About Tristine Rainer, Founder and Director

Tristine Rainer

Tristine Rainer, Ph.D. is a pioneer and expert in journal writing and narrative autobiography.  Her book The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-guidance and Expanded Creativity (1978, updated 2004) is credited with beginning the personal writing movement in the United States and Europe, and now Asia. The New Diary has sold over 200,000 copies domestically and, for over 30 years, has been a text in university Psychology, Writing, Education, and Occupational Therapy courses. Never our of print in the States, The New Diary has been translated into most European languages, and recently has been published in Korea (2011) and China (2012).

Rainer’s book Your Life as Story: Discovering the New Autobiography and Writing Memoir as Literature (1997) was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. College and university instructors assign it in creative writing and story structure classes and thousands of published memoirists (some quite renown) have relied on it.

Before founding the non-profit Center for Autobiographic Studies in 1996, Rainer co-founded another prescient organization: the Women’s Studies Program at UCLA in 1972. In the mid-1970’s, she co-taught with diarist Anaïs Nin a creative writing course for International College, where they developed techniques for nurturing the unique voice of each writer. In addition, Rainer taught literature and writing in the English departments at UCLA and Indiana University.

In 1979 Rainer bought a dress-for-success suit with impressive shoulder pads and took a 20-year sabbatical from university teaching to slog it out in the television movie business. Her first job was as a Development Exec at Dan Curtis Productions (Dark Shadows, Winds of War). After several other development jobs, she became President of Grand Central Films, a co-venture for international co-productions between Thames Television and D.L.Taffner. Independently, as an writer/producer, she nurtured projects from conception to broadcast under her own banner: Games Mother Never Taught You (CBS, Loretta Swit, Sam Waterston), Having it All (ABC, Dyan Cannon) Secrets of a Married Man (NBC, William Shatner, Cybill Sheppard) and Forbidden Nights (CBS, Melissa Gilbert). Having shaped true life stories into popular television films, she returned to writing books and lecturing to teach memoirists how to craft their own life experiences.

Her understanding of story acquired in the trenches, combined with her academic background in literature, led her to write Your Life as Story and to create the first autobiographic writing course for UCLA Extension (1996), the first autobiographic film course for University of Hawaii (2003), and the first memoir class in the USC Masters of Professional Writing Program, where for 11 years she was a faculty member until 2010. Currently she is finishing her own memoir for publication and consulting as an editor and coach for other authors.


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A partial list of published memoirs on which Tristine Rainer provided editorial consultation:

The Center Cannot Hold, my journey through madness, by Elyn R. Saks. Hyperion, NY 2007

Not A Happy Camper by Mindy Schneider, Grove Press, NY 2007

Except for One Little Problem, memoir of a Life in Hiding, by Joan Denson. Barricade, 2001

Car Camping by Mark Sundeen, Harper Collins Pub NY, 2000

Apprentice to the Dawn a spiritual memoir, by James C. Ingebretsen, The Philosophical Research society, 2003

Wheeling the Deal by Chip Jacobs, Behler Publications, CA  2008

In the Wings, a Memoir by Diana Douglas, Barricade Books,1999

The Vulture’s Wisdom, Larry Coralli as told to Jan Lawhon Dean & Franklin, 2002

The Last Pachuco by Ray Elizondo, Autumn Leaf press 2007

Siren’s Feast, an Edible Odyssey by Nancy Mehagian, Cielo press,2008

For a Dancer, the memoir by Emma Stephens, Saint Columba Press, 2011

A Hidden Madness by James T.R. Jones, 2011.

Bobo’s Daughter by Bonnie Ann Barnett, Morris publishing, 2001

Stolen Hours (breaking free from Secret Addictions) by John Howard Prin, Syren Book Company, 2004

Imagining Liza, memoir of a fan by Beverly Raffensperger Fauvre Hawthorne Publishing Westfield, IN 2000

Becoming Alice, a memoir, by Alice Rene iUniverse, Lincoln NE 2006

Shades of Justice by Paul Krehbiel, Autumn Leaf Press, 2008

The Last Mad Lover, by Howard Ross, Publish America, 2006


Books by Tristine Rainer

The New Diary


New Edition Now Available!

Brings the Journal into the Digital Age with a New Preface, Examples and Exercises.

Over 200,000 copies sold.

The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-guidance and Expanded Creativity. 1979, 2004 New Edition.

“…extensively researched, useful…all you’ve wanted to know…” LA TIMES

“…a perceptive and revolutionary work that will share the immense wealth of new knowledge…with all those who are seeking inner harmony and creative freedom.” Anais Nin

Your Life as Story


LA Times Bestseller List

Your Life as Story: Discovering the New Autobiography and Writing Memoir as Literature. 1997, trade paper ‘98

“…in the author’s tips on how to define one’s personal mythology, together with tools offered for creating the actual structure of one’s story…a great case is made for the importance of pursuing the threads of a life…” BOOKLIST, March ’97

“Rainer is an excellent guide.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Jan. 27, ’97

As reviewed by Cultural Information Service, May ’97:

“Your Life as Story: Writing the New Autobiography”(A Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Book, $24.95, ISBN 0-87477-861-1) by Tristine Rainer presents an exhilarating overview of the latest literary trend in America. The author of “The New Diary” (1978) and now director of the Center for Autobiographic Studies in Pasadena, California, defines this genre of writing as a blend of literature and myth that emphasizes self-discovery. Rainer begins with a chapter on the tradition of autobiographic writing from Augustine’s “Confessions” through recent works by Maya Angelou and Carolyn See. She outlines nine items of story structure using illustrative material from Russell Baker’s “Growing Up” and Colette Dowling’s “The Cinderella Complex.” After summarizing the many genres of your life as story, Rainer gets down to a nuts-and-bolts discussion of meaning vs. reminiscence, finding your voice, dealing with your dark side, portraying others, time devices, an anatomy of a scene, and emotional, legal, and ethical concerns. Whether you are an avid reader of memoirs or someone interested in trying your hand at this fascinating craft, here is the best book available on the subject.” Frederic Brussat