Patti Miller has created the complete guide to writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, biography, travel and creative nonfiction
People who have attended Patti Miller’s highly rated memoir-writing workshops have recommended this book to me to me more than once. I’ll admit to not having read it cover to cover yet. But I want to approach it like a course in creative nonfiction writing and work through it systematically.
Writing True Stories grew out of writing workshops the author ran at Varuna, the Writer’s House in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. And this shows in its practical approach, as it is written as a series of workshops, covering sources, voice, structure, narrative and style and editing.
Take the masterclass
Part Two consists of masterclasses that extend the skills in the first part. It deals with genre: memoir, creative nonfiction, essay and more. The last (brief) chapter is about publishing. Miller writes about commercial publication and self-publishing and how to present your work to agents and publishers. Although there’s a lot more that could be said about publishing, that’s best left to a another book.
A reading list and a page of useful contacts rounds out Writing True Stories. I can’t wait to get started on honing my skills before I get my project, now at the research stage, underway.
John Hockney’s memoir is to be published in October 2019 by Legend Press. I was honoured to edit it before submission. It’s a very satisfying aspect of my work to help writers get their book published. Legend Press includes top Australian writers Mark Brandi and Alice Pung on its list.
John Hockney is a professional storyteller and brother of the artist David Hockney. He helps others to write their life stories. I met him at a wonderful workshop he ran in the Blue Mountains. I went on to work with him on his manuscript before he submitted it for publication. That it took only a couple of months before it was snapped up is testament to what a great story he has told.
John Hockney: storyteller
Before I did his workshop ‘Your Life – Your Story’, I heard John talk about life with his brother, world-renowned artist David Hockney. David’s exhibition Words & Pictures opened at Blue Mountains City Art Gallery in October 2017. I remember thinking, ‘He should write a book’.
John Hockney tells his story going back two generations. His grandfather was a founding member of the Salvation Army in Bradford in England’s industrial north. His grandmother would made him a cup of cocoa with whole milk – not the watered-down variety he had at home – after he had dragged home her shopping in his billycart.
You would expect that the world-famous artist David might dominate the book, but John gives every member of his brilliant and eccentric family their due. His father, who liked to wear brightly coloured stick-on dots on his bow tie, was always true to his moral compass. His sister Margaret produced an art work of a squid squashed on her scanner. It was accepted in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The theme that they never worried what the neighbours think runs thorough the book.
With his closely observed detail and exceptional storytelling, John Hockney combines the two essentials of memoir or autobiography: have a great story to tell and write it well. It’s often funny and always honest and true. My understanding of what life was like in post-war Britain was so enriched. My appreciation of what it means to be part of a family – in all its crazy complexity – was deepened immeasurably.