Writing A Memoir from Stuck to Finished!: Helpful Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Family History and Putting Life Stories on Paper

By: Karen Dustman
Publisher: Clairitage Press
Publication Date: January 2019
ISBN: 978-1-731536341
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor

“Everyone has great stories to tell.” This is one phrase I completely agree with and is something that this book professes profusely. Writers who tackle this specific genre, whether it be in the form of biography, autobiography, family history, and so on, look back at past times and people and usually have regrets. They wonder why they didn’t get their grandparents to tell them more stories about themselves: where their family came from; what they did as careers; and, basically, what life was like “back then.” We also run across people in our lives and wonder why we didn’t sit down with them, have coffee, and get their stories on tape in order to learn more about history. In fact, after reading this great book, I remembered a time when I was lucky enough to work in an office with a client who was born and raised in Roswell, NM. He worked at the military base here during that “extraterrestrial” time period, which meant he was in “the thick of things” back in 1947. We were going to talk. Yet, unfortunately, he passed away before it could be done. That is a personal regret, but millions of authors have at least one of their very own.

Author Karen Dustman touches upon those regrets in her book Writing A Memoir from Stuck to Finished! and talks about all areas of memoir writing. However, she has done such a spectacular job in a variety of arenas that this is a book that will help writers in all genres. She dives into the difficult issue of writer’s block. But instead of using “Yale-speak,” she uses good old common sense




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to explain what the “block” is and how, exactly, to get over it in order to move on and bring to life your creation. She addresses three different reasons as to why writer’s block occurs; she offers up the cause and effect for each, as well as the solutions to use in order to stop things like negative self-talking and attempting to find a way to “begin at the beginning.”

But there is so much more. As a woman who has preserved life histories for 20+ years, teaches in-person Life Story writing classes, has authored over a dozen books, and is currently working on an e-course for Memoir writers, this is most definitely a voice you should listen to when it comes to creating your manuscript. Ms. Dustman goes through the very important steps of organization. She addresses how to put together interviews so that your subject will answer questions that make you better understand what time period you’re writing about. She also tells you the importance of how to manage your manuscript by offering up tips on everything from finding information on clothing styles, news and events by year, cultural histories by decade; to photo and scanning tips so that your end product will look its absolute best.

Life is a learning experience, as is writing. With Karen Dustman’s information, whether you are an established writer or a wannabe just starting out, each chapter is a learning experience that is necessary in order to become that “great writer.” There are even bonus resources and tip sheets given in the back of the book that will make it easier for you to sit down and begin putting that “life story” down on paper. And if you have already begun the process and have just set it aside because you told yourself you were no good at writing, then this is the book you need in order to take that half-written manuscript out of the drawer and get back at it immediately.

Quill says: This is a resource book that should be sitting next to your computer at all times!