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What Does it Mean to Review a Memoir?

Beth Kephart, a professor of memoir at the University of Pennsylvania, raises some critical points here in her column in the Chicago Tribune about reviewing memoirs. The same holds true for memoir workshops. The goal, time and again, is to focus on the work on the page, not the author’s experiences. This can be a tricky tango when smart, intelligent, caring people gather to work on their pieces. Kephart writes, “We sit side by side and elbow to elbow around an old rectangular table. We read one another’s lives. We see one another’s eyes. We have not come to judge how much he drinks, how much she hurts, how little she now speaks to her own mother. We don’t engage in gossip.

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Inspiration for Memoirists

Courage. Is there anything more important in writing memoir? (Yes, I hear your list, with voice leading the way, and truth and honesty its ring-bearers.) I’m going with courage first, though. Courage to tell your truth. Courage to believe in your story. Courage to find a story in all of those anecdotes. Courage to revise

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