Writing, Reflecting, Recounting: Sharing Natalie Goldberg’s Perspective

by Matilda Butler on August 2, 2010

catnav-alchemy-activePost #19 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Your Memoir’s Organization

When I teach memoir writing, I’m often asked about the book’s organization. Should it be chronological? Should it be topical? Should there be flashbacks?

There are many answers to the question. But today I want to explore a topic that may help you both in your writing and your searching for the best way to guide your reader through your life story.


I have been re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away and was inspired to create a brief video based on her advice to reflect rather than recount your life.

Once you slow down and begin to consider not the what but the impact of the what, as you consider life’s ripples that change the shape of event’s factual image, you may find the message you want to share and then more easily see the organizational scheme that will highlight your reflections.

If you don’t have Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones, I recommend that you get a copy and start reading it as soon as it arrives. It’s one of those books on writing that you can return to, learning more each time.






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Sharon Lippincott August 2, 2010 at

As I already mentioned in a blog post earlier today, this video could hardly have come at a more opportune moment. Don’t you just love serendipity? Thank you for this reminder impeccable reminder that reflection is the key difference between memoir and autobiography. Vive la différence. I look forward to your further thoughts on memoir form.

Matilda Butler August 2, 2010 at

Hi Sharon:

Thanks so much for this comment. We all need regular reminders, especially when we’re busy trying to recall the details of a long ago memory.

-Matilda

Janet Riehl August 25, 2010 at

These videos are amazing to me–as much as for their technical excellence as for the content. “I don’t know how the two of you do it,” I say once again for the 1,000th time.

I went to a Natalie Goldberg weekend at Yosemite when I lived in N. California. Now in St. Louis, I heard her speak and read at Left Bank Books in the Central West End. She is who her books present her to be: both genuine and wise. Thanks for bringing her to our attention yet again.

Janet Riehl

Matilda Butler August 25, 2010 at

Janet: Thanks for your comment. Kendra and I love sharing nuggets from the incredible books on writing that will help women with their memoirs. I’m envious that you have been able to engage with Natalie Goldberg on two different occasions in two different states.
-Matilda

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