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Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
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Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,294 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
In her first book to focus solely on writing since her classic work Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg reaffirms her status as one of the foremost teachers by redefining the practice of writing memoir.
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Free Press (first published 2002)
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Emma Sea
Feb 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I’ve been doing Julia Cameron’s morning pages since November last year. The idea is that you freewrite three pages: anything - everything - that comes to mind. In February I felt I was ready to move on to some morning writing that was a bit more structured, and use some prompts.

I love Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, and Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life have been important books f
Joel Friedlander
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It took me 6 months to "read" this book. How come? Almost every page is an exercise in reconstructing your own memories of your life and the people you've met along the way.

I decided to work through all the exercises and it turned into a truly transformative experience. I think if you're interested in memoir, in telling your own story but you need help getting started, or if your writing seems to "lack juice" this book is for you.

Through writing exercises and memory-enhancing writing prompts, Na
Saundra Goldman
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, memoir
I have finished the exercises for the first two sections of Old Friend, which I'm using as a text in my class, Writing Practice, Memory, and Memoir. I'm keeping a separate notebook for this work, although most of the topics have lead me back to the book I'm writing--but with angles and insights I wouldn't have otherwise reached. I actually conceived this class so I'd do the exercises in Old Friend, because I didn't have the discipline to do them on my own. Nothing like accountability to get you ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Natalie Goldberg saved my writing life. Stuck in the depths of writing block despair - the longest and bleakest I had ever experienced - I grabbed this off the shelf at my local bookstore. Two pages in, I felt a ray of light break through the thunderhead surrounding me. I ran out and bought a new notebook. I sat down and wrote five pages without stopping.

Writer's block DEMOLISHED.

Been writing well and without blockages ever since.

I love Natalie method of "zen writing". It's easy to identify wit
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, writing, read-2008
I just finished reading this book this morning. Now that I've read it, I need to work through it. Which I am very much looking forward to, because, oh, what a lovely little guide! Some of the best writing I encounter is actually writing about writing. Which makes sense if you think about it - why would you follow advice from a badly written book about writing?

Natalie Goldberg does not disappoint - she is as funny, down to earth, succinct, and harsh, as ever. This book is inspiring in the best wa
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
The same, old, stuff from Natalie Goldberg. Wordy personal narrative disguised as less than inspiring ten-minute writing exercises. I think of something Amy Hempel said in Paris Review a few years ago - that being "writerly" can overshadow what you are trying to say. "Sometimes, the door is just "open", she said.

"Write everything you can think of about the Fourth of July" just doesn't excite me. I'm passing this on.
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Great book. I'm going to buy it. I never buy books. It's out in paperback 3/10/09. I can wait.
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
I liked this book, but as I was reading it through, it was not easy to handle. The reason is that this is a book meant to be read, and for people to do the writing exercises. I constantly wanted to stop and do some writing, but since I was borrowing the book (from my library), I could not stop. I would definitely buy a copy of this book for myself at some point. I remarked in one of the updates that I still liked Writing Down the Bones better, and I can say that statement is still accurate. That ...more
Emily Crow
I like Goldberg's friendly and inviting approach to writing, but I already have Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, and this book contains mostly the same advice. Worth a read but glad I got it from the library. If it's your first book by Goldberg, though, you'd probably get a lot more out of it.
Michelle Monet
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love Natalie Goldberg! I have read her other books 'Wild Mind' and 'Writing down the bones'. I'd say this one was similar but not as resonate as the other two. Still, I always get the jolt of inspiration and creative zest after reading all of her books! I especially love her thoughts on rule breaking. Writers must do this! Thanks Natalie for the shot in the arm today as I write my memoir.
Taylor Church
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just love this author, so I'm going through her bibliography book by book. Each one talks about writing, creativity, and life. But they don't seem redundant to me. Her voice is so real and humorous that I would read anything she writes.

This book does however focus on writing about your own life in the form of memoir. Being a memoirist myself I find her words inspirational and helpful. She lives and dies by her "writing practice" which I'm finally (4 books later) starting to implement into my
May 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
"This revolution in personal narrative that has unrolled across the American landscape in the last two and a half decades is the expression of a uniquely American energy: a desire to understand in the heat of living, while life is fresh . . ."

au contraire --- it is because we are a country of self-absorbed, egotistical narcissists.

Ms. Goldberg has not only jumped on the bandwagon, she's now driving it.
Kimberly Patton
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I hated her writing style. The only thing good about this random and weird book, was the writing prompts.
Meredith Allard
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality, writing
I've made no secret of the fact that I love Natalie Goldberg and her books. I even started sitting zazen after reading her memoir about her zen teacher. I'm starting my own journey into memoir writing, so of course one of the first people I turned to was Goldberg to see what she had to say about it. There are many great exercises here to get your brain going, thinking about what you remember and what you might like to include in telling your life story. Some aspects of this book felt familiar to ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was the third book by Natalie Goldberg I read. A lot of the messages and themes were similar to her other work, so that’s why I’m giving this four stars. The book serves as a great reminder of some of the other works she has created.
Lucille Zimmerman
This may be one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read.. I’m not even interested in writing a memoir, but the exercises that help you tap into memories and sensation are helpful for all types of writing.
Laura Luzzi
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good book to have nearby to keep you writing. Good exercises to get your brain moving.
Sunny Cooper
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend this for any author in pursuits of memoir.
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, to-own
I've renewed this book from the library twice already, which means that I need to own a copy of this book. I just finished reading the book today and I did a couple of the writing exercises already. They've been extremely gratifying. I love how Natalie Goldberg can pull out inspiration by providing it--the writing here is poetic and moving. Gets your creative writing juices flowing. I've marked the exercises (over a dozen) that I want to do while I have the book in my possession from the library ...more
Marian Beaman
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review is a combination of Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones (1986) and Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir (2007), books I have read concurrently and now am reviewing simultaneously.

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones touches bone marrow, muscles, tendons, even the gristle that surrounds the writer’s life. If you are looking for an expert writing manual that discusses anatomy of creative writing with insight, humor, and practicality, this is the book for you.

Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For a month now I’ve focused on reading Natalie Goldberg’s books. Well into the second one, and I can’t grasp its name right now, my internal light bulb blew. A 360-degree change. Thereafter I yearned to read every story. Keeping myself from rushing through the book, like a novel, reading slowly, maliciously, similar to her practice of Zen walking, so I could feel every word, every sentence, every unwritten thought, felt painful at first. I wanted more body tingling and I wanted every sensation ...more
Mar 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So I did it, I finally finished Natalie Goldberg’s new book (is it even new anymore?) Old Friend from Far Away. And I really appreciated it. It’s not a book I would say I loved, not because it’s not great, but because it’s not the kind of book that you read right through. It’s made up of chunks - some of one or two lines and some of several pages - that all address various aspects of memoir writing. Some of the sections are writing prompts, and some are reflections on the writing process. I love ...more
Charles F. Herr
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm reading this book slowly, because it isn't a book you just read. It is filled with exercises to stimulate the process of memoir writing. I find the exercises freeing and that I am getting excited about writing about different periods and events in my life and enjoying both the precess of actually writing about my experiences and the anticipation of writing more. It feels like a process of discovery, self-discovery. And it also has the quality of treasure hunting. (Part of me remains shy and ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobio
Je autobiografie is niet een opsomming van hier geboren, daar naar school, keurig langs het gangpad van je leven.
De momenten moeten erin staan, waarop je de auto keerde en van de brug af in de rivier sprong omdat het water zo helder was, en je opeens moest denken aan boterhammen met pindakaas, en het liedje dat de bakker vroeger floot.
Of toen je besefte dat je er helemaal niet van hield om aandrijfriemen voor tractors te verkopen.
Een autobiografie is ook geen ouwemensenland. Duik erin, hoe oud o
I like to have one craft book as a companion when I write, something I can turn to and help "grease the wheels", so to speak, and I think this will be a good one. While I'm not planning on writing a memoir, I picked it up b/c memories are the mine for creating our characters - particularly, it seems to me, the emotional beings of our characters, so I thought this book would be helpful. Lots of exercises here to help you access memories from forgotten-points in time. :) I also ust plain like her ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I frist read this book 2 years ago and found it excellent for writing and then discovered it is a magnificent book for the DAYS OF AWE--those ten days for reflection between the new year and the day of stonement. We are forced to genuuinely look at our lives, not as we wish they were, not as we pretend they were, but as they really lived out with texture and various senses. We start with something as simple as a writing exercise about a nut and it opens us up to an whole world of memories. So no ...more
Ashley Lauren
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
It's not really fair to say I've "read" this book, because you don't read this book - you do the book. Each chapter is a task, each is ten minutes, and it's to get you writing. It's not even so much about the craft the memoir itself, but the craft of writing for the memoir. This book will help you understand yourself and your experiences in a whole new way.

I stupidly checked this book out of the library. This is not a book to be loaned. This is a book to keep and methodically work through. My m
D.G. Kaye
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book to learn of Goldberg's approach to writing memoir and discovered more. Her writing prompts to break through writer's block with her flair for detailed descriptions was so inspiring. This is not a book you read and take something from and put on a shelf. This book is an excellent writing tool. You can open up to any page and take on a writing prompt to motivate the imagination and get the pen moving. The beauty is, you can use these prompts over and over creating different stor ...more
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is not what I expected, but I really enjoyed it. Goldberg is a very good writer and writing teacher, so her thoughts on memoir writing are gold. The book is almost entirely made up of writing prompts, which are excellent, but I wish she had included more of her thoughts about memoir as a genre.

I'd highly recommend this to anyone interested in memoir writing, but beware that this is not a "sit down and read" book - it's meant to be used as a guide to remember and WRITE your own material ove
Theresa P
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is an absolute gem. I honestly don't think I've ever enjoyed a non-fiction book as much as I enjoyed reading this. Natalie Goldberg leads a fascinating introspective journey through one's writing and through life itself, her dry wit keeping it interesting throughout. Technically, this is a book aimed at those writers concerned with memoirs, but it could really work for any genre. I don't think this would be the type of book everyone would enjoy, as it is absolutely aimed towards the wr ...more
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Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe , which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twe ...more
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“The things that make you a functional citizen in society - manners, discretion, cordiality - don't necessarily make you a good writer. Writing needs raw truth, wants your suffering and darkness on the table, revels in a cutting mind that takes no prisoners...” 21 likes
“Too often we take notes on writing, we think about writing but never do it. I want you to walk into the heart of the storm, written words dripping off hair, eyelids, hanging from hands.” 13 likes
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