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Your Life as Story: Discovering the "new Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature
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Your Life as Story: Discovering the "new Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  283 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Blending literary scholarship with practical coaching on how to craft short or long life narratives, Rainer traces the history of autobiography from Egyptian inscriptions through its recent evolution on the bestseller lists. Aided by examples from such writers as Maya Angelou, Russell Baker, Richard Rodriguez, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mikal Gilmore, and Carolyn See, among oth ...more
Paperback, 353 pages
Published April 13th 1998 by Tarcherperigee (first published 1997)
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4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  283 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-writing
It is a bit rare these days that I rate a book as amazing. This one is for me. I began reading this book because I’m writing my master’s thesis on spiritual memoirs and I figured that reading a book about how to write “memoir as literature” would be a good idea since it might give me a jump start on analysis. In the back of my mind I’ve long had the idea to write a memoir about my dearest brother who was like a father to me. Well, this will be my guidebook when that time comes. Rainer’s lifelong ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing

If you’re writing a Memoir, Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer is for you. If you’re writing fiction, this book has much to offer. If you want to examine a part of your life, or to understand something you’ve experienced, even if you are not a writer, use this book as a guide and try your hand at writing. You may well surprise yourself!
Jules Vilmur
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers
Shelves: reference
Last week, I was scouring the library for resource books on Memoir. I didn't come up with much beyond the handful I'd already dug through, but later the same night, while re-shelving my own books in our new office, I tripped over "Your Life As Story".

It's one of the books I bought while researching my thesis on Therapeutic Writing a decade ago and the spine is familiar as any other on my shelf, but I haven't cracked it since September of 2002. I picked up the book, flipped through it and laughed
Aug 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Alison Cummings, Karen Leh
Recommended to Lisa by: Martha Brammer
I have always been skeptical of instructional writing manuals, with the notable exception Stunk and White's definitive work, The Elements of Style. Writing is not a mechanical act, and literature resists most nuts and bolts descriptions. Until now. Your Life as Story is proving to be an exhaustive exploration of the evolution of contemporary memoir. Tristine Rainer dissects the defining narrative elements of a wide range of enduring literary achievements with the clarity of a archeologist wieldi ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
This is one of the best single books available on how to write a memoir. It really focuses on the need to find the story in the events, and shape the narrative. The explanation of the elements of story is the clearest thing I have ever read on that topic. The writing is engaging, and she gives great examples.
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Sep 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing

Everybody has a story to tell and through that we come to know what our life means. From the beginning the author favors the description of the new autobiography, here fiction and reality inter-mingle and we proceed to read our life as if it were a dream imaginatively reshaped. The mystery and complexity of literature are interwoven in the writing of our life as New Autobiography. We don't have to look too far in the past, but what are our modern myths? Starting with chapter 3, the author encour
Maria Ramos
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A great writing book, no matter if you are writing fiction or non-fiction. Though the book is geared towards people writing memoir, the section on how to "slice" your life for memoir writing gave me real insight into the narrative arc for fiction, and that the choice of what time period in your character's life that your novel will cover is not arbitrary--it is related to the theme. Rainer is a generous, grounded writer, and offers many true life examples. A very helpful book.
Maria Keckler
Sep 15, 2012 is currently reading it
Just getting started and enjoying it... Rainer is talking about the concepts Don Miller has synthesized and popularized in his Storyline book and conference. She delves deeper, particularly bringing into focus the cognitive and psychological research findings that support that seeing our life in the context of story structure and writing about it has the power to bring healing at many levels...

I'll share more when I'm done.
Kristina Seleshanko
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Essential reading for the memoir or autobiography writer, and useful for novelists, too. The first chapter or two is dry, and I was worried the book would be too academic, but it turned out perfectly practical. I've never read such a great explanation of good story structure (the acts). Plus, there's great advice on "waking up" your memories and powers of observation, writing "what you dare not say," theme, jumping through time, ethical and legal concerns, and more.
Kevin Parham
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. A good read with easy-to-understand concepts about writing autobiography and memoir. The approachable style and frankness with which the material is presented makes you feel as if you're right there in the author's Literature class.

Recommended reading for any aspiring author of memoir.

Sylvia Valevicius
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent reference book for people whose intention it is to write a memoir or autobiography. Lots of good examples from other works. I was happy to recognize and relate to many of the writers to which Ms. Rainer refers.

No even sure if I finished it all, but I jump here and there to parts that interest me. Eventually, I'm sure it will be the entire book.

Worthwhile investment!
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, inspiration, memoir
Despite the title (she does have a thing for the word New and she wants to drive it home!) this was a good book. I do cringe every time I see the word "new" capitalized in the text. It makes me almost jump every time I see it. Oh, there it is again. Goodness.

But seriously, if you plan to write an autobiography (whether old or new. or heck, even ancient, archaic, current, or contemporary!) you'll get some good tips here. I think her book on Modern Diary-writing was her best, though. (Oh, okay, Th
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-books
I found this book very helpful in making sense of the crazy path that is writing a memoir. She talks about the shape of a story and gives many techniques for findin the story within the facts and anecdotes of your life. One of my favorite craft books!
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I used this book to write a memoir and it was extremely helpful. I highly recommend it for anyone writing an autobiography or memoir!
Sep 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: memoirists
I was afraid it would be cheesy or new-age-y, but I'm actually finding it very helpful. She has a talent for putting things that I know subconsciously into a very concrete, usable expression.
sarah  morgan
Feb 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If only I could I'd give this book six stars, I would. It is packed with good advice on writing memoir. I'll be keeping this in my reference library for years to come.
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm learning from this book how to tell stories in a more compelling way. Everyone who wants to write their life's stories (and that should be everyone) should read this.
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Full of suggestions. I will use it often as a reference book.
Nicole Hardina
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent companion when striving to making meaning of life by writing narrative nonfiction.
Melanie Griffin
excellent book on writing - any kind, but focus on memoir. I'm going to read it again, and this time I'll do the exercises : -)
Grace Peterson
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
EXCELLENT. This book provided the tools I needed to write my memoir. I highly recommend it to anyone who has questions about how to go about the process.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Save yourself the trouble: do not buy this book. Reading widely in preparation for writing a memoir, I read Mary Karr's "Memoir as Art," (mostly good, see my review). She mentioned this book, so I thought I'd read it as well. It reeks of an atmosphere of Eighties chic: "Lives of the Rich and Famous," et all. I read the first fifty pages and decided to throw it away.
Daniel Hiland
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Still the best book on memoir that I've ever read.
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Meh. I read this book for a class. While it did occasionally have some good tips, it was kind of a rambling book. Tristine Rainer seemed to feel the need to constantly explain herself to the reader, or apologize to the reader, which got annoying pretty quickly. It also felt like she believes her book has a lot more influence than it does; saying things like "It's my job to give you your voice" is pretty grating for any writer to read. I have my voice, thank you. I don't need or want your assista ...more
A. Catherine Noon
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I love Rainer's The New Diary, and when I started getting the itch to work on my autobiography, I decided to look around for books that talked about how to do one. I found this book and have devoured it.

Her approach is friendly and scholarly at the same time. She takes you through the history of the form through to how to write your own without boring the hell out of the reader - no mean feat.

Highly recommended.
Sep 22, 2008 rated it liked it
I'm only a few chapters in on this book but so far it's excellent. I just finished an exercise that had me take a momentous event in my life and turn it into a short fairytale. The compressed format forced me to be short on description and strong on plot points. I'm looking forward to reading more.
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
When my first copy of this book got ruined, I bought another! Rainer's ideas are different from mine in some ways, but I like the way she writes and she did make me think about other pathways that I could choose. This is a book well worth reading.
This book sounded good, but after reading about half of it, I wasn't feeling inspired. I may turn back to this to read some of the later chapters, but I already know what I want to write, and pretty much how I want to write it.
B. Lynn
Feb 26, 2010 added it
Recommends it for: writers and others
Comprehensive and encouraging. When I tried the activities, I got good results.
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really wanted a book on how to write someone else's biography, but this was the closest I could find at the time. Great instructions so far -- I feel like I'm adding to my skill set.
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Memoir Writing 2 6 Feb 14, 2016 08:45PM  
  • Writing the Memoir
  • Writing for Your Life: Discovering the Story of Your Life's Journey
  • Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice
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  • Writing Life Stories
  • The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less
  • A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries
  • Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
  • Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers
  • Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal
  • Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
  • Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth - Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life
  • One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer's Art and Craft
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • At a Journal Workshop
  • What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
  • Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir
  • Fiction Writer's Workshop
Tristine Rainer, Ph.D, is a pioneer in the fields of contemporary journal writing and narrative autobiography. Her book The New Diary, how to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity has sold over 200,000 copies and has been used as a text in university Psychology and Occupational Therapy courses, although her degree was in English Lit. After a quarter of a century in print The New ...more