Cover image for Writing about your life : a journey into the past
Writing about your life : a journey into the past
Zinsser, William, 1922-2015.
Publication Information:
New York : Marlowe & Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
228 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3576.I5625 Z478 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The author of the classic bestselling guide On Writing Well tells readers how to write about the people and places in their lives, as well as how to make bold choices and live as fully as possible.

Author Notes

William Knowlton Zinsser (October 7, 1922 - May 12, 2015) was an American writer, editor, literary critic, and teacher. He began his career as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked as a feature writer, drama editor, film critic and editorial writer. Throughout the 1970s, Zinsser taught writing at Yale University. He wrote 18 books, including On Writing Well, which is in its 17th edition. Zinsser died at the age of 92 in Manhattan on May 12, 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Zinsser, author of a classic guide for nonfiction authors, On Writing Well, looks back on his own years of professional writing, glossing selections from his past articles with advice for would-be memoirists. He begins with impressionistic sketches of his WWII experiences as a young army private in North Africa and Italy. Next he details his 13-year career at the New York Herald Tribune, where he wrote drama and movie features. He draws humorously and self-effacingly on his impromptu role as an extra for Woody Allen in Stardust Memories. With quietly witty insights into academic life, Zinsser charts years spent teaching at Yale while writing freelance for magazines such as Look. An account of his service as an editor at the Book-of-the-Month Club includes a history of that venerable institution. Finally Zinsser brings us up-to-date with his recent rebirth as a public pianist. To follow one's heart is Zinsser's most enduring piece of advice. In writing he recommends dwelling on "small, self-contained incidents" and making use of anecdotes and vivid memories. When discussing capturing places in print, he comments usefully on the changing trends of the travel genre (increased political correctness). Zinsser is warmly appreciative of other well-known memoirists and their organizational methods, admiring in particular Thoreau, Frank McCourt, Mary Karr and Annie Dillard. While his frank, affirmative and encouraging style will help anyone embarking on writing their own life story, his book will be especially useful to those of his own generation. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

There has been no shortage in recent years of how-to manuals for aspiring memoirists. Zinsser, author of the venerable style guide On Writing Well, understands that the best way to learn any craft is by observing and emulating its masters. For the 1987 book Inventing the Truth, he collected a series of autobiographical lectures by Annie Dillard, Russell Baker, and others. In his current book he adds extensive commentary to the examples he has chosen. An important difference is that the excerpts here are all by the same writer: Zinsser himself. With politically correct hindsight, he condemns the early travel writing he presents here as racist and dishonest, but the other pieces are offered as illustrations of proper autobiographical style. The book is essentially a memoir punctuated by the author's comments on his own technique, with the line between commentary and memoir frequently blurred. For more practical instruction and diverse examples, consider Judith Barrington's Writing the Memoir (2d ed.) or Tristine Rainer's Your Life as Story. Recommended more for background reading on Zinsser than as how-to. Susan M. Colowick, Timberland Regional Lib., Tumwater, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Messages on My Machinep. 1
2 Writing About Schoolp. 11
3 The Larger Worldp. 29
4 A Sense of Enjoymentp. 43
5 Writing About Placesp. 63
6 People Along the Wayp. 81
7 The Uses of Memoryp. 99
8 An Academic Lifep. 117
9 Books of the Monthp. 141
10 How to Write a Memoirp. 157
11 Writing as a Ministryp. 175
12 Recovering the Pastp. 191
13 Change Is a Tonicp. 211