revealed that the Number 1 thing that baby boomers want to do in retirement is write a book….about themselves. It’s not that every person has lived such a unique or dramatic life, but we inherently understand that writing memoir-whether it’s a book, blog, or just a letter to a child-is the single greatest portal to self-examination.

While there have been other writing books, there’s been nothing like Marion Roach Smith’s THE MEMOIR PROJECT. Marion has written four books and she’s been teaching a sold-out memoir writing class for 13 years. Her new book is a disarmingly frank, but wildly fun, distillation of all the unsentimental lessons that WORK. Tired topics like writing exercises, morning pages and “writer’s block” are replaced with quirky, provocative tactics that teach you to write with purpose.

Previously self-published in April 2010 (under the title Writing What You Know: Realia), the book has already proven hugely popular, and with its new title and updated content, it is sure to find an even bigger and even more enthusiastic audience.

Book Details

Title: The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & LifeThe Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith
Author: Marion Roach Smith
Category: Nonfiction / Writing
My Rating: 5 Stars

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this awesome review, Sheila! It’s already in my Amazon cart. I was able to get in the Memoir class at Duke for the fall…and have never looked so forward to a class. It’s a study of the genre as much as anything {a little writing, but not exclusively}, but I think this will be a wonderful resource {framework?} to have read prior to the class. Even if I wasn’t taking the class, you’ve convinced me to read it!

    So excited!

    • I think this will be a very good one to read before your class (and it’s so short and quick to read, even if you’re trying to give yourself a break before the Fall semester begins, it won’t be a big deal to read it.) I’d be really interested in hearing your take on it, and if it gives you any different perspectives on the other books you end up reading for the class. And what a fun class you’ve got ahead of you!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Memoir Project {Smith} {Thanks to Sheila and her awesome review.  My fall course is on the subject of the memoir genre.  And I. can’t. […]

  2. […] The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith * […]

  3. […] could have easily been omitted without harming the storyline. (I was reminded of the quote, from The Memoir Project, that “just because it happened, doesn’t make it interesting.” In this case, […]

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