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The Autobiographer's Handbook

The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir

Edited by Jennifer Traig; Introduction by Dave Eggers

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ISBN10: 0805087133
ISBN13: 9780805087130

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256 Pages



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In The Autobiographer's Handbook, you're invited to a roundtable discussion with today's most successful memoirists. Nick Hornby shows you how the banal can be brilliant, Elizabeth Gilbert reveals how to turn pain into prose, and Steve Almond has the answer to beating procrastination. Learn about memory triggers (Ishmael Beah: music) and warm-up exercises (Jonathan Ames: internet backgammon). These writers may not always agree (on research: Tobias Wolff, yes, Frank McCourt, no) but whether you're a blossoming writer or a veteran wordsmith, this book will help anyone who has ever dreamed of putting their story on paper.

Featuring Steve Almond, Jonathan Ames, Ishmael Beah, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby, A. J. Jacobs, Maxine Hong Kingston, Phillip Lopate, Frank McCourt, David Rakoff, Esmeraldo Santiago, Julia Scheeres, Art Spiegelman, Anthony Swofford, Sarah, Vowell, Sean Wilsey, Tobias Wolff, and others.


Praise for The Autobiographer's Handbook

"In 1980, Esquire magazine featured a chimp and a typewriter on its cover, accompanied by the strapline: 'Is Anyone in America Not Writing a Screenplay?' These days, the strapline would read: 'Is Anyone in America Not Writing a Memoir?' In this respect, Dave Eggers has a lot to answer for. Not only did his own memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, propel him into the first rank of contemporary authors, but he used some of the money he made from that book to set up 826 Valencia, a series of nonprofit writing centers (the first was on Valencia street in San Francisco) that teach people how to write memoirs, among other things. One of the tutors at 826 Valencia, Jennifer Traig, has put together The Autobiographer's Handbook, a distillation of the combined wisdom of 41 memoirists about how to do it. Grouped under such headings as 'Meeting Your Muse' and 'Getting It Out There'—but surprisingly, given the times, not 'Making It Up Out of Whole Cloth'—these authors weigh in with their sage advice, usually no longer than a paragraph."—Toby Young, The Wall Street Journal

"Put out by 826 Valencia, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Eggers started to provide creative writing instruction for middle and high school students, this book presents straightforward, practical ideas and advice from a double-handful of contemporary writers. Edited by memoirist Traig, a longtime 826 Valencia tutor, it's comprised largely of excerpts from wide-ranging, insightful round-table discussions among nonfiction practitioners like Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby, Frank McCourt and Sarah Vowell. To find the right topic, for example, Gus Lee suggests you ‘write about the biggest, scariest darn elephant in the living room of your soul.' To decide which elements to edit, Laura Fraser says, ‘nobody cares if you go to yoga on Tuesdays . . . unless it will contribute to the story or to the character that is you.' Besides lessons on celebrating the ordinary and the importance of humor, contributors also offer ways to push through the inevitable writer's block and handle miffed family and friends. Their guidance, complemented by writing exercises and work plans, should prove useful, informative and motivating for writers at just about any level."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Edited by Jennifer Traig; Introduction by Dave Eggers

826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco dedicated to supporting students aged six to eighteen with their writing skills. The first center opened in 2002 and since then, more than 10,000 volunteers have donated their time, with 826 centers springing up in New York, L.A., Ann Arbor, Chicago, and Seattle; 826 Boston will open in the fall of 2007. All proceeds from The Autobiographer's Handbook will benefit the 826 centers.

Jennifer Traig, a longtime 826 tutor and workshop teacher, is the author of the memoirs-Well Enough Alone and Devil in the Details (2004). She holds a Ph.D. in literature, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, JANE, The Observer (London), and the San Francisco Chronicle.