I recently asked several author friends of mine for their advice on “Writing Your Life Story” for a workshop I taught at Overland Expo this year. Here are the wonderful nuggets they shared plus the “blurbs” from Amazon that demonstrate how books are described to entice you to buy them. Not every book below is the author’s latest book but instead is a book that is an example of Writing a Life Story.
Don’t bother writing your life story unless you A. are willing to tell the truth without worrying about what Auntie or Cousin or Momma thinks and B. don’t care if it ever gets published. (The object of the exercise is to just do it.)
Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan—said to be one of the happiest places on earth.
I suppose I would echo the four points of the TEDxMonterey talk that I just did. I presented them as a means of “Catching Creative Ideas” and used as examples various magazine articles that I’ve written. But I’d say they apply to writing personal essays and memoirs, too:
Wonder out loud (everything you encounter or ever have encountered in your journeys can be a launching point for a memory or epiphany). Counter conventional wisdom (offer the reader something they might not have expected). Find the real story (sometimes it’s buried beneath the obvious layers). Find the right angle (it’s not always about what you say, but how you choose to convey the thought).
Can you find love in Love, Virginia? Is there inspiration in Inspiration, Arizona? Brad Herzog took stock of his Generation X lifestyle and didn’t like what he discovered. So he and his wife emptied their bank accounts, packed everything into a Winnebago, and set a course for a fabled America they weren’t sure existed.
What began as a literal search for the small places on the map became a figurative examination of the small places of the heart, a quest for virtues lost amid negativity and disillusionment. From Justice, West Virginia, where one-half the population descends from the Hatfields and McCoys, to Harmony, California, a town that’s up for sale and can be yours for the right price, States Of Mind eloquently and intelligently brings into focus an American psyche often blurred by intersecting cultures — and is, ultimately, an unforgettable journey all its own.
“Write from the heart and don’t worry about whether or not other people approve it.”
Debbie Gisonni weaves a unique combination of coping strategies, spirituality, and humor with an unbelievable course of events – a time in her life when she lost four family members in four years to brain tumors, cancer and suicide while holding executive positions in the high-tech industry. Debbie tells us how she stayed sane and happy through it all and the lessons she learned that could help others with their own life challenges. Part memoir, part self-help, this book will move you to tears and laughter. Her 44 real life lessons and nightly chats with God will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
“You are going to question yourself over what gives you the right to write this. It is normal, but to become an author you need to push through it and embrace the fact that if you don’t write it someone else might. Push through the doubt and do the work.”
Amazing Things Will Happen offers straightforward advice that can be put into action to improve your life. Through personal anecdotes from the author’s life, and interviews of successful individuals across several industries, this book demonstrates how to achieve success, in all aspects of life, through hard work and acts of kindness. Split into five sections, this book details how to begin the self-improvement journey.
Make it utterly unique while at the same time totally universal.
Queen of the Oddballs is a hilariously offbeat memoir about an adventurous young woman’s escapades as she defies conventions and transforms an ordinary Los Angeles life into a star-studded, extraordinary miracle of self-discovery.