Book Review: Writing the Memoir

Writing the Memoir

By: Judith Barrington

The Eighth Mountain Press, 624 Southeast Twenty-Ninth Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97214, Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Steps to Move from Memory to Memoir

I was pleased to find the second edition of Judith Barrington’s “Writing the Memoir” in our public library. This edition was updated and published in 2002. Since then the publishing industry has been in a constant state of fluidity. However, there are certain basic elements of writing that never change.

Barrington’s suggestions for writing the memoir are invaluable. She provides the reader with guidelines for getting started, finding form, with suggestions for what to include.

Some features I found especially helpful include:

  • The highlighted guidelines for specific topics: Voice, tone, verb tenses
  • Guidelines for writing about living people
  • Tips on inner dialog
  • Suggestions for connecting with the world
  • Handling rejection letters

The “Suggestions for Writing” included at the end of each chapter offer material for stimulating exercises as well as provide excellent ideas for inclusion in your manuscript.

Judith Barrington writes with clarity. Her work is well researched and documented. I found the suggestions for critique groups, the article “memoirs and the law” and the comprehensive index to be an added bonus. The claim on the front cover of “Writing the Memoir” is understated. It simply says: “A practical guide to the craft, the personal challenges, and ethical dilemmas of writing your true stories.” I found this to be true along with lots more – highly recommended. This is a must read for anyone seriously considering writing a memoir.

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