Resources and Additional Reading

(Also see "Helpful Videos")

Links On Publishing and Writing:

Comments by Kitty Axelson-Berry unless otherwise attributed

Association of Professional Genealogists

archives.gov/research/genealogy - A government site that provides a treasure trove of resources and information about conducting genealogical research

bookbusinessmag.com - Useful website for current information about the world of digital, print, and e-publishing

frugalmarketing.com - Shel Horowitz provides marketing services, information, and advice for self-publishing authors

Griffin Book Binding - Beautiful work by UK-trained David H. Barry, including boxes and slipcases for multiple volumes

heritagecookbook.com - This company makes it relatively easy to create collaborative (or personal) recipe books, including accompanying text and photos

heritagemakers.com - A pyramid-style company sells template-based printing services for simple books, similar to iPhoto books

"History at Home: A Guide to Genealogy": Some helpful information on conducting genealogy chart research, recommended by students in El Paso County, Colorado.

ibpa-online.org - Independent Book Publishers Association, a membership organization that provides resources, education, and networking for small to medium size publishers, including an annual conference and hundreds of vendors

jewishgen.org - A free website with databases, research tools, and other resources for Jewish genealogical research

jwa.org/stories/how-to - Jewish Women’s Archives, an organization that honors Jewish women’s stories and provides how-to guidelines for conducting oral history interviews, especially with Jewish women

kirkusreviews.com - This well-established organization now offers paid reviews for self-published books at reasonable prices beginning at $450.

lifeonrecord.com - Family and friends can record their greetings and stories, then the company will compile their voices and put them on nicely packaged sets of CDs (~$75)

loc.gov/vets/kitmenu.html - How-to kits for conducting interviews, especially with veterans

mssticks.com - Ms. Sticks creates homemade walking sticks with your information (and designs of your choice) carved in one or more colors

legacy.com - The Tribune Company offers short-term sign-in guest books for a fee, as well as general good information for the bereaved.

mylifeaudio.com - Former television and radio host Len Sipes interviews clients, preserves their stories digitally, and creates a personal website for them

narrativemedicine.org - Columbia University's Program in Narrative Medicine provides continuing ed credit for medical professionals (in NY and exotic elsewheres) to learn to listen because learning to listen helps the effectiveness of care.

nhbindery.com - Traditional craftsmanship for the modern age, including speckling, staining, or gilding page edges

oralhistory.org - Oral History Association promotes academically oriented interviews for historical purposes as a way of collecting and interpreting human memories to foster knowledge and human dignity

www.ppu.org.uk/poppy - White Poppies for a Culture of Peace, based in the UK, says, "There are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome… Now 90 years after the end of the ‘war to end all wars’ we still have a long way to go to put an end to a social institution which in the last decade alone killed over 10 million children."

rootsweb.ancestry.com - This appears to be the leader of the pack in terms of genealogy databases

rtrfoundation.org - Routes to Roots provides Jewish genealogical and other research in Eastern Europe, among other services

sanddunebooks.com - One of many companies offering fill-in-the-blank journals, but this one provides an impressive range of pre-printed questions to answer

songlegacy.com - This company writes songs and ballads based on your personal history and sends an MP3 performance (voice and piano) download, an illustrated lyric sheet, and a CD cover

storyhelp.com - Tristine Rainer and the Center for Autobiographical Studies, based in California, offer outstanding classes, retreats, web-based writing groups, and a newsletter

TenMillionEyeballs.com or bookmarket.com - John Kremer provides marketing services, information, and advice for self-publishing authors

turningmemories.com - Denis Ledoux and the Soleil Lifestory Network, based in northern Maine, offer practical writing tele-classes, coaching, and other services; franchising opportunities

 

Additional Reading

 

UNDERPINNINGS OF MEMOIRS

Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. 1994. This fascinating exploration distinguishes between reading and viewing, holding a solid book and watching a video. It can be updated and applied to reading a blog or interactive media. (Fawcett Columbine) 

Chabris, Christopher, and Daniel Simons, The Invisible Guerilla. One of my current favorites,The Invisible Guerilla this book (and the accompanying "test") shows how often we miss what's right in front of us because our focus is elsewhere. This is highly relevant to how we remember, what we remember, and the question of truth — whose truth? — in memoirs. (Crown Publishing Group)

Goleman, Daniel. Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. 1985. Denial is analyzed as an important survival mechanism as well as a destructive pattern. (Simon and Schuster)

Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. 1997. Hirsch presents a fascinating query into the power and deception of photographs, even before digital enhancement was possible. (Harvard University Press)

Lazare, Aaron. On Apology. Apologies are increasingly important for individuals and groups, and Lazare explores what a successful apology consists of, and how it can heal both parties and restore broken relationships. A client's desire to apologize or receive an apology often comes up in our work, as people recall and retell. This could become required reading for anyone writing a memoir. (Oxford University Press)

Moore, Thomas. Care of the Soul:  A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. 1992. Helpful in keeping your memoir grounded. (HarperCollins)

Riemer, Jack and Nathaniel Stempfer. So that your values live on: Ethical wills and how to prepare them. 1991. The tradition of ethical wills is resurrected by Riemer and Stempfer. You have to have convictions if you want to write an ethical will. (Jewish Lights)

Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. 2001. Despite its strictly academic terminology, e.g. “components of autobiographical acts” and “subjects of inquiry,” and dead-serious intonations, I enjoy this book because of its chapter “Fifty-two Genres of Life Narrative.” The genres are in the form of an alphabetized list, beginning Apology(“A form of self-presentation as self-defense against the allegations or attacks of others, an apology justifies one’s own deeds, beliefs, and way of life,” etc.) and ending with Witnessing (“As an act of being present to observe or to give testimony on something, witnessing is relevant to issues of how subjects respond to trauma,” etc.). It puts things in perspective, and presumably earned the writers some points towards doctoral degrees or the equivalent. (University of Minnesota Press)

Stone, Richard. The Healing Art of Storytelling: A Sacred Journey of Personal Discovery. 1996. This is a must-read for background on what we call “amnesis” or “cultural amnesis” (story loss). He calls it “destorification.” Perhaps his is the better term. (Hyperion)

Zinsser, William, editor. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoirs. 1995. Excellent book that uses excerpts from well-known memoir writers on the question of whether your own memory/story is the best truth. (Houghton Mifflin)

ALSO:

Birkerts, Sven. Tolstoy's Dictaphone: Technology and the Muse (Graywolf Press) 

Coles, Robert. Call of Stories (Houghton Mifflin)

Ritchies, Donald A. Doing Oral History (Simon and Schuster Macmillan)

Roberts, Janine. Tales and Transformations: Stories in Families and Family Therapy (Norton)

Webster, Harriet. Family Secrets: How Telling and Not Telling Affect Our Children, Our Relationships, and Our Lives (Addison Wesley) 

Witherell, Carol and Nel Noddings. Stories Lives Tell (Teachers College Press)

 

FAVORITE MEMOIRS

Allende, Isabella. Paula. A mother writes her family history at the bedside of her daughter, who is in a coma. (Harper Collins)

Ansary, Tamim. West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story. A good education, in and of itself, about growing up in Afghanistan and the U.S., by the son of an Afghan father and American mother. (Picador)

Brown, Rebecca. The Gifts of the Body. Hauntingly beautiful stories about patients the author helped in their last months. (Harper Collins)

Buck, Pearl S. My Several Worlds (1954). I read this book when I was working on a memoir for a Chinese immigrant and his wife, and became enamored of Buck for her keen eye, deep perspective, and page-turner style(Day)

Conway, Jill Kerr. The Road From Coorain (Vintage), True North (Vintage), and A Woman's Education (Knopf). Here is an autobiography in three parts, which is a framework worth emulating for people with long histories or reflections. Conway deals with concepts once considered inappropriate for women memoir writers. And as a Smith College alumna, I loved her send-up of her experiences as its president.

du Pre, Hilary and Piers. Hilary and Jackie. A good example of multiple first-person voices in the memoir genre, and ludicrously superior to the movie. (Ballantyne) 

Erdrich, Louise. The Blue Jay's Dance. This nicely written composite about mothering an infant (Harper Perennial) is an enjoyable counterpart to Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. (Fawcett Columbine)

al Jundi, Sami and Jennifer Marlow. The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian's Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker. Inspiring memoir about a transformational journey. (Nation Books)

McBride, James. The Color of Water. Unforgettable memoir about the author's childhood as a white-skinned interracial boy, growing up "black" in a "black" community, with special attention to his white-skinned mother (daughter of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi) and black-skinned father and step-father. (Riverhead Books)

Radner, Gilda. It's Always Something. A serious yet funny memoir of comedienne Gilda Radner's experience with cancer, made terribly poignant by her death not long after publication. (Simon and Schuster Paperbacks)

Shulman, Alix Kates. Drinking the Rain. A well-crafted paean to solitude and aging (at fifty) and self-sufficiency. Shulman is surprised to enjoy solitude and foraging in an isolated cabin on the northeast coast. She then returns to her life in Manhattan, whose bounty and high energy she also enjoys. (North Point Press)

Truman, Harry S. Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman as told to Merle Miller. This as-told-to memoir clarifies a lot about Truman and the post-World War II era, and serves as a good example of supplementing as-told-to narrative with outside commentary. (Berkley Books)

Waskow, Howard and Arthur. Becoming Brothers. An interesting and effective memoir co-written by brothers, each one of whom contributes his perspective on their lives together and apart. (Free Press)

ALSO:

Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Simon and Schuster) 

Chernin, Kim. In My Mother's House: A Daughter's Story. (Harper Colophon)

Danticott, Edwige. Breath, Eyes, Memory (Vintage) 

Gornick, Vivian. Approaching Eye Level (Beacon) 

Newman, Leslea, editor. Bubbe Meisehs for Shayneh Maidelehs (HerBooks)

Wolff, Tobias. This Boy's Life  (Grove Press)

 

ABOUT WRITING

Dill, Barbara. The Journalist's Handbook on Libel and Privacy. Memoir writers can familiarize themselves with issues of invasion of privacy, libel, and slander. (Free Press)

Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. This is our go-to grammar book because it’s practical and user-friendly. Einsohn distinguishes between the Queen's English and commonsense contemporary punctuation and other details of grammar. Her guide is far easier to use and more logical than the overly complicated The Chicago Manual of Style. (University of California Press, 2000)

Rainer, Tristine. The New Diary: Your Life as Story—Discovering New Autobiography; and Writing Memoir as Literature. An outstanding television writer energetically dissects plot, character, and movement, offering useful formulae for memoirs that hold readers' interest and whose characters come to life. Among her words of wisdom is to treat all of your characters with respect and write about them with love. (Tarcher Putnam, 1997)

Lamott, Ann. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. People who are uncertain of their writing skills and who like laugh will benefit tremendously; others, too, will benefit. (Anchor Books, 1994)

Wakefield, Dan. The Story of Your Life. A step-by-step approach to exploring your past and understanding your present, with writing exercises that are thoughtful and practical. (Beacon Press, 1990)

 

ALSO:

Barnstone, Tony and Chou Pink, transl. and ed. The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters.(Shambala Publications)

Blundell, William E. Art and Craft of Feature Writing, based on The Wall Street Journal Guide. (Plume Books) 

Brown, Rita Mae. Starting from Scratch. (Bantam) 

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones (Shambhala) and The Wild Mind. (Bantam) 

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. Writing a Woman's Life. (Ballantine Books)

Kempthorne, Charley. For All Time, A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History. (self-published)

Krementz, Jill. The Writer's Desk. (Random House) 

Ledoux, Denis. Turning Memories into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories. (Soleil Press) 

Metzger, Deena. Writing for Your Life: Discovering the Story of Your Life's Journey. (Harper San Francisco)

Newman, Leslea. Writing from the Heart: Inspiration and Exercises for Women Who Want to Write. (The Crossing Press)

Rainer, Tristine. Your Life as Story and The New Diary. These are especially recommended. (St. Martin’s Press). 

Rosenbluth, Vera. Keeping Family Stories Alive, Discovering and Recording the Stories and Reflections of a Lifetime. (Hartley and Marks) 

Schneider, Pat and Peter Elbow. Writing Alone and with Others. (Oxford University Press)

Stanek, Lou Willett. Writing Your Life, Putting Your Past on Paper. (Avon)

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well (a classic!). (HarperCollins)

There are good resources about grammar on the internet, too, such as The Grammar Girl (www.quickandirtytips).

 

ABOUT PUBLISHING AND SELF-PUBLISHING

Herman, Jeff. Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. Updated often. If you want an agent or publishing company to invest in your manuscript, this is the first place to shop. (Primapublishing)

Robert Bowie, Jr. Publishing Basics: A Guide for the Small Press and Independent Self-Publisher. Updated often. Concise, informative, and free. (RJ Communications)