Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What We're Reading: Old Friend From Far Away

Old Friend From Far Away; The Practice of Writing Memoir, by Natalie Goldberg

People (like me) who read and reread and use Natalie Goldberg’s earlier book Writing Down the Bones to scratch an itch to write will welcome her latest book about writing. It focuses on memoir and how to tease out memories useful to writing. Even if a memoir is not your goal the ideas inside will add to your writing practice, or help start one.

The book is filled with writing prompts designed to elicit memories and spark ideas. Goldberg prescribes short spurts of writing to force the mind to give up conscious control and allow ideas to flow. One prompt suggests writing for 10 minutes on the phrase “I don’t remember…..” Another suggests “write everything you know about mashed potatoes.” Even lazy writers like me, with more desire than discipline, will find 10 minutes manageable.

The book also features essays about the process of writing and the process of remembering. It tackles what to write and how to write what you’re afraid to write. The chapters are short and the reader can dip in anywhere.

Natalie Goldberg has written eleven books and taught writing seminars for thirty years. Her advice is encouraging and empowering for the writer. Everyone has a story to tell and Old Friend From Far Away will help you tell it.

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