memoir and diary writing »

Instant memoir as a treatment for trauma?

April 24, 2014 | 1 Comment | by Tristine Rainer


For the past decade, subsequent to publishing Your Life as Story, I have been interested in developing a form of instant memoir, a new form of diary writing that incorporates the narrative structure of memoir with the immediacy of journal writing. A cross between diary and memoir that offers the benefits of both. In Your Life as Story I distinguished between diary and memoir this way: “the difference between diary and autobiography is that elusive partner in the process, time. The diarist writes from an ever-moving present. Autobiographic writing is written from a later point in time, in retrospect. The autobiographic writer, to a far greater extent than the diarist, re-members the past to find within it thematic continuity and coherent meaning.”

What if, I’ve been asking myself, one could write significant episodes, particularly traumatic ones, without waiting for the alchemy of Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility?” What if, … Read the rest

memoir and diary writing, Memoir writing »

A Guided Tour of Select Travel Memoirs by Tristine Rainer

October 12, 2013 | POST A COMMENT | by Tristine Rainer

Having recently been interviewed on how to structure travel memoir so it might interest someone besides one’s Facebook or Instagram fans, I dug out an essay I wrote back in the day when CAS stamped and snail-mailed a “First Person” quarterly to donors. Here for this digital medium’s brevity demands, is a new, short version:

We’ll be leaving the Hilton immediately and with it all glossy travel articles that are really an indirect form of advertising. Semi-promotional travel writing has nothing to do with the exploration of self that we’re pursuing in literary travel memoir.

So let’s pause here for the first rule before taking off on a narrative journey: SET UP A DESIRE LINE. What is your dream about your intended adventure?  What are you hoping for? For instance, in two of the early bestselling travel memoirs, Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence and Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan … Read the rest

Memoir writing »

It’s never too late for romantic love or for writing memoir

August 5, 2013 | 1 Comment | by Tristine Rainer

Guest blog from Evelyn De Wolfe

It’s never too late for love and passion, even in one’s eighties. Nor is it too late to share it in a memoir, when that experience turns out to be the most romantic in our lives. Yet, having never tackled this mode of self-expression before, I was daunted by the thought of publically revealing the intimacies between two seniors.

Friends finally convinced me that my unusual late-life love affair was added proof that love, though perishable is ageless. I am glad I allowed myself to be convinced because now having preserved something so rare and fragile has allowed me, and continues to allow me, to relive the beauty and depth of the emotions I experienced with Juan.

I went browsing with some trepidation in bookstores searching for how-to memoir books that would offer guidelines on how to free my imprisoned shyness and reluctance to … Read the rest

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October 25, 2012 | 2 Comments | by Tristine Rainer

By Emma J. Stephens

Author of For A Dancer: The Memoir

                  I once attended a movie premiere with my friend, its director.  The success of his independent film hinged on good reviews, so I was surprised to learn that he had no intention of viewing them.  His reasoning was, “People will tell me the good ones.”  I assumed being an artist required the courage and understanding that not everyone will be a fan (which is probably why I gravitated toward subjects in school with definite answers like math), so his behavior seemed a bit fragile.  Now, after the release of my memoir, which was not just an exposure of my writing ability but also my life, I realize the damage that can be done to one’s creative spirit if their work is disliked.  This fear of disapproval is what keeps many from embarking on the vulnerable journey of self-expression.

I … Read the rest

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Jonah Lehrer vs James Frey

August 18, 2012 | POST A COMMENT | by Tristine Rainer

In her Aug. 13 blog “The Ethics of Being a Nonfiction Writer” author Diana Raab explores the confusing, shifting and disappearing boundaries between fact and fiction in the scandals of Jonah Lehrer and James Frey.  This blog is in dialog with hers.

I, too, am troubled by the discrediting of James Frey and more recently Jonah Lehrer, authors exposed as liars when it was uncovered that they misrepresented events in Frey’s case and quotes in Lehrer’s that never existed.  I’m not a fan of either Frey or Lehrer, but not for the reasons they were discredited.  I find the work of both men inauthentic in the deepest sense, so I have no desire to defend them.  But I am concerned by the discourse about them: lumping of all nonfiction, as different as journalism and memoir, in the same basket.

Jonah Lehrer in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works was … Read the rest

Memoir writing »

Continuing the theme of How are you different after completing a memoir? author Emma Stephens offers a powerful guest blog:

August 1, 2012 | POST A COMMENT | by Tristine Rainer

Until a few years ago, reading memoir was about as appealing as sitting next to that uncle at a family reunion who wants to tell you all about his latest trip to the podiatrist.  “And there was an accident on the highway, and then they didn’t have me in the computer, and then…”  (You get the drift.)  Of the memoirs that hit the bestseller list, I assumed the protagonist was an extraordinary survivor of life’s injustice whose story was merely stumbled upon by a ghostwriter.  Realistically, who’d have thought girls like “Precious” would live to tell the tale.  The idea of writing a memoir myself was even more alien.  What did I really have to say?

The seed was planted when I embarked on a personal photo album project.  I began phoning relatives for additional pictures, accompanied by their memory of the occasion; most featuring my sister as the main … Read the rest

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Guest Blog on How Are You Different after Completing a Memoir

July 16, 2012 | 1 Comment | by Tristine Rainer

Continuing on the theme of How are you different after writing a memoir, memoirist and blogger for the Huffington Post  Diana M. Raab has written a guest blog.  Thank-you, Diana!

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. This is how I feel about having written and published two memoirs. I will never be the same. My first memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal was inspired by my bout with depression in 2001, following my cancer diagnosis. I wanted to learn about the origins of my grandmother’s suicide, which occurred when I was ten years old. I was curious about her state of mind prior to taking her life, and hoped that her journal would offer some useful information. The journey into the details of my grandmother’s story disclosed that she had a very … Read the rest

Memoir writing »

Post Memoir

June 1, 2012 | 3 Comments | by Tristine Rainer


The first question to be explored on this blog, that I hope will become a forum, is addressed to those of you who have completed a memoir, whether published, self-published or unpublished: How are you different now than you were before completing a memoir? Do you have any regrets? Advice to share?

I’ll step up to the plate first with a confession. My novelist friend Jim gave me a backhanded complement the other day, after I’d succeeded in fooling him about his surprise birthday party. “How did you get to be such a good liar?” he asked me, amazed.

“I’m a better liar since I wrote a memoir,” I shrugged, and as I said it, I realized it is true. To order life events, you have to fudge and invent; life is not a story; it is one damn thing after another. So to make … Read the rest