Telling Your Story:
A Basic Guide to Memoir Writing

by Joyce Murray Boatright

Stone Press Publishing, Houston, 2006. ISBN 0977022900.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 12/07/2005

Nonfiction: Creative Life

Where do I begin? How do I begin? Those questions often fly through my mind when I confront a blank page or an empty computer screen. I am not alone.

Joyce Murray Boatright knows the feeling. In Telling Your Story, she shares a professional writer's secret: "Even today, forty-plus years since my first published byline, the hardest part of writing still, for me, is to begin."

Hard it may be, but this Story Circle member and Circle leader offers a great deal of help, not only in getting started but in suggesting what to do after you get started and even what to do with your work after you finish. And she manages to do it in just a little over fifty pages.

Boatright draws on her experience not only as a professional writer and a teacher of writing, but also as a memoirist. She recounts how she began a family memoir as a Christmas gift for her parents who had "arrived at that point in their lives where they had everything they wanted." In that first effort in 1991, she recounted familiar family stories. Through the years the project grew as other family members' mother, brother, son and more contributed their stories. An inspiration for all of us!

After guidance on getting started, Boatright offers some interesting and fun suggestions on how to keep on going and how to break through blocks. Particularly enjoyable (and a little risky) is the game she has developed using writing prompts—The Luck of the Draw. She offers great advice about how to craft a memory, a recollection into a real story with a beginning, middle and end.

When you are finished? Boatright has suggestions for personal uses, such s "make a family album or a cookbook," and clear advice on how to go about preparing your manuscript for a wider audience.

This book will have wide appeal. I'm giving it to some friends who are only beginning to write their stories. However, I'm not giving away my copy. I'll use it to help out with my own writing. It is full of good suggestions I can use as I co-lead a Story Circle Network OWL (Older Women's Legacy) Circle.

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