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Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir

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Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper--or in a Web site or e-book. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper--or in a Web site or e-book. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and will be useful to both beginners and more accomplished writers.The rise of interest in memoir recognizes the power of the genre to move and affect not just individual readers but society at large. Sue William Silverman covers traditional writing topics such as metaphor, theme, plot, and voice and also includes chapters on trusting memory and cultivating the courage to tell one's truth in the face of forces--from family members to the media--who would prefer that people with inconvenient pasts and views remain silent. Silverman, an award-winning memoirist, draws upon her own personal and professional experience to provide an essential resource for transforming life into words that matter. Fearless Confessions is an atlas that contains maps to the remarkable places in each person's life that have yet to be explored.


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Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper--or in a Web site or e-book. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper--or in a Web site or e-book. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and will be useful to both beginners and more accomplished writers.The rise of interest in memoir recognizes the power of the genre to move and affect not just individual readers but society at large. Sue William Silverman covers traditional writing topics such as metaphor, theme, plot, and voice and also includes chapters on trusting memory and cultivating the courage to tell one's truth in the face of forces--from family members to the media--who would prefer that people with inconvenient pasts and views remain silent. Silverman, an award-winning memoirist, draws upon her own personal and professional experience to provide an essential resource for transforming life into words that matter. Fearless Confessions is an atlas that contains maps to the remarkable places in each person's life that have yet to be explored.

30 review for Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dain Edward

    "Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper." –book cover summary In the summer of 2008, I used a little magic. Through an unusual set of circumstances, I found myself in front of a roomful of corporate trainers leading a seminar on storytelling. They'd made the invitation thinking that I would discuss how my experience in making films might be useful to them. Instead, after bei "Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper." –book cover summary In the summer of 2008, I used a little magic. Through an unusual set of circumstances, I found myself in front of a roomful of corporate trainers leading a seminar on storytelling. They'd made the invitation thinking that I would discuss how my experience in making films might be useful to them. Instead, after being briefly introduced as a local writer and filmmaker (who was currently contracted to build animated training films for their corporate masters), I walked to the front of the room and told a long story about a weekend camping adventure I'd had a few years before. In the story, my friend Nate and I arrive at a remote state park, excited to stay up and watch the Perseid meteor shower without the competing glow of city lights. Before we see a single falling star, we get chased by a deranged goose, saved from the goose by a teenage girl on horseback, then redeemed by finding two lost little boys and delivering them to the searching army of police who'd responded to the mother's frightened call. When I finished the story, I stood for a moment in the silent room. Every eye was on me. I'd hooked them. "What's something you know about me?" I asked the front row. They responded with details from the story: "You want people to think you're a nice guy." "You're scared of geese." I asked, "Do you think understanding things about me is useful in any way?" "You bet," they said. Feeling a connection to me made our work easier, more engaging. They trusted me more. And so I introduced them to what I believe the fundamental power of a story to be, whether written or spoken. By accessing the primary mechanisms of our brains, stories break through our natural emotional barriers, creating communities out of listeners (and storytellers), thus facilitating the human business of getting things done. I still believe this, but sharing this belief was not the magic. It was to begin with the story. I introduced characters and an open-ended situation, and the biology and training my audience had from a lifetime of human communication made them curious and connected. Only then did I begin feeding the information they wanted. And I confirmed that a good teacher's primary role is not to deliver data. It's to tease the learners, to goad them, to inspire them. They'll do the rest. Which Sue William Silverman utterly fails to do for me. Her functional deficiency in training me as a memoirist is wonderfully represented in one particularly surprising flaw in her book: she opens each chapter not with a story, but with concepts. In classic, tedious English-class fashion, she begins with proper topic sentences and details. It's a term paper. Only at the end of each chapter does she deliver the story, in a section titled For Your Reading Pleasure, a clear hint of how ornamental she considers the story to be. Which should be surprising, considering that much of the content of the book is dedicated to sublimating the techniques of good writing into stories (metaphors and such), and arguing for the value of personal confession in human communication. Though she doesn't say it outright, the bulk of the book seems to be her way of arguing that had she arrived in her readers' lives with a catalog of facts and figures, their lives would remain unchanged. But by confessing her story (in her own memoir published some years before), by sharing her experience, she helped them reach across the emotional barriers of their lives and so begin to heal from their own traumas. And yet, in discussing the very task of this form of sharing, she utterly fails to do the very thing she's arguing for: place the story at the center of the sharing experience. All this should surprise me, but it doesn't. Too few artists seem to understand the psychology of creativity, how their art does what it does, and fewer still seem able to facilitate the work of new artists. Oh, formulas for success abound, FAQs, and lots of catering to the typical fears and concerns of inexperienced creators. But just as Silverman misunderstands the power of story, these flawed guides fail to see new artists really need: an artistic bridge across our emotional barriers. It's art that teaches art. Not cogent topic sentences. However, sometimes the lack of effectiveness in a piece of work inspires an artist to create something of their own. Not a memoir, though. No, I want to create my own book about creating. It will be very, very short, and will be informed by my training and experience as a classical musician, a filmmaker, and a writer. I'll call it: The Simple Guide To Making Stuff 1. Making stuff is hard. But it's worth it. 2. If you're like most normal humans, getting good at making stuff will take about ten years. Relax and settle in. You'll find that it’s worth it. 3. Some people will like what you make. Some will hate it. Most will be indifferent. Those who like it will make it worthwhile. Those who hate it may teach you strange new things. Or they may just hate it. Let them. 4. Success is making stuff and sharing it. That's all. Any other definitions are too subjective to be useful. 5. As you make stuff, from time to time enjoy the moment. The actual making may be all the pleasure it gives you. 6. Fear is part of making stuff. Embrace it, put it to work. It will keep you alert and will remind you that what you are doing is risky and important. 7. Make. Listen. Fail. Make. Listen. Fail. Make. Listen. Fail a little less. Make some more. This is how to make stuff. 8. It's all worth it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julene

    One of the best books I've read on writing memoir. Sue William Silverman shows not tells the necessary elements needed to make a memoir work. She uses concepts from William Blake to highlight and separate the 'voice of innocence' and 'voice of experience.' It is in the voice of experience we use metaphor. This along with her stick figure diagram voices to show how to build more engaged and complex characters. She includes an assortment of essays in the last sections of the book. I will read this One of the best books I've read on writing memoir. Sue William Silverman shows not tells the necessary elements needed to make a memoir work. She uses concepts from William Blake to highlight and separate the 'voice of innocence' and 'voice of experience.' It is in the voice of experience we use metaphor. This along with her stick figure diagram voices to show how to build more engaged and complex characters. She includes an assortment of essays in the last sections of the book. I will read this book and use it often.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    It took me a while to get through this book but that was my own fault; not the fault of the author. I would recommend this book for those who are intermediate writers. She has some excellent resources and bibliographic material. I am glad I can now put it on the shelf and refer back to it on occassion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Desiree

    It's very possible that no one wants to read some confessions. It's very possible that no one wants to read some confessions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    When I commit to writing my memoir, this is a must-read, but that time is not now.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Barr

    What a great book. As a first semester MFA, this was suggested to help me learn the "craft" of writing. It didn't disappoint. Ms. Silverman gives easy to understand examples and her stories are funny and give insight to her as a writer and author. I have gone back to her book in my second semester and can see myself using it as I write this journey. Highly recommend. What a great book. As a first semester MFA, this was suggested to help me learn the "craft" of writing. It didn't disappoint. Ms. Silverman gives easy to understand examples and her stories are funny and give insight to her as a writer and author. I have gone back to her book in my second semester and can see myself using it as I write this journey. Highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Renee Clare-Kovacs

    I am finished with chapter 1 and made myself stop so I can write. William Silverman speaks directly to the fears and doubts that have kept me from moving forward with my work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kirkley

    So useful—answered many questions I had about memoir that other books and sources on memoir I read did not answer. I would love to see an expanded and updated version of this book with more on memoir structure, all the ways that structure and the use of time can work well in memoir. Maybe a discussion of what works in the essays at the end of the book would have also been interesting, or perhaps some questions for discussion or reflection on the essays in the appendix. I’m surprised that this me So useful—answered many questions I had about memoir that other books and sources on memoir I read did not answer. I would love to see an expanded and updated version of this book with more on memoir structure, all the ways that structure and the use of time can work well in memoir. Maybe a discussion of what works in the essays at the end of the book would have also been interesting, or perhaps some questions for discussion or reflection on the essays in the appendix. I’m surprised that this memoir book is not more popular as a definitive guide to writing in this genre.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Candee

    Outstanding book for any writer. This book was assigned as a part of a memoir class. I knew very little on the genre. I feel vastly more knowledgeable after reading this. Now to read some of the dozens of suggested readings in the appendix.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joelle Tamraz

    I wish I had read Fearless Confessions earlier in my memoir-writing journey. It's not only a fantastic book on craft but also gave me a confidence not to shy away from telling a difficult story. I strongly recommend it for all writers of the genre. I wish I had read Fearless Confessions earlier in my memoir-writing journey. It's not only a fantastic book on craft but also gave me a confidence not to shy away from telling a difficult story. I strongly recommend it for all writers of the genre.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Tinsley

    A comprehensive guide to memoir. Starts a bit basic, in that it tells you what showing and telling and metaphor are, but covers a broad range of ideas and tips for memoir writing. Especially like the range of examples of essays she uses.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Austin

    Awesome How To book! This was such a fun read, and Silverman does an outstanding job of teaching the would be memoirist how to write. I highly recommend this book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Preston

    Great resource for anyone wanting to write memoir and other forms of nonfiction. Sue graciously opens the door to her life experience and how she learned to write about it. Comes complete with a variety of exercises and essays that enable the reader wanting to write memoir to practice and learn techniques necessary to move from journaling to writing. The chapters on publishing are realistic, providing an objective point of view that is useful for decision making. This book is useful for wannabe wr Great resource for anyone wanting to write memoir and other forms of nonfiction. Sue graciously opens the door to her life experience and how she learned to write about it. Comes complete with a variety of exercises and essays that enable the reader wanting to write memoir to practice and learn techniques necessary to move from journaling to writing. The chapters on publishing are realistic, providing an objective point of view that is useful for decision making. This book is useful for wannabe writers, workshops, and college classes. Thank you Sue!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wayne Groner

    If you have a troubled past and have been afraid to write about it, this book is for you. Silverman describes her book as “a step-by-step guide to shaping memory into art, to turning imagery into metaphor – all the elements needed to craft raw experience into a fully formed story.” She speaks from a life filled with desperation. She grew up with a father who sexually molested her in “houses that felt like prisons.” As an adult, she was in therapy for years learning to cope with her humiliation, em If you have a troubled past and have been afraid to write about it, this book is for you. Silverman describes her book as “a step-by-step guide to shaping memory into art, to turning imagery into metaphor – all the elements needed to craft raw experience into a fully formed story.” She speaks from a life filled with desperation. She grew up with a father who sexually molested her in “houses that felt like prisons.” As an adult, she was in therapy for years learning to cope with her humiliation, embarrassment and shame. Her therapist often suggested she write about her experiences, but she had no interest in putting her hidden secrets onto paper, secrets shared only with her therapist and her husband. Although she was a writing instructor at a community college, had written thousands of pages of short-story fiction, and had started and given up writing several novels, she did not attempt to write about her own life until her parents died during the time she was in therapy. She began her memoir slowly, writing just the facts; then moving on to interpreting the facts, “reclaiming them, making sense of them.” She picked up the pace, reluctantly stopping “to eat, to sleep, to shop for groceries.” Almost before she realized it she had written three hundred pages in three months. The resulting book, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, received the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award for creative nonfiction. Her second book, Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction, was made into a Lifetime Television Original Movie.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    If you have ever thought about writing your story, but thought: I can't do that I don't know how to write What will my mother say? I have nothing to say anyway .... then this book was written for you. This book is the antidote for all of the voices that demand silence, be they literary critics or family members. Sue Silverman not only guides the reader through the thorny issues of telling the "truth" in memoir, but she also provides real, practical guidelines for writing better prose, as well as innova If you have ever thought about writing your story, but thought: I can't do that I don't know how to write What will my mother say? I have nothing to say anyway .... then this book was written for you. This book is the antidote for all of the voices that demand silence, be they literary critics or family members. Sue Silverman not only guides the reader through the thorny issues of telling the "truth" in memoir, but she also provides real, practical guidelines for writing better prose, as well as innovative ways to market your work. The result is an inspiring, funny, and incredibly insightful book. I particularly loved her writing exercises and the example essays that she chose to illustrate her various points. Silverman also has first-hand experience in writing about "confessional" subject matter--she's the author of two memoirs, one about growing up in an incestuous family, and one about sex addiction. Her gentle prodding--"Write anyway! Whatever the roadblock. Write anyway!" is backed up by solid information and great advice. Her critique of literary and pop cultural denigration of memoir is sharp and to the point, and among the best I've ever read. Sue's book is a gift to us all. I'm grateful that she wrote it, and that I had the opportunity to read it--and now I've got to get back to work on my memoir.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sonya Huber

    I'm about halfway through this book, which is a perfect summer read because it's getting me interested in teaching again. After years of using the same text in my creative nonfiction classes, I feel moved to make a switch. I love several things about the book so far. It's clear that Silverman is a good teacher who pays attention to students. I get the feeling this book was written specifically with students in mind, and Silverman pulls that off beautifully. The book is essential a vulnerable acc I'm about halfway through this book, which is a perfect summer read because it's getting me interested in teaching again. After years of using the same text in my creative nonfiction classes, I feel moved to make a switch. I love several things about the book so far. It's clear that Silverman is a good teacher who pays attention to students. I get the feeling this book was written specifically with students in mind, and Silverman pulls that off beautifully. The book is essential a vulnerable account of her journey as a writer interspersed with unique and thoughtful exercises that I want to try with my students. There are reading selections here and there, but the book manages to make these elements feel like seamless parts of a carefully considered whole. Silverman offers the best description of voice I've seen. She never talks down to the reader, always stresses her real life (and significant) pains and challenges to welcome readers into a space where complexity and honesty are the goals. I'm learning a lot, I'm reinspired. This is no ordinary textbook!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Rae Baker

    This is probably the most important memoir writing instruction and inspiration that I've ever read. Extremely powerful and transforming! I would recommend this to everyone, whether you are writing your memoirs or not, as even journal writers will find treasures within these pages that shed light on the heart of why we write. Amazingly straight-forward and helpful in the quest for our authentic self. I'm impressed beyond words and feel so strongly about writing my memoirs that I cannot not write. I This is probably the most important memoir writing instruction and inspiration that I've ever read. Extremely powerful and transforming! I would recommend this to everyone, whether you are writing your memoirs or not, as even journal writers will find treasures within these pages that shed light on the heart of why we write. Amazingly straight-forward and helpful in the quest for our authentic self. I'm impressed beyond words and feel so strongly about writing my memoirs that I cannot not write. I can't wait to get alone with the page and pour out my heart. Tell my story-truth the best that I can. I believe in myself and my story matters. Thank you Sue...you have changed my life and given me the 'secret' keys to overcoming fears and blocks that have kept me from completing the stories that are overflowing from my cup. I'm ordering your two memoirs today!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Grenier

    This books is more than just an inspirational kick to motivate the writing of a memoir. I rwoyld suggest this book to someone with no more than an idea for their story.... It will help you draw it out. Many of the chapters push the art of refinement as well, which may be more useful after the first completed draft. I know this is a guide developed to assist people with the writing of a MEMOIR, but the same basic principals apply to writing any work of fiction. I recommend this book to all amatur This books is more than just an inspirational kick to motivate the writing of a memoir. I rwoyld suggest this book to someone with no more than an idea for their story.... It will help you draw it out. Many of the chapters push the art of refinement as well, which may be more useful after the first completed draft. I know this is a guide developed to assist people with the writing of a MEMOIR, but the same basic principals apply to writing any work of fiction. I recommend this book to all amature writers.

  19. 4 out of 5

    loafingcactus

    I didn't find this book as useful as Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoirfor a "how to" but the book is worth its weight in gold for the chapter on confession, which is really a chapter about women's writing being devalued compared to men's writing on trauma. The book in general is about the courage to write, and surely very useful if that is what one is looking for. I didn't find this book as useful as Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoirfor a "how to" but the book is worth its weight in gold for the chapter on confession, which is really a chapter about women's writing being devalued compared to men's writing on trauma. The book in general is about the courage to write, and surely very useful if that is what one is looking for.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I hesitated to review this book at first because I see that it gets a lot of 5 star ratings, but I think I am not the only one who thought it was "just okay". As another reviewer said, Sue wants us to take our experiences and get creative with them to write memoir. I'm not sure that's what I am looking for. Sue William Silverman is a survivor and good for her to conquer her problems and heal. I'm just not sure that her style fits my style. While I am contemplating writing my own memoir I think I I hesitated to review this book at first because I see that it gets a lot of 5 star ratings, but I think I am not the only one who thought it was "just okay". As another reviewer said, Sue wants us to take our experiences and get creative with them to write memoir. I'm not sure that's what I am looking for. Sue William Silverman is a survivor and good for her to conquer her problems and heal. I'm just not sure that her style fits my style. While I am contemplating writing my own memoir I think I will look to other sources for advice on how to do that.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Sue Silverman has written a book that will be used by both experienced and novice writers for years to come. With an exceptionally clear eye and her always encouraging hand, this award-winning memoirist gently guides the reader along the often treacherous terrain of memory and its narrative form. For anyone who has ever thought of writing their own story, this is the first and last book you will ever need.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lacy

    An empowering book that teaches one to appreciate, read, study, and write memoir. Written in straightforward, accessible language, it includes examples and writing exercises that are worth the effort. Recommended for the of every, memoirist or no because the book contains many writing reminders such as "The Muscular Sentence," the use of dialogue, metaphor. She also includes a helpful chapter on marketing one's memoirs. An empowering book that teaches one to appreciate, read, study, and write memoir. Written in straightforward, accessible language, it includes examples and writing exercises that are worth the effort. Recommended for the of every, memoirist or no because the book contains many writing reminders such as "The Muscular Sentence," the use of dialogue, metaphor. She also includes a helpful chapter on marketing one's memoirs.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    This is the only book of its nature I'm aware of--Silverman does an excellent job of advising conceptually and practically. Please click here for my review: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-83... This is the only book of its nature I'm aware of--Silverman does an excellent job of advising conceptually and practically. Please click here for my review: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-83...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    A thorough and understandable explanation of how to write memoir and how it differs from other types of literary nonfiction. More creative nonfiction writing classes should use this as one of their textbooks.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite

    I read this a lifetime or two ago when I took a post-graduate term with the author. I enjoyed it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathie

    There is a lot of help here to learn about memoir writing. Much about intertwining story-line and strong topic! A great "how-to". I will read this again and again as I write my own memoir! There is a lot of help here to learn about memoir writing. Much about intertwining story-line and strong topic! A great "how-to". I will read this again and again as I write my own memoir!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I use this for prompts (or to prompt them) for my writing groups, and personal writing sessions.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I found this book very helpful as I strive to write memoir. I particularly liked Silverman's treatment of the horizontal and vertical plot lines. I found this book very helpful as I strive to write memoir. I particularly liked Silverman's treatment of the horizontal and vertical plot lines.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Really good practical advice about craft.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    very good craft information and examples.

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