Memoir Writing Bibliography

Living to Tell the Tale:  A Guide to Writing Memoir.  Jane Taylor McDonnell.  Author draws on her own experience as a writer to give information on silencing inner critic; Learning to Remember; Imagination Coming to the Aide of Memory; Ethical Considerations in writing a memoir.  Includes an annotated bibliography of memoirs.

Writing the Memoir.  Judith Barrington.  Chapters on Getting Started; Finding Form; Scene, Summary, and Musing; Moving Around in Time; and more.  Writing exercises at end of each chapter and legal issues pertaining to memoir explained in the appendix.

Writing as a Way of Healing.  Louise De Salvo.  A rich resource that specifically deals with writing memoir as a therapeutic process.  Excellent research on the subject, her personal experience as a writer/teacher, and useful writing suggestions.  Wonderful writing book even if you’re not writing to heal.

Inventing the Truth: the Art and Craft of Memoir. Edited by William Zinsser.  Essays on memoir writing by Annie Dillard, Toni Morrison, Russell Baker, Alfred Kazin and Lewis Thomas and more.  Each author provides bibliography of memoirs he or she recommends.

Writing Life Stories.  Bill Roorbach.  “How to make memories into memoirs, ideas into essays, and life into literature.”

The Situation and The Story: the Art of Personal Narrative.  Vivian Gornick.

Intelligent discussion of how every work of literature has “both a situation and a story,” and the creation of a persona, as well as the author’s analysis and discussion of many memoirs.

The Art of the Personal Essay. Phillip Lopate.  Excellent introduction describing and defining the form; extensive anthology of personal essays.

I Could Tell You Stories:  Sojourns in the Land of Memory.  Patricia Hampl.  St. Paul author of two distinquished memoirs writes essays on the form in which she considers “how she has been ‘enchanted or bedeviled’ by autobiographical writing – her own and others.”

Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process.  Peter Elbow.   Useful for writers of all sorts who need to understand and practice process.  Also Writing without Teachers.

The Writing Habit.  David Huddle.  Essays on the writer’s life and process; the roles memory, reality and inspiration play in the creative process; how he gets writing done; variety of prose styles, and much more.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  Anne Lamott.  Humorous and encouraging lessons on how to write and how to manage the writer’s life.

Writing Down the Bones. Natalie Goldberg.  Zen-based advice and exercises to free the mind and develop a writing life.

One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers.  Gail Sher.  “The wisdom of great writers meets classic Zen teachings as Sher helps both novice and experienced writers to develop relaxed alertness, avoid distraction – the real cause of ‘writer’s block’ and develop a daily writing practice.”

Sleeping with One Eye Open: Women Writers and the Art of Survival.  Ed. By Marilyn Kallet and Judith Ortiz Cofer.  Anthology of noted women writers address the “old and new challenges of ‘doing it all’ that face women writers.”

 Writing Past Dark – Envy, Fear, Distractions and Other Dilemmas in the Writer’s Life. By Bonnie Friedman.  Of special interest to memoir writers: “Your Mother’s Passions, Your Sister’s Woes: Writing about the Living”

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose.  Contance Hale.  A grammar/style guide that is “fresh and fun.”  “More spunk than Strunk.”

The Craft of Writing.  William Sloane.  A fiction writing text with valuable lessons for non-fiction writers.

Bringing the Devil to his Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life.  Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi, Editors.  Essays on craft and the writing life.

On Writer’s Block: An Approach to Creativity.  Victoria Nelson.  “An insightful, sympathetic, and supportive rethinking of the writing process.”

The Writer on Her Work: Volumes I and II.  Ed. By Janet Sternburg.  Essays by women writers on their own work and creative process.

Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir.  Lisa Dale Norton.  Good material for ideas, process, craft.