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Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir
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Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  43 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
"Writing is a second chance at life," writes Jane McDonnell. "I think all writing constitutes an effort to establish our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment." In Living to Tell the Tale, McDonnell draws on this impulse, as well as on her own experiences as a writer and teacher of memoir, to give us what should become the definitive book on w ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Penguin Books
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Rachel
Jan 07, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it
The introductory paragraph to her book is inspirational and a cogent definition of memoir:

"Writing is a second chance at life. Although we can never go back in time to change the past, we can re-experience, interpret and make peace with our past lives. When we write a personal narrative we find new meanings and, at the same time, we discover connections with our foremost selves. I think all writing constitutes an effort to establish our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disapp
...more
Devin Vanderpool
Sep 08, 2016 Devin Vanderpool rated it really liked it
This was a textbook for my memoir class. I like the exercises in this book but I think the other book I read for this class was more well written. It was still great to read to get better with memoirs.
Vicky
Feb 18, 2013 Vicky rated it it was ok
Recommended to Vicky by: memoir class
I "read" this for class. I don't have anything against this memoir-writing guide but it wasn't intended for me, like, a lot of things mentioned re: scene, summary are things covered with better detail in Janet Burroway's textbook for fiction, and I didn't find it interesting to read about overcoming the inner critic, facing possible lawsuits for using real-life people in your stories, looking through old documents as research, etc. This guide mentions "crisis memoirs" a bit. It was hard to pay a ...more
April
Aug 08, 2011 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, 2011
This is a great book for people who are looking for guidance on how to write about their personal experiences. McDonnell gives advice on a number of issues that come up, from how to structure your writing (chronological, thematic or both?) to how to write about events you didn't directly experience to how to deal with friends and/or family who have a place in your story but may not want to be represented. A quick read and a great resource. I particularly enjoyed all of her examples and the numer ...more
Nancy
Sep 07, 2008 Nancy rated it liked it
This is a good writing book for anyone wishing (or willing) to push through trauma to get to the core of our unsettling human condition. Memoir, when it's good, isn't about the author's events, but about how that person made it through and more importantly, how that relates to the reader. This book can help that happen. Not an easy process, but well worth the time.
Taryn
Apr 05, 2014 Taryn rated it really liked it
A bit controversial in some of her stances on what she considers okay in nonfiction (magnified by her choice of Vivian Gornick as foreword author), but McDonnell has some great insights and advice about how to jump-start a memoir.
Nita
Apr 30, 2012 Nita marked it as dnf
Shelves: writing-books
Yet another writing book I skimmed and do not remember at all.
Elaine Shuman
Feb 20, 2016 Elaine Shuman rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Sections of the book were very helpful to me.
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