Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Second Edit

( 3 )


Since Writing the Memoir came out in early 1997 it has sold roughly 80,000 copies and is consistently praised as "the best book on memoir out there." It is thought-provoking, explanatory, and practical: each chapter ends with writing exercises. It covers everything from questions of truth and ethics to questions of craft and the crucial retrospective voice. An appendix provides information on legal issues.

Judith Barrington, an award-winning memoir writer and acclaimed writing ...

See more details below
Paperback (REV)
BN.com price
(Save 16%)$14.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (24) from $5.86   
  • New (16) from $7.80   
  • Used (8) from $5.99   
Sending request ...


Since Writing the Memoir came out in early 1997 it has sold roughly 80,000 copies and is consistently praised as "the best book on memoir out there." It is thought-provoking, explanatory, and practical: each chapter ends with writing exercises. It covers everything from questions of truth and ethics to questions of craft and the crucial retrospective voice. An appendix provides information on legal issues.

Judith Barrington, an award-winning memoir writer and acclaimed writing teacher, is attuned to the forces, both external and internal, that work to stop a writer; her tone is respectful of the difficulties and encouraging of taking risks. Her nimble prose, her deep belief in the importance of this genre, and her delight in the rich array of memoirists writing today make this book more than the typical "how-to" creative writing book. In this second edition the author has added new material and reflects on issues raised since Writing the Memoir was written, early in the memoir boom.

"No student of memoir writing could fail to learn from this wise, pragmatic, and confiding book. One hears on every page the voice of an intelligent and responsive teacher, with years of thinking about memoir behind her."—Vivian Gornick

Judith Barrington is the author of Lifesaving: A Memoir and numerous individual memoirs which have been published in literary magazines and anthologies. She is the author of three volumes of poetry: Trying to Be an Honest Woman, History and Geography, and Horses and the Human Soul (forthcoming in 2002). She has taught creative writing for the past twenty years.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1963, when poet Barrington was 19, an event sliced her life in two: the cruise ship Lakonia departed Southampton, England, with her parents aboard. Three days later, north of Madeira, a fire broke out, and 131 passengers, including her parents, were left stranded without lifeboats and drowned. (Her mother had often predicted she would die at sea, yet Barrington's father had been fond of egging his wife into sailing races and other water sports.) In this accomplished memoir, Barrington recalls the three years that followed this incident, in which she fled to a small town in northern Spain; her book doubles as the lesbian coming-out story of a young woman who must resolve her truncated relationship with her parents. Flashbacks to a lonely childhood in which she couldn't connect with either parent and particularly despised her "pigheaded" father give way to a future in which Barrington is finally able to achieve a degree of resolution around her loss. And as Barrington recounts her adventures in Catalonia, where she worked as the tour guide at a busy winery, the narrative reveals the complex ways in which she began to find, and accept, herself. Throughout, her writing is superb; she evokes smalltown Spain under Franco in lush detail with solid philosophical insight into the tragedy that changed her life: "What I had gleaned from my parents' death was not that ships are dangerous, but that what you fear most is." Among the growing number of memoirs, this is a gem. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Barrington, a British poet and author, demonstrates her mastery of words in this coming-of-age story. Barrington's parents drowned as a result of a cruise ship fire when she was 19, and here she reflects on her search for her identity at a time when she was in denial of her parents' deaths. She goes to work in Spain, where her parents lived before she was born and where the family vacationed. The area and language are familiar to her, but she is enough of a foreigner that her somewhat strange behavior is excused. Barrington keeps herself so busy that she barely has the time or energy to deal with her loss. Finally, after three years, she is able to vent her emotions. She comes to realize how much she misses her parents and that she is not responsible for their deaths. What captivates the reader even more than the narrative is the wonderful prose the author employs in describing Spain and her life there. Recommended for all libraries.--Gina Kaiser, Univ. of the Sciences Lib., Philadelphia Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Library Journal
Seems like everyone wants to write his or her own memoirs these days. Memoirist and creative writing teacher Barrington (An Intimate Wilderness: Lesbian Writers on Sexuality, LJ 10/1/91) tells us how to do it. Her practical guide leads both experienced and novice writers through the writing process from idea to publication, addressing such technical problems as theme selection, voice, tone, form, plot, scene, and character development, as well as how to stimulate creative thinking and build necessary discipline. Barrington draws on the writings of Alice Walker, Kathleen Norris, Annie Dillard, Frank Conroy, and Virginia Woolf to illustrate her techniques. Her common-sense approach strives to temper the emotional honesty of the genre with the integrity of artistic skill. Libraries supporting a writers' group (for which Barrington includes a do's-and-don'ts section) will want several copies. Academic and school libraries might want it to supplement creative writing curriculums.Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780933377509
  • Publisher: The Eighth Mountain Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 212,414
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.38 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 11
1 What Is Memoir? 17
2 Who Cares? and Other Thoughts on Getting Started 33
3 Finding Form 47
4 The Truth: What, Why, and How? 61
5 Scene, Summary, and Musing 79
6 Moving Around in Time 93
7 Using Your Senses 107
8 Naming Names 119
9 Writing about Living People 129
10 Your Memoir and the World 139
11 Watch Out for the Myths 151
12 Getting Feedback on Your Work 161
App Your Memoir and the Law 171
Permissions Acknowledgments 177
Index of Authors and Titles 181
About the Author 187
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2009

    Good book for beginners like me.

    This book was recommended to me in a memoir writing class and I found it helpful as I begin to draft some of my memories into written form. The book includes simple writing exercises to get you started and in the habit, and also includes the basics you need to know to write from your own experiences.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)