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How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days
Step-by-Step Instructions for Creating and Publishing Your Personal Story
Roberta Temes, PhD

Reader’s Digest
March 2014/ ISBN 9781621451457
Nonfiction// Writer’s Reference

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


As a psychotherapist, the author approaches memoir writing from more of a therapeutic than a writing perspective in this helpful new book. The instructions seem directed mainly toward beginning writers, although previously published authors who want to expand into memoir writing also can benefit from this book. After completing 30 memory-based writing exercises in 30 days, in which readers write essays from prompts, the memoir may be partially developed or near completion, depending upon the individual.

In the Introduction, Temes explains different types of memoirs: relationship, animal, illness, religious, business, travel, romantic, tell-all, disaster, coming-of-age, and call-to-action. As readers progress through the exercises, they may notice many essays revolve around one particular subject, such as how a certain pet changed their life or how pets throughout their life have shaped how they deal with people. One particularly important exercise takes place on Day 18, when readers are asked to “write about something that happened in your life that changed your way of thinking.” Samples of what others have written in response to the daily prompts help guide readers through each challenge.

The writing assignments focus mainly on content of the memoir and specifically identifying one’s personal mission in life, although the author does provide abbreviated information addressing writing mechanics and the road to publication. Beginning on Day 6, “Clear Communication” tips in each chapter explain stylistic issues. These tips are intended to assist new writers and serve as reminders for professional writers. An Appendix also offers basic information about pre-publication, self-publishing, and traditional publishing. Some memoirs may be for the writer’s benefit only; others may be appropriate for family and friends; some stories will appeal to a mass audience.

While How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days provides great step-by-step instructions for creating a personal life story, the publishing promise in the subtitle may be overly optimistic. It’s certainly possible for any dedicated reader to complete the basic writing assignments in 30 days, but proofreading, editing, and rewrites take considerably longer, and frankly, some personal stories are interesting only to the storyteller.

Reviewed 2014