Book reviews

I am grateful to Christabel, Katinka and Fatemeh for their reviews, published below. Any more would be very welcome and I’m happy if these include criticism – on the assumption the criticism would be constructive.


Graeme believes that creativity is inherent in every human being, and he believes in the power of storytelling. He offers his readers an opportunity to see their lives as ‘extraordinary’, encouraging them to pick up a pen, discern a purpose for telling their story, and begin to write.

This is not a book of ‘do’s and don’ts’, but a well-planned volume which details various genres and approaches which are available to those who decide to embark on the journey of memoir writing. With generosity of spirit, Graeme gives examples from his own life, told with simplicity, courage and wry humour.

The book is replete with inspirational quotes from well-known authors from Ahn Do to Clive James, and includes a list of sources backed up by a comprehensive list of suggested reading. ‘In Life There is Luck’ is a book for everyone. We learn something of Graeme’s life, relevant stories which he recounts with honesty and humility, but his greater purpose is to inspire in others the confidence to set out on their own journey of writing and to give them tools to do it with.

Read this book for its own sake with a pen at hand to mark the paragraphs that jump off the page at you. Then, when you are ready to tell your story, read it again for help in finding your direction and choosing your tools, and study the  companion booklet – ‘A Pocket Guide to Memoir Writing’.

Christabel Strehle, Writer


The pocket guide is exactly that: a brief dip into the basics of memoir writing from start to finish, with writing tasks to get you going. These tasks are conveniently labelled as ‘Write Time’, easily found in the table of contents to return to once you have your head around the basic concepts. The concepts are cleanly explained in an order that makes writing sense, addressing the beginning writer where the beginning writer starts: how to write the enormity of a life.

The advice follows a classic write fast, think later approach, leading logically into sense-based writing, general language choices, the value of small moments, dialogue attribution and its purpose in the narrative, and the difference between showing and telling. A quick run through ethics, structure, feedback and editing takes us to the end: knowing where and when to stop. This last point is refreshing, and more usually applied to music, performance or visual arts composition. In the world of self-publishing though, where many memoirists reside, it’s a necessary inclusion for beginning writers or those eschewing an editor. This small detail, and the logic of the work overall, reveals the teacher in the author, familiar with his potential reader. It’s everything a novice needs in the way a novice needs it. It offers a concise overview for more experienced authors, too.

Katinka Smit, Freelance Writer and Editor

Years ago, I used to write poems, intuitive thoughts, memoir and short stories. Then came another form of expression – visual arts. The more I took to the brush to visualise, the power of the pen faded away. So my language of expression became strongly visual. Trains of thoughts ideas, and memories come and go. In my visual language, these creatures have formed into symbolism. The older I become the appetite for taking up the pen intrigues my mind, but somehow I am overwhelmed with events, past and present, as well lacking confidence in taking the first step. Of course, being a procrastinator my whole life doesn’t help! 

A week ago in Kyogle’s Roxy Gallery a small book caught my eye. ‘A Pocket Guide to Memoir Writing’ by Graeme Gibson. I was not sure if the book would boost my confidence. I purchased it and sat on the Gallery’s veranda to start reading it. Kept reading it! The book is written in a way that is kind and encouraging to those who have ideas, memories and thoughts that need to find their way out. The idea of the ‘vomit draft’ to start a piece of writing caught my interest. Gibson’s knowledge in how to approach memoir writing is forgiving towards our limitations. To release constipated thoughts and to have a successful birth to our pregnant mind we need to face the morning sickness and vomit. There will be surely a birth in the end. Thank you Graeme Gibson, for your book. 

Fatemeh Vafaeinejad, Visual Artist

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