Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past

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"This book by William Zinsser, author of the classic guide On Writing Well, tells you how to write about the people and places and events in your life that have been important to you - whether you're writing a memoir, a family history or just a recollection of experiences you'd like to preserve or more fully understand. His method is to take you on a memoir of his own: 13 chapters in which he recalls dramatic, amusing and often inspiring moments in his long and unusually varied life as a writer, editor, teacher and traveler." Writing About Your
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Overview

"This book by William Zinsser, author of the classic guide On Writing Well, tells you how to write about the people and places and events in your life that have been important to you - whether you're writing a memoir, a family history or just a recollection of experiences you'd like to preserve or more fully understand. His method is to take you on a memoir of his own: 13 chapters in which he recalls dramatic, amusing and often inspiring moments in his long and unusually varied life as a writer, editor, teacher and traveler." Writing About Your Life gives you the tools to organize and recover your past and the confidence to believe in your life narrative. It also gives you permission - through the example of a life enriched by change and risk - to make bold life choices of your own.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Zinsser, author of a classic guide for nonfiction authors, On Writing Well, looks back on his own years of professional writing, glossing selections from his past articles with advice for would-be memoirists. He begins with impressionistic sketches of his WWII experiences as a young army private in North Africa and Italy. Next he details his 13-year career at the New York Herald Tribune, where he wrote drama and movie features. He draws humorously and self-effacingly on his impromptu role as an extra for Woody Allen in Stardust Memories. With quietly witty insights into academic life, Zinsser charts years spent teaching at Yale while writing freelance for magazines such as Look. An account of his service as an editor at the Book-of-the-Month Club includes a history of that venerable institution. Finally Zinsser brings us up-to-date with his recent rebirth as a public pianist. To follow one's heart is Zinsser's most enduring piece of advice. In writing he recommends dwelling on "small, self-contained incidents" and making use of anecdotes and vivid memories. When discussing capturing places in print, he comments usefully on the changing trends of the travel genre (increased political correctness). Zinsser is warmly appreciative of other well-known memoirists and their organizational methods, admiring in particular Thoreau, Frank McCourt, Mary Karr and Annie Dillard. While his frank, affirmative and encouraging style will help anyone embarking on writing their own life story, his book will be especially useful to those of his own generation. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
There has been no shortage in recent years of how-to manuals for aspiring memoirists. Zinsser, author of the venerable style guide On Writing Well, understands that the best way to learn any craft is by observing and emulating its masters. For the 1987 book Inventing the Truth, he collected a series of autobiographical lectures by Annie Dillard, Russell Baker, and others. In his current book he adds extensive commentary to the examples he has chosen. An important difference is that the excerpts here are all by the same writer: Zinsser himself. With politically correct hindsight, he condemns the early travel writing he presents here as racist and dishonest, but the other pieces are offered as illustrations of proper autobiographical style. The book is essentially a memoir punctuated by the author's comments on his own technique, with the line between commentary and memoir frequently blurred. For more practical instruction and diverse examples, consider Judith Barrington's Writing the Memoir (2d ed.) or Tristine Rainer's Your Life as Story. Recommended more for background reading on Zinsser than as how-to. Susan M. Colowick, Timberland Regional Lib., Tumwater, WA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569244685
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Messages on my machine 1
2 Writing about school 11
3 The larger world 29
4 A sense of enjoyment 43
5 Writing about places 63
6 People along the way 81
7 The uses of memory 99
8 An academic life 117
9 Books of the month 141
10 How to write a memoir 157
11 Writing as a ministry 175
12 Recovering the past 191
13 Change is a tonic 211
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