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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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,542 ratings  ·  165 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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Average rating 4.16  · 
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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
...more
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
...more
Rachel
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
...more
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
Inder
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, read-2008, writing
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
...more
Heidi
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.
Janet
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.
Angel
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
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
...more
Beth
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.
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.
Uglyoldwitch
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
I am using this along with Christina Baldwin's "Life's Companion" as a teaching tool for two of my memoir writing classes. I love Natalie Goldberg's style, the way she can go from hysterical to dead-ass serious in a single sentence...
Laura Robb
A lot of writing prompts and good tips for memoir writers.
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.
Sara
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
...more
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.
Brent M.  M.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Natalie Goldberg said of her book “Old Friend From Far Away”: “The experience I’ve had with writing this book has deepened over the months. Continually accessing my own storehouse of memories, I’ve found that the things usually lost in the busyness of day to day life have instead become part of my life now, enriching me tremendously. The practice itself has become the end, the reason for doing it.”

The book offers new perspective on memoir suggesting that it doesn’t have to be confined to one pla
...more
Joanne Mcleod
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book presented itself to me at exactly the right time. I had been contemplating writing a book, especially a memoir, for some time. Never seeing myself as one to write fiction. But then again, up until a couple of years ago, I never believed I could write poetry. Proven wrong once again at least in my own mind.
Then came an “Old Fiend from Far Away”. This old friend showed me through the practices laid out the necessary skills and focus to get some of my many thoughts onto the page. I had be
...more
Isabel
May 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've had this book previously and my opinion hasn't changed any at all, why would I have thought it would. I saw a class was offering online and since I can't make that commitment just now, and my library doesn't have Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within , and why not? I settled for this instead. I wish I could compare the content between the two title. This one feels like she threw together a lot of journal prompts without all that much content between them, as if she was rushing t ...more
Anieta
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read "Old Friend from Far Away", and decided to use it as daily writing prompts for a good long while. I have spent most of my life shoving memories aside, ignoring what Ms. Goldberg calls "old friends". They terrify me, anger me, shame me....and, Ms. Goldberg states, have much to teach me if I will but listen.
Already I have found the writing has changed my thinking. I gulped my coffee while standing on my feet just before rushing out the door. Ahh yes! Momma did that, too. Why? Why not drink it
...more
Wes Martin
I think it likely that I’m at the wrong place in my writing journey and understanding of memoir to appreciate this book. I also think it likely that I consumed it in the wrong medium (audiobook) as it reads more like a textbook with specific practices and prompts littered throughout, both of which are not helpful while driving.

I was hoping for more “but picture” concepts like if/when to outline the memoir and how much detail to place in an outline. Or, how to infuse some of the principles of Bi
...more
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
Kressel Housman
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unfinished, writing
I'm not going to finish this book, but it was great for me. Like all of Natalie Goldberg's books, it is full of writing prompts, but for the first time, I committed to doing every single exercise as I went through it. I actually got through Sections I and II, but now I've got to stop. I'm taking a writing class, and there's no way that I can keep up with the class, my 2018 reading goal, and Natalie's book all at the same time. But I'll get back to this in the future. It opened me up, and I'm gra ...more
Carol Keller
Aug 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2020
I think a lot of this author and in general enjoy and learn from her books on writing. This is not a book that needs read cover to cover and mostly just provides prompts. Here is one whole page/chapter as an example. “Tell me about a time you were instantly enamored. Go. Ten minutes”. Which is how every one of them ends. “Go.” “Ten minutes.” It gets old and its not the author’s fault that bossy people on Facebook say that all the time now.
Jeanne
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-arts
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is one I'd like to have in my own collection because of all the writing exercise prompts and ideas. I actually spent a couple of hours typing out many of them for reference.
Goldberg's discussion of examples and tips for writing memoir are invaluable, as is the section at the end of recommended memoirs to read.
Naomi
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not just a book to be read from cover to cover, this book has been instrumental in my beginning the process to write my memoir. Page after page of valuable prompts and insights, this book helped me to understand how to get out of my own head and simply begin to capture memories and thoughts. Highly recommend!
Bryan Whitehead
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I greatly enjoy Natalie Goldberg’s books about writing. Though she can be a little “non-linear” at times, her meditative approach to the craft and excellent writing prompts provide consistently good inspiration. In this text she takes on the subject of memoir. Though this isn’t a style of writing I personally want to pursue, I nonetheless found her suggestions thought-provoking.
Sarah
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.
Lily
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, katrina
I did not finish this book; maybe I will somtime.
I don't really agree with some of the author's suggestions and ideas. She has a lot of 10 minute exercises which to me are cumbersome. Maybe it is to get one in the flow of seeing and telling more than just a glimpse of something.
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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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