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Writing Life Stories

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  300 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Book by Roorbach, Bill
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 30th 2000 by Story Press (first published June 17th 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 790)
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Gil Michelini
Jul 27, 2011 Gil Michelini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This book is one of the group that helped me write my book. I found it to be an excellent "class-in-a-book" for those who want to write a personal essay but are not sure how to get started.

When I think of this book, Roorback's advice that first comes to mind is squeezing out all the meaning from each word, sentence, and paragraph. I also heard him saying, as I was going through my editing, "Does this move the story forward."

I'm not sure what grade he would give my book but I found this teacher t
Jan 26, 2012 Jay rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
This is a great classic book for anyone who wants to improve their creative writing, memoirs, and essays. The book is organized around a series of exercises designed to make readers more aware of drama, action, word choice, voice, big ideas, audience, metaphor, and meaning, etc. Each chapter is illustrated with examples from the author's personal writing, reading, and teaching. Topics such as exaggeration, summary, quotations and dialogue are included. One of the author's early articles is repro ...more
Sarah Spelbring
Aug 01, 2012 Sarah Spelbring rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a ton of information packed into this book. A ton. It is geared toward nonfiction writers, but even so a fiction writer can bring away a new way of looking at their writing. It did take me quite awhile to get through all the material, mostly because it would make me think about the way I write and I would stop and have to think about what I just read and often make notes.

I'm sure I would have taken a much longer time if I had sat down and followed through with all of the exercises inclu
Rena Graham
Apr 10, 2014 Rena Graham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is now my new favorite writing book. I'll keep the library copy until my own copy arrives and then carefully go through the 14 pages I folded the corners of and transpose them to my keeper. What amazes me is that there are ONLY 14 pages. In a book chock full of incredibly well-meaning coaching, there is also page after page of great tactics and sterling advice. Writing memoir is the hardest writing I've done and Bill's book softens up the effort and lets me feel that yes, this is what I'm s ...more
Rose Peterson
Feb 02, 2016 Rose Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early on, Roorbach establishes the role of the memoirist as "making the truth believable," and spends the rest of the book presenting hints and thoughtful exercises on how to do just that. The chapters are helpful, and many of the exercises have potential for classroom use, but Roorbach's collected thoughts on metaphor are what bring originality to this book about creative nonfiction.
Sep 09, 2013 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book might be helpful for writing my family history stories. Thankfully, I borrowed a copy from my library rather than buying it. While the author shares some great tools for remembering stories, I found the book to be extremely boring and difficult to read. I finally gave up and skimmed through the remainder of the book to get it off my desk and back to the library. Seems odd that the author of a "how to write" book should not be able to produce a work that would grab and hold a ...more
Nov 18, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
My sisters gave me this book after picking it up in a used book sale. They knew I liked this type of how-to book. I expected little; figured it was a cast away. Was I surprised. This author doles out a classical course in writing. If I ever get around to doing any serious writing (another lifetime?) I will definitely refer back to this book.
Mar 02, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
I read all but chapter seven (because 7 wasn't required reading). The book has awesome tips and exercises for becoming a better writer but unless you take it seriously, I doubt it will improve your writing all that much. Nevertheless, I recommend it for people who want to improve their writing for professional or personal reasons. :)
G.C. Neff
Aug 10, 2015 G.C. Neff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Bill Roorbach presented many exercises and details that one would expect from a professor but in such a way that I was easily able to understand what needed to be done. As well, he helped me feel comfortable with the subject, and to really zero in on the main issue of the memoir which I am preparing to write

I am also now seeing that I might have two other memoirs hiding among the over 100 index cards upon which I have written out incidents. Had I not learned so much from the a
Feb 21, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it
If you’re looking for a comprehensive book about writing a memoir, this is it! The author uses his college students’ pieces to give the reader before and after examples about the art of writing. Most of all, this book helped me to include narrative to add interest to my writing, and to expand my writing to include emotional content. There is also a wonderful appendix of memoirs that are must reads. I found this book to be very instructive.
Michelle Monet
Sep 01, 2016 Michelle Monet rated it really liked it
I loved this book. As I write my memoir I have moments of stagnation. This author helped reignite my creative juices. This book was well written in a comfortable laid back style. I learned a lot from the excesses also. Two thumbs way up!
D.G. Kaye
Dec 08, 2015 D.G. Kaye rated it it was amazing
This book is a great writing tool for writers and for those who aren't writer but wish to learn how to craft their personal stories. The author gives us many writing examples and exercises to hone the writing craft, and is especially helpful for memoir writers as Roorbach offers up simple exercises to help conjure up the memory process.
The style this book is written in is light-hearted and casual, making it not only an informative read, but a very enjoyable read.
In the final chapters, Roorbach s
JR Hassett
I've read a lot of books on writing, but none that has helped me as much as Bill Roorbach's "Writing Life Stories", and I've only just begun reading it.

Read my entire review at
Alisha Erin
Jun 10, 2014 Alisha Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I found the chapter "Saying It Right" and the very end of the book to be especially wonderful. An excellent writing resource, and one that I will continue to refer back to.
A.R. Beckert
Aug 30, 2016 A.R. Beckert rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful book! Loads of helpful material, quality references, and a thorough treatment of the writing process. I loved how the instruction could be applied to writing as a lifestyle, and not just memoir, essay, and personal history.

I read this book (and others) to get a better grasp of creative nonfiction genres and the nuances of the craft. Not at all disappointed! I felt great reading it, inspired, and enlightened. I've recommended this book to my writing circle and bring it up to
Apr 06, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
A great book for anyone interested in the Art and Craft of creative non-fiction. This one will have a permanent home on my desk to be referred to over and over again.
This is a great resource for anyone interested in the craft of writing- especially in creative non-fiction. The exercises are excellent for anyone who wants to grow as a writer. It also includes an incredible reading list in the last 10 pages.
Aurora L.
Apr 03, 2015 Aurora L. rated it it was amazing
A good book for someone who wants to get started with personal writing.
Jan 23, 2016 Kennedy rated it it was ok
Shelves: not-into-it
Roorbach sprinkled this book with some good memoir writing craft and supportive anecdotes, but perhaps I've read the same, elsewhere, and in ways that are more impactful. I think a class of Roorbach's would be more engaging and energetically convey technique that the book couldn't. He seems like the kind of guy you'd seek out, to teach you the process of crafting your story. I could picture his lessons as a series of lectures on PBS or YouTube.
Jul 22, 2015 Phoebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thankyou, I borrowed you from my library out on a limb-
Stephen Kings On Writing hid from my blind eye
but it found you
and you were g8
Amelia Hassani
Feb 28, 2016 Amelia Hassani rated it it was amazing
Really a fantastic tool for writing memoir or narrative fiction sprouting from one's own memory or experience. I can no longer describe the act of writing without saying "cracking open," which I attribute to Roorbach although I fear it's mistaken and an act of misquoting/misattribution, which further proves the use and beauty and liberating effects of the exercises proscribed in this book.
Apr 07, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: guides
An excellent and entertaining guide for writing aimed most specifically at memoir, although what it covers can be applied to forming any sort of story. Each chapter covers a different topic: how to start, forming characters, using metaphor, etc. It includes a number of writing exercises for use in attempting what is explained in each chapter.
Scott Sedar
Jun 29, 2013 Scott Sedar rated it liked it
I haven't touched this book in sometime...which, I suppose suggests, I'm busy living a life and not writing about it! That is not exactly the case, for the writing I do, which does occupy a fair amount of my daily living, often draws upon my life experiences. Still...whatever I'm doing, it has precluded finishing these pages.
Silas Hansen
One of the best craft texts I've found for teaching undergraduate creative nonfiction. The students tend to like this one quite a bit, and he does a nice job of explaining concepts so that beginning students can understand without ignoring complexity or nuance.
Mar 13, 2015 Nat rated it really liked it
This is one of the more optimistic, less soul-crushing books on writing that I recommend to my writing group members. It's very constructive and provides a really good perspective on the writing process. I enjoy using it as a supportive tool for the writing process.
Apr 05, 2015 Ashley rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book! Gives amazing advice about writing, and has a lot of fun activities to practice the advice given. If you are a writer, I completely recommend reading this.
A great way to get started. You may not want to try everything the author suggests, but it's a great way to break the logjam and get your writing undersay. He writes in easy-to-understand language that won't put anyone off.
May 19, 2010 Teisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved this book. for someone terrified of writing (I avoided all essays and literature classes like the plague)this was a wonderful confidence builder. great ideas, great exercises, funny, helpful. I am glad I own it.
Jul 02, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I'm reading this book in preparation for a class I'm teaching this fall. It's a great guide to memoir writing. Breaks down writing technique into applicable, useful lessons. Writing exercises are useful and productive.
Nov 21, 2013 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: advice, non-fiction, 2013
Good advice book for writing in general. Informative and engaging enough to hold my interest as I read it in a segmented fashion.

Too bad I've no aspirations towards professional writing.
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Bill Roorbach's newest novel is The Remedy For Love, coming October 2014 from Algonquin Books. Life Among Giants, also from Algonquin, is in development for a multi-year series at HBO, and won the 2014 Maine Literary Award in Fiction. Big Bend: Stories has just be re-released by Georgia in its Flannery O'Connor Award series. Temple Stream is soon to be re-released by Down East Books. Bill is also ...more
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