Your Life as Story: Discovering the 'New Autobiography' and Writing Memoir as Literature

Overview

In Your Life As Story, autobiography expert Tristine Rainer explains how we can all find the important messages in our lives. Like Mary Karr or Frank McCourt, we can shape those stories into dramatic narratives that are compelling to others. Blending literary scholarship with practical coaching, Rainer shares her remarkable techniques for finding the essentials of story structure within your life's scattered experiences. Most important, she explains how to treasure the struggles in your past and discover the ...

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Overview

In Your Life As Story, autobiography expert Tristine Rainer explains how we can all find the important messages in our lives. Like Mary Karr or Frank McCourt, we can shape those stories into dramatic narratives that are compelling to others. Blending literary scholarship with practical coaching, Rainer shares her remarkable techniques for finding the essentials of story structure within your life's scattered experiences. Most important, she explains how to treasure the struggles in your past and discover the meaning within those experiences to capture the unique myth at work in your life.

This definitive guide to writing the story only you can tell is offered by the author of The New Diary (75,000 copies sold). Here is an author who practices what she generously teaches--how to write about oneself with courage, perspective and humor. 368 pp. 15,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rainer (The New Diary) claims that this is the "most complete and advanced book" on writing autobiography, and yes, she backs it up. While it bypasses the most basic questions of craft-which would-be autobiographers must also master-this book includes a sophisticated mix of analysis, examples and exercises. The "New Autobiography," according to Rainer, borrows the techniques and structure of the novel-though purists may blanch at her acceptance of nonliteral truth and her inclusion of Pam Houston and other autobiographical fictioneers. Still, Rainer seems to know storytelling, and she analyzes the varieties and elements of story structure as well as showing how to vary chronology. She suggests that the search for an individual voice must precede any attempt to speak for a larger group. Rainer offers good suggestions on casting characters in a life story, sorting episodes into themes and writing realistic dialogue. She includes examples from classes she teaches in Southern California, advising other teachers that such work must be critiqued with great sensitivity. Finally, she provides sensible advice about the publishing world and how to form a memoir group. For those willing to do the work, Rainer is an excellent guide. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In The New Diary, written 20 years ago, Rainer held that the diary as a literary genre is "a tool for personal growth and for realizing creative potential." This, her latest effort, purports to be a hands-on guide to the craft of autobiographical writing, but it is more like a self-help guide to finding peace and self-fulfillment. Rainer defines the new autobiography as "the application of story structure to...life experiences to give them meaning. It's reading your life as if it were a dream." Her guide is weak on story structure, and only in the final two chapters and appendixes does she address the mechanics of editing and submission (including Internet publishing). For Rainer, the motivations of the writer supersede the quality of the writing and the expectations of the intended audience. Not recommended for serious writing collections, though libraries with writing groups may want to consider because of the support and encouragement offered to the novice.Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll., Greensburg, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874779226
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1ST TRADE
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 309,023
  • Product dimensions: 8.74 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Tristine Rainer is the director of the Center for Autobiographic Studies in Pasadena, California. She teaches autobiographic writing at the University of California Los Angeles and at the University of Southern California.

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Table of Contents

1. The Story Only You Can Tell
2. The Evolution of a New Autobiography
3. What Is a Story?
4. A Story Depends on How You Slice It
5. The Nine Essential Elements of Story Structure
6. Genres of the Self
7. Tricks Memory Plays on You and Tricks You Can Play on It
8. Finding Your Voice
9. Portraying Yourself: You Are Your Hero
10. Portraying Others: Casting Your Story from Life
11. Truth in Autobiographic Writing
12. How to Write What You Dare Not Say
13. Dealing with Your Dark Side
14. Writing the Body
15. Theme: String for Your Pearls
16. Scenepearls
17. Anatomy of a Scene: Description, Inner Responses, Dialog, and Structure
18. Jumping and Leaping through Time
19. Humor
20. Dressing Up before Going Out
21. Emotional, Legal, and Ethical Concerns
22. Finishing the Unfinished Story Appendices:
1. Forming or Finding a Memoir Group
2. Selling Your Story for Fame and Fortune and Other Good Alternatives Bibliography of Autobiographic Works and Critical Works on Memoir Cited in the Text Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2005

    Excellent book for both memoir and fiction writing

    I'm a multi-published novelist trying her hand at memoir writing, and YOUR LIFE AS STORY has been a phenomenal aide. I continually find myself thanking Ms. Rainer for taking the time to cover EVERYTHING that goes into writing a memoir. Her exercises help me sort out and make sense of the jumble of memories rolling around in my head. I'm going to recommend this book in the fiction workshops I teach as well, because her approach to story and structure are so right on.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 18, 2008

    Buy this book if you're writing a memoir

    I've been working on a memoir for three years. If I had read Tristine Rainer's book before I started, I could have saved myself the first two.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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