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How to Tell the Truth in Your Memoir

I recently read Beth Kephart’s book Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir and wanted to share my thoughts on it. So, here is my review.

Who is Beth Kephart?

Beth Kephart starts off telling us that she started as an unschooled writer and outsider in the book world. Don’t let her fool you. Like any author, she started out as an unknown. Don’t we all? But read her bio at Penn State, and I quote: “Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairy tale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay and photography collection.” It also lists her many awards. Beth Kephart is a serious memoirist, and a sought after creative nonfiction instructor.

What to Expect in Handling the Truth

If you want a how-to book written in lyrical prose, this would be the book. She not only instructs us, and gives us many examples, her own writing is part of the beauty she seeks in the written word. Kephart gives us so many examples some readers may become tired of them if they are looking for nothing more than an instruction manual. But she also gives her readers exercises to play with the ideas on their own. So think of it as concept -> examples -> your turn. And if you are willing to play along, you might find some beautiful words dripping from your pen.

How the Book is Organized

Handling the Truth is divided into four sections with section two, ‘Raw Material’, the bulk of the book, and the reason you are most likely to buy Handling the Truth. In this section, you will find the essence of her memoir teachings. Section two is held together by three shorter sections which give you a framework: what is and isn’t a memoir, starting your memoir and lessons on authenticity, empathy and beauty. She also talks about how important it is to read in order to write: read memoirs before you write your memoir. She gives a list of memoirs by category in the Appendix. Page after page of memoir titles broken down into categories such as childhood relived, grief, the natural world, and unwell… to name only four. A good place to start your memoir journey.

Who is this book for?

Well memoirists to start. And anyone who is telling true stories, written or oral.
So… If you are working on your memoir and care about writing the truth in a manner that leaves everyone’s dignity intact, offering your readers not just a story but new ways of looking at the world… If you want to tell a story without accusations… If you care about writing beautifully… If you care about literature… working through this book and doing the exercises and reading many of the memoirs in the appendix will give you the confidence that you are ready to tell your story and the know-how to do it well. And you will enjoy Kephart’s artfulness as a writer..

Do I Recommend Every Memoirist Read This Book? 

Yes! Grab your copy using one of the links below.
Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments! – Keep writing Melody Ann

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