Smith (The Roots of Desire, 2006, etc.) helps kick-start the writing process.
Everybody has a story to tell. Some people dream of putting their stories in a book while others want to blog, write letters or record family history. Smith, who is also a workshop teacher, gives the honest nuts and bolts of memoir writing. She does not use standard and stale exercises or prompts to fill the pages of this slim volume, but rather a blend of anecdotes and unusual tips to help would-be writers “vomit up a draft.” What makes this guide stand out from the rest is its complete lack of academic posturing. Smith does not constantly drop famous names or drone on about Paris. Instead, the author uses real, plainspoken examples from her life and writing, such as the memorable story of her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. Seasoned writers should proceed with caution: Anyone who has taken Composition 101 will have heard much of this advice before, such as “write what you know” and “show, don’t tell.” But readers looking for a push in the right direction will find Smith’s instructions highly accessible and inspiring. Her first-person narrative style is breezy and friendly, and the beginning lays out the three overarching rules for memoir writing. Chapters have catchy subtitles, with easy-to-understand examples, from how to choose a subject to style to editing. Other advice includes a list of go-to reference materials and how to navigate writing about sex.
Spare but practical resource for beginners—a good reference for library programs or community workshops.