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Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

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In the tradition of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a critically acclaimed National Book Award finalist shares inspiration and practical advice for writing a memoir. Writing memoir is a deeply personal, and consequential, undertaking. As the acclaimed author of five memoirs spanning significant turning points in her life, Beth Kephart has been both blessed and bruised by the g In the tradition of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a critically acclaimed National Book Award finalist shares inspiration and practical advice for writing a memoir. Writing memoir is a deeply personal, and consequential, undertaking. As the acclaimed author of five memoirs spanning significant turning points in her life, Beth Kephart has been both blessed and bruised by the genre. In Handling the Truth, she thinks out loud about the form—on how it gets made, on what it means to make it, on the searing language of truth, on the thin line between remembering and imagining, and, finally, on the rights of memoirists. Drawing on proven writing lessons and classic examples, on the work of her students and on her own memories of weather, landscape, color, and love, Kephart probes the wrenching and essential questions that lie at the heart of memoir. A beautifully written work in its own right, Handling the Truth is Kephart’s memoir-writing guide for those who read or seek to write the truth.


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In the tradition of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a critically acclaimed National Book Award finalist shares inspiration and practical advice for writing a memoir. Writing memoir is a deeply personal, and consequential, undertaking. As the acclaimed author of five memoirs spanning significant turning points in her life, Beth Kephart has been both blessed and bruised by the g In the tradition of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a critically acclaimed National Book Award finalist shares inspiration and practical advice for writing a memoir. Writing memoir is a deeply personal, and consequential, undertaking. As the acclaimed author of five memoirs spanning significant turning points in her life, Beth Kephart has been both blessed and bruised by the genre. In Handling the Truth, she thinks out loud about the form—on how it gets made, on what it means to make it, on the searing language of truth, on the thin line between remembering and imagining, and, finally, on the rights of memoirists. Drawing on proven writing lessons and classic examples, on the work of her students and on her own memories of weather, landscape, color, and love, Kephart probes the wrenching and essential questions that lie at the heart of memoir. A beautifully written work in its own right, Handling the Truth is Kephart’s memoir-writing guide for those who read or seek to write the truth.

30 review for Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia Swann

    There aren't enough stars for this book. I went in thinking I was reading an instructional book. I soon found myself reading music, sheer poetry. Beth Kephart is a writers' writer. This book is a gift to us. No matter what you're writing Kephart's wisdom will elevate your work. If you listen hard there's no telling where this book will take you. There aren't enough stars for this book. I went in thinking I was reading an instructional book. I soon found myself reading music, sheer poetry. Beth Kephart is a writers' writer. This book is a gift to us. No matter what you're writing Kephart's wisdom will elevate your work. If you listen hard there's no telling where this book will take you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bridgett

    Wow, read this book. Read it if you want to know what to read. Read it if you want to write. Read this book because it is a treasure of devotion to memoir. Read this book because you need Beth Kephart's wisdom, not only to read and write, but to live! Wow, read this book. Read it if you want to know what to read. Read it if you want to write. Read this book because it is a treasure of devotion to memoir. Read this book because you need Beth Kephart's wisdom, not only to read and write, but to live!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Although this is one of those books that should be read and absorbed slowly, I finished it in a couple of days. For me, Kephart's lush language is irresistible, and I also loved learning about her process, and she came into the writing life. I'm sure that I will revisit this book often for specific suggested exercises, for the lengthy annotated reading list, and for inspiration. For now, my biggest takeaway is that I should not rush to finish my memoir. I would recommend this book for anyone who i Although this is one of those books that should be read and absorbed slowly, I finished it in a couple of days. For me, Kephart's lush language is irresistible, and I also loved learning about her process, and she came into the writing life. I'm sure that I will revisit this book often for specific suggested exercises, for the lengthy annotated reading list, and for inspiration. For now, my biggest takeaway is that I should not rush to finish my memoir. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in writing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Bensman

    If you are contemplating writing a memoir, or love reading them, or just love reading writing beautiful enough to break your heart, this is a book you might want to experience. I was looking for a book on how to write memoir and my kind loving wonderful husband gave me this one two Christmases ago—and oh, it is so much more than I expected! What you can expect is a book written with intimate knowledge of memoir, the sensibility of a poet, and the nuance of a novelist. You will also find some pon If you are contemplating writing a memoir, or love reading them, or just love reading writing beautiful enough to break your heart, this is a book you might want to experience. I was looking for a book on how to write memoir and my kind loving wonderful husband gave me this one two Christmases ago—and oh, it is so much more than I expected! What you can expect is a book written with intimate knowledge of memoir, the sensibility of a poet, and the nuance of a novelist. You will also find some pondering/writing exercises to get you started and an annotated list of some stellar examples of memoir, each with a short synopsis about what makes it, in particular, a standout.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Serena

    The best teachers are those that give of themselves freely to their students and their craft, and with reference books available on various ways to write, what to write, and when to write, many will glance at yet another writing reference and dismiss it out of hand. What does that mean? That those people are fools — for Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart, released today, is not a reference, it is a memoir about writing memoir (marking a 6th memoir from her). It is a ref The best teachers are those that give of themselves freely to their students and their craft, and with reference books available on various ways to write, what to write, and when to write, many will glance at yet another writing reference and dismiss it out of hand. What does that mean? That those people are fools — for Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart, released today, is not a reference, it is a memoir about writing memoir (marking a 6th memoir from her). It is a reference guide written from the perspective of a teacher and writer on how to approach a genre riddled with scandal and debunked by naysayers. Not only does she peel back the layers that can and should be part of memoir creation, but she also peels back her own experiences and perspective to shed light on the hard work memoirists should expect of themselves. Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2013/08/h...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    Finally, a good book about writing a memoir with practical suggestions on describing landscape, weather, color, tastes, smells, love, empathy, form, voices, detail, grief, vulnerability, tone. You won't believe how many unhelpful memoir writing books are out there. This one had down to earth suggestions supported with examples from some of the great memoirs. Finally, a good book about writing a memoir with practical suggestions on describing landscape, weather, color, tastes, smells, love, empathy, form, voices, detail, grief, vulnerability, tone. You won't believe how many unhelpful memoir writing books are out there. This one had down to earth suggestions supported with examples from some of the great memoirs.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Florinda

    Handling the Truth is a practical guide to reading and writing memoir. It breaks down the various elements of the form, and offers illustrations and exercises drawn from the classroom. At the same time, it’s a memoir of Beth Kephart’s own experience with the writing, reading, and teaching of memoir...and the book accomplishes both missions without being overly self-referential or meta. It’s a celebration, examination, and defense of the form. It’s honest and direct about where and how it can go Handling the Truth is a practical guide to reading and writing memoir. It breaks down the various elements of the form, and offers illustrations and exercises drawn from the classroom. At the same time, it’s a memoir of Beth Kephart’s own experience with the writing, reading, and teaching of memoir...and the book accomplishes both missions without being overly self-referential or meta. It’s a celebration, examination, and defense of the form. It’s honest and direct about where and how it can go wrong, and why that makes it so important to get it right. MORE: http://www.3rsblog.com/2013/08/book-t...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sara Habein

    Quite enjoyed this, even if my contrary nature bristled a bit when she became prescriptive. ("Do [this]. Let it make you [feel this].") Not really her fault that my reaction to that sort of thing is I DO WHAT I WANT, but otherwise this was good. The appendix also has a lot of great suggestions for further reading. Quite enjoyed this, even if my contrary nature bristled a bit when she became prescriptive. ("Do [this]. Let it make you [feel this].") Not really her fault that my reaction to that sort of thing is I DO WHAT I WANT, but otherwise this was good. The appendix also has a lot of great suggestions for further reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joey

    "Memoir is a strut and a confession." These words rang true throughout this read. Kephart's challenge of 750 word focused writing is the second time I have seen this prompt in sources to aid the writing of a memoir. She implies that memoirs freeze people in time. What about writing focused memoirs when it is frigid outside? I have already launched a blog of focused writing (www.considertheredsox.com). I am still trying to teach myself the range of my own written voice. It is without a doubt a labo "Memoir is a strut and a confession." These words rang true throughout this read. Kephart's challenge of 750 word focused writing is the second time I have seen this prompt in sources to aid the writing of a memoir. She implies that memoirs freeze people in time. What about writing focused memoirs when it is frigid outside? I have already launched a blog of focused writing (www.considertheredsox.com). I am still trying to teach myself the range of my own written voice. It is without a doubt a labor of love. On page 57, the prompt "write for five minutes about one thing you are learning to love" spurned into another short chapter of reflection. Perhaps an epilogue of sorts. The thought of a marriage proposal at 23 is absolutely terrifying. Kephart makes reference to Mary Karr (the former obsession of David Foster Wallace) more than a handful of times. Is Karr really that good at writing? What is the organic system of truly finding one's muse? Do they actually appreciate the undying effort of pen on paper? "Empathy smartens you." (180) Love for Andre's Townie (205) and a reference to the witty Bill Bryson (237) sparks even more personal connections to this beautiful mess of words. As a critical reader and life-long student of the written word, the revision process may be the most fun. Every adjective and detail is more than intentional. This is the best "how to" guide I have consumed thus far.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I think I’m becoming a curmudgeon. Many reviewers loved this book. I’ve clearly read way too many on this theme, so many that I was irritated, rather than inspired, by the author’s too obviously ‘poetic’ writing style. Here’s an example: “Time is the memoirist’s salvation and sin. Time is the tease and the puzzle. Time is the trickster, the tormenter, the vexer. Time solved or resolved is memoir mostly mastered.” That was on page 44, by which point I was already longing to read Hemingway on the me I think I’m becoming a curmudgeon. Many reviewers loved this book. I’ve clearly read way too many on this theme, so many that I was irritated, rather than inspired, by the author’s too obviously ‘poetic’ writing style. Here’s an example: “Time is the memoirist’s salvation and sin. Time is the tease and the puzzle. Time is the trickster, the tormenter, the vexer. Time solved or resolved is memoir mostly mastered.” That was on page 44, by which point I was already longing to read Hemingway on the memoir — “Time matters.” To be fair, and to justify the 3 rating, there are some good writing exercises, an excellent annotated list of memoirs worth reading, and a superb list in the front of the book of what memoir is not, which includes this laugh out loud gem: “Memoir is not a chronological, thematically tone-deaf recitation of everything remembered. That’s autobiography, which should be left, in this twenty-first century, to politicians and celebrities. Oh, be honest: It should just be left.”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rizwana

    This writer knows memoirs. She clearly lives, breathes and teaches them. Her writing is fluid and luxurious and her love of language is evident. I really learned a tremendous amount about the genre while reading Handling the Truth. My only hesitation was the undercurrent of perfectionism that seemed to run through this work. While Kephart consistently insists on avoiding the trap of perfectionism, she unwittingly advocates for just that. Perhaps this is because she has mastered (or is close to m This writer knows memoirs. She clearly lives, breathes and teaches them. Her writing is fluid and luxurious and her love of language is evident. I really learned a tremendous amount about the genre while reading Handling the Truth. My only hesitation was the undercurrent of perfectionism that seemed to run through this work. While Kephart consistently insists on avoiding the trap of perfectionism, she unwittingly advocates for just that. Perhaps this is because she has mastered (or is close to mastering) the genre. Possibly I feel this way, because I can't handle the truth. She more than compensates for this with her incredible appendix which lists many of the best memoirs out there.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kylie

    A must read book for anyone contemplating writing their memoir. If you are stuck, don't know exactly how to start or in need of inspiration, this is the book for you. Full of ideas and thoughts about what memoir is- and isn't-, how to handle as the title states "telling the truth", and beginning the writing process. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this book, and have "post-it" noted many pages full of inspiration. The author covers everything from the Prologue to the very end! Highly recomm A must read book for anyone contemplating writing their memoir. If you are stuck, don't know exactly how to start or in need of inspiration, this is the book for you. Full of ideas and thoughts about what memoir is- and isn't-, how to handle as the title states "telling the truth", and beginning the writing process. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this book, and have "post-it" noted many pages full of inspiration. The author covers everything from the Prologue to the very end! Highly recommended for anyone looking for an inspiring and interesting book on the art of writing the tricky genre of memoir.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Crotty

    If you love writing, any kind of writing, you will love this book. I've read many writing books but this is one of the best. I'm not going to write a memoir but after reading this I might like to go back and jog my memory just to keep a diary. Her words were brilliant and all the little stories by other writes were enjoyed. I have passages underlined in this book than any book I own. It is a book that will sit in my office and get read in pieces over and over. Yes, I will also be getting some of If you love writing, any kind of writing, you will love this book. I've read many writing books but this is one of the best. I'm not going to write a memoir but after reading this I might like to go back and jog my memory just to keep a diary. Her words were brilliant and all the little stories by other writes were enjoyed. I have passages underlined in this book than any book I own. It is a book that will sit in my office and get read in pieces over and over. Yes, I will also be getting some of her book suggestions. Can you tell that I loved this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Iva

    Kephart, an excellent writer, knows quite a bit about memoirs. As a faculty member in a creative writing program, she gives examples of her best student writing as well as ample samples from excellent writing. Besides being a thorough guide for writers of memoirs, she appends an annotated list of contempory memoirs. A practical book by a highly qualified writer.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joya

    Super helpful for me as I am working on a memoir. It gave me a lot to think about and I have a lot of work to do.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Louden

    What a magnificent book. I feel like i learned so much about what a memoir can be... so much that was unclear to me, Kephart puts into words. Also a great resource for memoir reading!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Boldon

    Essential reading about the writing of memoir.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Polly Castor

    I enjoyed this book and found it gives a good introduction to writing in the genre of memoir. The author has written several memoirs and is a professor of the subject at University of Pennsylvania, so she knows what she’s talking about. I really appreciated her fresh tone. The book does bog down in places, like when she chases her tail on the subject of what tense to write in for a chapter when the take away is that there are no rules and one should do what works for them. The book does a great I enjoyed this book and found it gives a good introduction to writing in the genre of memoir. The author has written several memoirs and is a professor of the subject at University of Pennsylvania, so she knows what she’s talking about. I really appreciated her fresh tone. The book does bog down in places, like when she chases her tail on the subject of what tense to write in for a chapter when the take away is that there are no rules and one should do what works for them. The book does a great job of differentiating the writing form from autobiography and novel, and delineating some parameters on what to avoid doing. My favorite part of the book is the her injunction that to write memoir, you must read it. I already do that, so I’m in a good position to tell you that the list of memoirs she recommends is a good one. It comprises the last fifty pages of this book, and even though it could easily have been one hundred pages long, it represents a great start in the genre. I think this list is why you want to buy the book. Anyway, here are some highlights of bits in the book I found interesting: • Memoir is a strut and a confession, a whisper in the ear, a scream. • It’s teaching now against then, and leave that out to put this in, and yes, maybe that happened, but what does it mean? • You tell me good. You tell me why. Know your opinions and defend them. • Memoirs... must transcend not just the category and the particulars of the story but also, ultimately, the author herself. • ‘I expect, in a well written piece, to be drawn in without my notice. I don’t want awkwardly chosen words to fight for my attention. I want the attraction to feel effortless and instant, as if the writer doesn’t even know she’s being read. Or, even further: I want to imagine that a piece of writing is just an elegant, authorless, whole thought that had already existed before a writer nets it onto a page. Part of my fantasy is that the writer does not even care if the piece is read; this autonomous thing on the page is just fanning its wings and sunning itself, wholly innocent of me, the reader-voyeur. The writer is someone who has carelessly left a pair or glasses on the grass so that I can have a look.’ • Memoir making is a hazardous business. People are involved. Their feelings. Their reputations. Their relationships to you. Put somebody into a book you write, and you have changed –forever– the equation. • Write with the understanding... that some lives or secrets do not belong to us. • Do you know... how what you choose to see speaks of who you are? • ‘I guess I want awareness, a sense that the writer has reckoned with the self, the material, as well as what it means to reveal it, and how secrets are revealed, how stories are told, that it’s not just being simply told. In short, it must make something of itself.’ • Time is the memoirist’s salvation and sin. Time is the tease and the puzzle. Time is the trickster, the tormentor, the vexer. Time solved or resolved is memoir mostly mastered. • ...saying less is often more... • What readers want is meaning. They want a story so rich, complex, thought through, and learned from that it can’t, in fact, be revealed by a headline or two; it can’t be satisfactorily summarized. • No memoir is worth reading if it is not leavened with beauty and love. • Weather, and how we both live and write it, must enter –should enter– into the memories we make and resurrect. ... The range of a writer’s weather vocabulary is a measure of the range of her perception. • I want to know not just what you see but also how you see, in every line that you call memoir. • Discretion in dialogue doesn’t just make for more honest memoirs. It makes for better ones. • What I want for all... writers of memoir. No posturing. No attitude. No working off history. No easy riding. No simple chapter two.... If you are not awake to the world, if you do not approach the work as if it is the first thing you’ve ever written or the last words you’ll ever say, you have no business writing. Check out this book– I give it four stars. And read a memoir, if you haven’t already!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel Popkin

    This review appeared originally in Art Attack/Philly.com: Pulling on dozens of literary stars — from Rilke to Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, New York Times columnist David Carr to Mary Karr, author of the Liar’s Club, and the work of her own students at Penn, author Beth Kephart has given us a wise new guide to writing memoir, Handling the Truth, out August 6 from Gotham Books. Kephart is assertive and daring in her defense of memoir as a top literary form. She’s tired of it being disparaged by crit This review appeared originally in Art Attack/Philly.com: Pulling on dozens of literary stars — from Rilke to Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, New York Times columnist David Carr to Mary Karr, author of the Liar’s Club, and the work of her own students at Penn, author Beth Kephart has given us a wise new guide to writing memoir, Handling the Truth, out August 6 from Gotham Books. Kephart is assertive and daring in her defense of memoir as a top literary form. She’s tired of it being disparaged by critics who see only self-indulgent dreck and of would be memoirists who peddle little more than overheated diary. “If you want to write memoir,” she notes, “you need to set the caterwauling narcissism to the side.” And you better listen up, for Kephart, who has written four memoirs, one nominated for the National Book Award, has produced a comprehensive guide to the form. Read memoir, she insists (and includes a reading list), and make yourself emotionally vulnerable. “Whenever I teach memoir… when I have the urge to again write it, I live in the danger zone.” Throughout the book, Kephart speaks directly to the aspiring writer in language that is both direct and rather wonderfully imaginative; this alone is inspiring. She discusses the transformation of diary and personal events into literary meaning, choices of tense, the interplay of photography, memory, landscape, and the force of the weather. She demands truth and authenticity — and courage. “You may,” she reminds her reader, “be ridiculed, harassed, taken down in the court of public opinion.” She says you’d better have empathy, seek beauty, and try to understand love. All this sage advice and the wide-ranging texts she employs to support it make this a book useful for any writer, in just about any form (and all forms cross-pollinate and cross over anyway). Working on a novel? Well, you’d better have empathy. Consider yourself a poet: probably a good idea to listen equally well to yourself and the outside world. A journalist? Your stories will be all the more powerful if you can ascribe meaning to prosaic events.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tim Johnson

    What do I want to say about this guide to writing memoir? Kephart clearly knows enough on the subject, having written at least five memoirs and teaching the subject at the university level, to be an expert. I feel that she sometimes gets carried away with making pretty-sounding sentences. This is good for memoir writing itself but can distract from your message in a guide. What do I know anyway? That's the only real complaint I have about the book. The author does a decent job of delineating exac What do I want to say about this guide to writing memoir? Kephart clearly knows enough on the subject, having written at least five memoirs and teaching the subject at the university level, to be an expert. I feel that she sometimes gets carried away with making pretty-sounding sentences. This is good for memoir writing itself but can distract from your message in a guide. What do I know anyway? That's the only real complaint I have about the book. The author does a decent job of delineating exactly what memoir is and how it is different from a diary ( a record of events and feelings as they occur) or autobiography (a record of milestone events in a person's life). She also prepares the prospective memoirist for the fallout that can follow such a work. Memoir is always a look back with the perspective of time weighing in and elaborating on the lessons learned. It can also be a voyage of self-discovery that the reader takes with you. Kephart reminds us to look for the details: food, weather, colors, sounds. These will help you recreate a more vibrant and believable world for your reader. She also reminds us to be truthful about ourselves as well as others. All in all it makes a good starting point for learning the genre.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Reduced by 75%, this book would have made a wonderful little pocket guide. In its current incarnation, Kephart's book is a paper chain of filler material studded occasionally with sparkling, incisive questions and insights. The author says she writes one blog post per day; this book reads like she may have just strung them all together. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Overall: a bloated volume, but a meaningful reference for those willing to pan for the gold, and worth purchasing for the memo Reduced by 75%, this book would have made a wonderful little pocket guide. In its current incarnation, Kephart's book is a paper chain of filler material studded occasionally with sparkling, incisive questions and insights. The author says she writes one blog post per day; this book reads like she may have just strung them all together. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Overall: a bloated volume, but a meaningful reference for those willing to pan for the gold, and worth purchasing for the memoir-syllabus appendix alone. EDIT: I don't think I was the target audience for this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    Worthy addition to any writer's bookshelf. Kephart has me dreaming memoir-sized dreams. Worthy addition to any writer's bookshelf. Kephart has me dreaming memoir-sized dreams.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A great guide, interesting, thoughtful, and practical.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sauvignon Sing

    Everything Beth Kephart writes is poetry. Even this.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emma Lou

    Although I am not currently thinking of writing a memoir ( as it would be very short and not really have a point to it ) I did enjoy reading this book for the simple fact that it not only informed me as to the difference between a biography and a memoir, but it also taught me to see my world and my life through the eyes of a memoirist. To take in and notice all the little things that before you might not have thought significant. To relish the smell of your mother's cooking and the sound of her Although I am not currently thinking of writing a memoir ( as it would be very short and not really have a point to it ) I did enjoy reading this book for the simple fact that it not only informed me as to the difference between a biography and a memoir, but it also taught me to see my world and my life through the eyes of a memoirist. To take in and notice all the little things that before you might not have thought significant. To relish the smell of your mother's cooking and the sound of her sewing machine. To realize how special it is that your father always takes time out of his life to spend time in yours. Most importantly, how everything you see and hear as you grow up and even after becoming an adult can have a profound effect on your life and who you are as a person. To read memoir, and to write it, is to take a journey to try and understand the inner workings of these things. I believe them now to be invaluable to how I write my fiction, because it gives me a better understanding of myself through other people, and thus allows me to craft characters who can do the same for other people.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Reading Cat

    Beautifully written, hopeful book about the power of memoir. Note: I don't write memoir. I literally have nothing to say about my life that would interest anyone. Hell, it doesn't even interest me! But I love reading memoirs and I teach a class in creative nonfiction, and I like to borrow liberally from the experts who do write memoir. Many good points (make me feel like I'm on the right track in the classroom) about truth and memory, compassion, imagination, and grounding the personal in the la Beautifully written, hopeful book about the power of memoir. Note: I don't write memoir. I literally have nothing to say about my life that would interest anyone. Hell, it doesn't even interest me! But I love reading memoirs and I teach a class in creative nonfiction, and I like to borrow liberally from the experts who do write memoir. Many good points (make me feel like I'm on the right track in the classroom) about truth and memory, compassion, imagination, and grounding the personal in the larger world. And her prose is luscious--took me a while to get through this, in fact, because I wanted to savor the passages. This isn't one of those blah blah blah have a writing exercise books so common on shelves these days, where the blah blah feels unnecessary, almost like a plodding till we get to the good stuff, the 'now my turn!' stuff. There are no exercises here--not that sort. There are suggestions, ways of looking at memory and writing, that you can apply to your work, but it presumes that you don't need a step-by-step, or that you come with no material already written.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I first learned about this book from the Writing Lessons Series on Marion Roach Smith’s blog, The Memoir Project. I enjoyed reading our library copy so much that I want….no… I need my own copy to mark up. The appendix alone feels like a guided tour through a treasured collection of a writing professor. I was happy that I had read many of the memoirs listed in the appendix…but I want to read them all! I could relate when Kephart said she had lost a friend by telling her that she needed to read me I first learned about this book from the Writing Lessons Series on Marion Roach Smith’s blog, The Memoir Project. I enjoyed reading our library copy so much that I want….no… I need my own copy to mark up. The appendix alone feels like a guided tour through a treasured collection of a writing professor. I was happy that I had read many of the memoirs listed in the appendix…but I want to read them all! I could relate when Kephart said she had lost a friend by telling her that she needed to read memoir before she could write memoir. Kephart’s writing persona is very kind, helpful, and patient. I can feel her lightly patting my shoulder in encouraging me to keep at it. She knows that writing the truth is hard work and takes time, lots of time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Brooks

    Actual rating: 3.5 I loved this book at first. Kephart's writing is phenomenal, and her use of language is enough to inspire you to write on its own. But the book started dragging somewhere around the halfway point. Kephart gave lots of ideas for writing exercises I wanted to try, but they weren't specific enough or structured enough for me. I like my writing exercises to come with clear instructions and boundaries; having limits helps me push myself. I ended up skimming the last third of the boo Actual rating: 3.5 I loved this book at first. Kephart's writing is phenomenal, and her use of language is enough to inspire you to write on its own. But the book started dragging somewhere around the halfway point. Kephart gave lots of ideas for writing exercises I wanted to try, but they weren't specific enough or structured enough for me. I like my writing exercises to come with clear instructions and boundaries; having limits helps me push myself. I ended up skimming the last third of the book because I'd already renewed it once and it was due back at the library. It might be worth owning a copy so I can go through it in more depth later. If you're not actively writing memoir at the moment, you can probably skip it for now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Glenda

    In the fall of 2018 I began writing a memoir, thought I had lived long enough to have something to say about life—particularly the teaching life—believed as long as I told the truth, lay bare the facts , and approached memoir as story w/ plots and themes, I’d be good to go on this journey. Yet Beth Kephart’s essential book for all who aspire to write memoir challenges me to handle the truth, my truth, w/ care; if challenges me to constantly work for beauty and empathy in telling my story, to ask In the fall of 2018 I began writing a memoir, thought I had lived long enough to have something to say about life—particularly the teaching life—believed as long as I told the truth, lay bare the facts , and approached memoir as story w/ plots and themes, I’d be good to go on this journey. Yet Beth Kephart’s essential book for all who aspire to write memoir challenges me to handle the truth, my truth, w/ care; if challenges me to constantly work for beauty and empathy in telling my story, to ask what parts of my story are mine to tell and what parts are not mine. That’s particularly important for a teacher whose story is intertwined w/ the stories of so many others. Kephart’s luminous prose primes me to write, and that may be the most valuable offering of “Handling the Truth.”

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lori Johnstone

    I am so afraid to write anything, as to render this review insignificant, as this piece of art was of so much importance. I feel as though I were lulled into a song. Not merely instructed as entranced. As someone intent on writing memoir not for the pain of the memories, but the beauty in a life, the sharing of the soul, I will continue to come back to this book to remind me exactly what memoir is, life as a gift. Thank-you Beth Kephart. Now on to read, Michael Ondaatje, and Natalie Kusz, as gen I am so afraid to write anything, as to render this review insignificant, as this piece of art was of so much importance. I feel as though I were lulled into a song. Not merely instructed as entranced. As someone intent on writing memoir not for the pain of the memories, but the beauty in a life, the sharing of the soul, I will continue to come back to this book to remind me exactly what memoir is, life as a gift. Thank-you Beth Kephart. Now on to read, Michael Ondaatje, and Natalie Kusz, as gently urged. I wanted to use a quote from the book, but every other line was quotable. I found myself being highly jealous of her students!

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