Book Reviews

Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron are writers and writing teachers well known for their approach to writing as a spiritual practice. As I’ve followed their work for about 20 years, I’m always curious to see their latest offerings.

In Old Friend from Far Away, based on her popular workshops, Goldberg lets us know that memoir isn’t chronological nor does it have to be written by old people. Now people in their twenties are disclosing their lives as part of a "revolution in personal narrative”. No matter what age we are, Goldberg says, "We want the emotional truths under the surface that drove our life”.

Because life is not linear, Golberg approaches writing memoir sideways. The chapters are short but full of enticing prompts to get you going. As with her other books including the classic Writing Down the Bones (Shambhala), Goldberg tells you not to cross out, to keep your hand moving and to be specific in the naming of things.

As for the structure that fits your story, you’re left to discover that on your own. Goldberg gives examples of other memoirs to give you some ideas. "We write memoir to remember, not to cling, but to honour and let go”, Goldberg says. If you want to get started on that memoir, this book will definitely help you keep your fast pen moving.

Julia Cameron noticed her students often slimmed down during her 12-week creativity courses. That realization led to the writing of her latest book, The Writing Diet. Creative recovery and weight loss – it does make sense. Rather than suppressing difficult feelings with food, you express those feelings on the page and in other creative endeavours. Cameron suggests following a diet of your choice accompanied by writing and other tools outlined in her book. Among the Writing Diet tools are writing every morning as well as every time you feel like eating. Other tools include walking, questions to ask yourself when having a "snack attack”, culinary artist dates and having a Body Buddy to check in with. Writing is a valuable practice for many issues and now you can use it as a weight loss tool. I’d say it’s well worth a try!

Mary Ann Moore is a poet, writer and creativity facilitator living in Nanaimo.