Thinking About Memoir: Through the Side Door
by Abigail Thomas

Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-1-4027-5235-3.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 04/24/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life

Throughout my reading life, I have discovered that "little books" are often huge treasures. Abigail Thomas' Thinking About Memoir is one such little book, housing a huge treasure trove. Part mini-memoir, part motivational how-to for would-be memoirists, this is a book to be read cover to cover and then re-read with the necessary time and attention to really absorb all that Thomas imparts in a mere 110 pages.

This book is the first volume in AARP's "Arts of Living" series, but it is not just for seniors. Using life lessons as illustrations for the craft of writing memoir, Thomas guides the reader/writer through a variety of exercises that help to jump-start the process and then keep the writer motivated. Thomas has included a host of writing prompts throughout her book as well as adding several pages of writing prompts at the end—just in case the reader/writer didn't find the necessary "grout for a memoir," as she calls it, within the text. There are enough writing prompts in this little book to keep me writing for days and weeks to come!

The author's lighthearted approach to crafting a memoir is inviting and encouraging, and in no way intimdating. "Writing memoir is a way to figure out who you used to be and how you got to be who you are," writes Thomas in her opening chapter. But for me, the takeaway message of this book is found in Thomas' instruction to "trust the work to find its own way."

Abigail Thomas is the author of the memoir A Three Dog Life, which was named a Best Book of the Year 2006 by The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. She also has written Safekeeping, Herb's Pajamas, and An Actual Life. A former editor and literary agent, she now teaches fiction-writing at New York's The New School graduate program. Visit her web site.

(See another review of this book, here)

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