Monday, May 16, 2016

Why We Write About Ourselves Edited by Meredith Maran

Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature edited by Meredith Maran
Published January 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
For the many amateurs and professionals who write about themselves—bloggers, journal-keepers, aspiring essayists, and memoirists—this book offers inspiration, encouragement, and pithy, practical advice. Twenty of America’s bestselling memoirists share their innermost thoughts and hard-earned tips with veteran author Meredith Maran, revealing what drives them to tell their personal stories, and the nuts and bolts of how they do it. Speaking frankly about issues ranging from turning oneself into an authentic, compelling character to exposing hard truths, these successful authors disclose what keeps them going, what gets in their way, and what they love most—and least—about writing about themselves.


My Thoughts:
I'm not sure this is a book you could sit down and read straight through but it made a wonderful nightstand book, a book I read a few pages or memoirist at a time. Even if you've never harbored hopes of writing the great American novel, you may well have wondered about writing your own story. These twenty authors have a lot of tips for aspiring authors including how to know if you have a story truly worth telling and the difference between writing memoir and all other types of writing.

Each chapter opens with a quote from the author's memoir, some biographical information, a list of collected works by the author and then the author's go to town each first addressing why they write about themselves. Beyond that, each author shared what they'd learned about through their particular experience. Ishmael Beah, for example, talked about being called a liar after his memoir, A Long Way Gone, was published. Kate Christensen wrote about writing "foodoir." Anne Lamott shared that she writes memoirs because she has a passionate desire to be of help. Ayelet Waldman addressed the way that social media has impacted her writing.

What I learned:

  • Memoir is not a diary. Many of the authors commented on the difference between a day-to-day recounting of your life and life as a story.
  • Memoirists should only write their story, no one else's.
  • Tell the truth the best you can. It will not necessarily be what others remember. 
  • You don't have to tell the whole truth. It's okay to hold somethings back; readers don't need to know everything.
  • Try not to hurt other people to the best of your ability.
  • Worry about other people's feelings later. Don't overthink your first draft. You can always take things out in later drafts if you feel it will hurt someone or there will be legal issues.
This one is staying on my shelves. Because, maybe someday I might just decide I have some stories to tell.

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