Kelly’s Picks: Writing Life Stories

Kelly’s thoughts on Writing Life Stories:

The fully revised, tenth anniversary edition of Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach with Kristen Keckler, Ph.D., is an amazing resource on writing emotionally powerful memoirs and personal essays.

I remember when former Writer’s Digest Books editor Lauren Mosko was working on this book. She kept sending me these short little emails saying things like, “I just had to share this beautiful passage with you!” And she was right—the passages in this book are lovely and detailed. At once instructional and moving. A true—are rare—feat!

Bill teaches you how to write powerful nonfiction by writing it himself, as he seamlessly weaves focused lessons, unique exercises, and illustrative stories of his own life and experiences into a perfect blend. Writing Life Stories contains invaluable technical instruction on matters like developing compelling characters (the May/June 2009 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine contains an excerpt from the book that explores this topic), shaping scenes from experience, and accessing and working with memories. In an online excerpt, Bill expands on this last point and acknowledges the difficulties associated with writing from a memory:

Memory is faulty. That’s one of the tenets of memoir. And the reader comes to memoir understanding that memory is faulty, that the writer is going to challenge the limits of memory, which is quite different from lying. One needn’t apologize. The reader also comes expecting that the writer is operating in good faith, that is, doing her best to get the facts right.
 

Even Phillip Lopate, the man behind the revered book The Art of the Personal Essay is quick to acknowledge the value of Bill’s instruction, saying: “Bill Roorbach’s Writing Life Stories is brimming with valuable suggestions, evocative assignments, insights into the writing process, and shrewd common sense. I can’t wait to try some of his ideas in the classroom and on myself. This writing guide delivers the goods.”

For his part, Bill says he hopes this new edition inspires readers, adding, “I hope writers get the sense that their stories are valuable and necessary, and that taking the time to tell them well will pay its own rewards. Writing is hard, but not writing is harder, if you’re a storyteller like me.” (You can read more from Bill in an exclusive Q&A.)

If you’d like to purchase Writing Life Stories, click here. 

Further Your Education with Writer’s Digest:
Fundamentals of Life Stories Writing
Writing the Personal Essay: Advanced
Essentials of Writing Personal Essays II: Advanced

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