Book Review: “Thinking About Memoir” by Abigail Thomas

“This is a book about writing memoir. It doesn’t come with blueprints or a set of instructions – there aren’t any.” So begins the preface to Thinking About Memoir. Like many authors trying to teach readers how to approach the genre of memoir writing, Abigail Thomas stresses finding ways to free yourself to write about anything and everything, focusing on finding a “side door” into the memories of your life. Her book comes with practical advice about writing frequently, tapping into hidden memories, and addressing the structure of your story.

Thomas frequently uses her own life experiences and the topics she herself writes about in the many writing prompts she provides in Thinking About Memoir. Her ability to examine herself with a comic eye makes her brief personal accounts funny and memorable, leaving the reader with a smile long after this short, but useful and enjoyable book is finished.

Thomas devotes a chapter to “Writing from Loss,” which is a subject core to many would-be memoirists’ experiences. She gives the reader many facets from which to consider loss, each one with a creative writing prompt and an example from her own experience to help guide the reader in his or her memoir writing endeavors.

Unlike many authors addressing memoir writing, Thomas presents writing exercises based on length, not time. She suggests writing two pages on each of the unique topics she presents in her book, such as “Write two pages about a time when you felt compassion unexpectedly; write two pages about something you wrote or did that you no longer understand; write two pages of a thank-you letter you don’t mean a word of.” This interesting approach to remembering feelings that may be associated with events the new memoir writer isn’t thinking about help the reader to find the “side door” into his or her memories that Thomas describes as a key to writing memoir.

Other Memoir Writing Books and Resources

Writing About Your Life, William Zinsser

Before We Get Started, Bret Lott

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

Resources for Memoir Writers

About Abigail Thomas
From the book cover: Thinking About Memoir, the first volume in the “Arts of Living” series from AARP, is the sixth book from Abigail Thomas, whose memoir A Three Dog Life was named a Best Book of 2006 by The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. A former editor and literary agent, Thomas is also the author of Safekeeping, Herb’s Pajamas, and An Actual Life. She teaches fiction writing in the graduate program at The New School in New York.

Book Information: Thinking About Memoir
Hardcover, 118 pages
Publisher: Sterling
Price: $14.95
ISBN-13: 9781402752353
ISBN-10: 1402752350

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