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Marion Roach Smith  

Writer and Teaching Expert on Memoir

Marion Roach Smith believes that everyone has a story to tell. The author of four books, all of which contain a large degree of memoir, her most recent book is The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing—And Life an irreverent, quirky, provocative product stemming from her experience as a memoir course instructor for over a decade. Smith clearly documents and explores the method to memoir writing, along with the self discovery and satisfaction it provides its authors. While there have been other books on memoir writing, there’s been nothing like The Memoir Project. What differentiates this guide from the rest is the total rejection of writing prompts, exercises or those “absurd morning pages,” all of which lead people directly into being stuck, and not really writing. Smith calls her method “writing with intent,” so that flailing writers can move toward inspiration and productivity.

“Those prompts are the new crack. Like the shots hit directly from a tennis pro to the waiting racquet of a beginning player, prompts give a false sense of skill. Without them, and facing a blank screen for the first time, writers freeze on the page and default to telling their tale on Facebook or in scrapbooks,” says Smith.

Hailed by critics as an honest and entertaining look into the work that is required to write memoir, The Memoir Project reads just as Smith acts in her presentations: honest and entertaining, sharing with audiences the emotionally exhausting, yet highly rewarding process of writing memoir. By coupling the academic aspect of writing with personal anecdotes, audiences are continually captivated and inspired by Smith’s ability to share personal stories.

Under the name Marion Roach, she is the author of The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair, a wild blend of memoir and history; the co-author with famed forensic pathologist Michael Baden, M.D., of Dead Reckoning, a hands-on, behind-the-scenes journey into the world of forensic science; and of Another Name for Madness, the first, first-person account of a family’s dramatic struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. That book was an expansion of a record-breaking reprint of a piece she published in The New York Times Magazine.

A former staff member of The New York Times, she has written for The New York Times Magazine, Prevention, The Daily News, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart Living, Discover and The Los Angeles Times. Smith is also still teaching her memoir course, “Writing What You Know,” at the Arts Center in Troy, New York. Aside from writing, Smith is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, a daily essayist on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius/XM 110, and a blogger for, and


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