I’m thrilled to offer this book review of Slices of Life: The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing by Cheryl Butler Stahle.
As a technical writer and indie author, I get all kinds of questions about writing and publishing in various genres. As a southerner, I also tend to get a lot of questions about writing memoirs. (Let’s face it. Southerners do tend to lean toward storytelling and a wealth of inspiration in our own family history.)
As much as I’ve written across multiple genres, however, I have not (yet) written a memoir. The opportunity to review Slices of Life: The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing offers me the special bonus of a solid reference for all those memoir questions, now. 🙂
Format and Gist of the Book
[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B008EY7JSK” locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51P84MJfJTL.jpg” width=”327″]Slices of Life: The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing follows the instructional expertise of the author, a memoir writing teacher, as she walks the reader through each step of the process with information and exercises/writing prompts – all the way…
…from the early stages of remembering events and getting them roughly written on paper…
…and all the way through the polished, finished manuscript.
The author graciously allowed me to read and review a copy of Slices of Life as I was getting more questions from friends and colleagues about ghost writing memoirs and writing one’s own memoir. Since I have little experience in “memoir writing,” I’m thrilled to recommend Slices of Life: The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing by Cheryl Butler Stahle to newbies to memoir writing.
I certainly feel much more knowledgeable about the genre and best practices after reading the book…at least enough to understand their questions and to point them in the right direction with Stahle’s guidance.
As a side note, again, I’ve never really had an interest in writing a memoir, but as I read through the exercises and prompts used to walk writers through the process, I truly did start recalling fond memories and stories. I can only imagine how powerfully effective these same exercises are for memoir writers that are already focused and excited about the topics.
…big Thumbs Up on the exercises and writing prompts used to support each major section and for nudging folks to putting those memories on paper. It’s a very interactive process that will keep newbies writing and moving forward with the project.
Favorite Part of the Book
The author brings a beginning writer into a full-length memoir writing project by immediately segmenting the tasks into manageable steps. Under the Take The Plunge section, the author prompts readers to remember events – both big and small – to craft/write vignettes (or tiny stories) that will eventually comprise the finished memoir. Working on a large book project in small, manageable chunks is the best advice for ANY new writer.
Using the Look Inside feature or download sample option is a good way to see an excerpt from the book before you buy it. Since I’ve read the whole book, I can offer a little more insight regarding what’s actually inside.
The book begins with assurance to the new memoir writer that you can write your memoir. You can complete the project. The author also explains a bit more about memoirs, defining memoirs and general expectations of a memoir.
The next section explains how you’ll use the book (Slices of Life: The Art and Craft of Memoir Writing), advice for setting your own ground rules or parameters to keep you working on the project without overloading, ideas to help focus your intention for the book, and various methods of organizing your book project.
Note that each major section of the book includes exercises and writing prompts to help you follow each section in a step-by-step manner.
Taking the Plunge
This is the section where the memories are recalled and drafted on paper (or computer file).
Don’t worry. All the exercises in the book are designed to prompt specific memories …which can further prompt associated memories and other stories.
The author also offers pen to paper methods that may work best for the memoir writer such as memory lists/checklists, pre-writing, free writing, etc.
After a section on writing pace, challenges, and the need to keep writing, the author offers specific writing tips for memoirs on topics such as dark topics or issues, emotional memories, using sensory imagery, keeping the reader engaged, and using photos to evoke memories.
Additional guidance follows on revising, sharing, responding, focus, style, voice, tense, structure, peer editing, theme, and character. Writing groups and press releases are suggested, too as the final draft comes together.
Memoirs are starting to sound more like a viable project. 🙂