One of my friends, Susan Neufeldt, whom I met at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference years ago and who is writing her own book about wisdom, sent me a link to the NPR program that featured Marion Roach Smith, an author and teacher in the memoir field I had not heard of a week ago. Her brand new book The Memoir Project is getting lots of media attention.

What makes her book different from all the others? Take a clue from the subtitle: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life.  Like many successful authors, Smith challenges conventional wisdom: for example, throw away the morning pages and the writing prompts. This advice might come as a shock to fans of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg.

I haven’t read the book yet, so this is not a review. My focus today is Smith’s outstanding use of video to promote her book. Take a few minutes to watch both the book promo video and the “homemade” family story below. Then offer your comments below.

Did you love the idea of Galileo in a box store above? Now listen to a “thoroughly non-standardized” metaphor for marriage below. Enjoy the laughter and see how sophisticated a simple video can be.

When you buy a new book, do you usually watch the video about the book? Have you made your own videos? What advice to writers do you have concerning video? Did viewing these samples and/or listening to Marion Roach Smith on NPR through the link above make you want to read her book?

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Shirley Showalter


  1. jtarasovic on July 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Can’t access the videos. Have tried both clicking and cutting-pasting.

  2. jtarasovic on July 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Never mind! I’m there.

    • shirleyhs on July 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      Good. If there is any “trick” you did to see the videos, please let us know. On my screeen they show very well.

      Any comment on them now that you’ve seen them?

  3. Clif Hostetler on July 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I’m impressed (and entertained). I’ll have to give some thought to the writing advice. I need to spend some time learning how to edit digital video. Look’s like it could be a lot of fun.

    • shirleyhs on July 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      Hi, Clif,

      I’ll bet you can find a YouTube video on learning how to edit digital video! 🙂
      I can’t be much help myself, although I am sure I will be trying to capture the amazing exploits of our grandson in my granny nanny diaries blog. People with Mac computers say it is easy to edit. I don’t have one of those myself.

  4. Mary Pfeiffer on July 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I love anyone who is brave enough to throw out the morning pages and the writing prompts. I have to be working on a real piece for my writing to gel. Love the Galileo image; I’ll be taking M. Roach into my Memoir classes this fall. . . . After helping my daughter make an advertising video, I realize how hard it is to capture what you THINK you are filming. Both of these hit the mark. Thanks for bringing her work to my attention

    • shirleyhs on July 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Mary, glad you found some News You Can Use. That’s what this site aims to do. All best with your classes this fall! Can’t believe it’s time to think about fall in the heat wave we are enduring right now!

  5. Gutsy Living on July 22, 2011 at 3:58 am

    This is the 2nd video I’ve noticed today. Is this a new thing. Linked your post to SCWA group so you may want to jump over on FB. Loved her video. Makes me want to make my own.

    • shirleyhs on July 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      Yes, Sonia, video is everywhere and all the gurus are saying it’s the latest must-have social media tool. You already have a head start in doing video, so you are a step ahead of lots of us. Thanks for linking the post!

  6. Saloma Furlong on July 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    The videos are very clever, but am I the only one to miss the significance of 38DD? Jokes like this make me feel so dense…

    Though the videos are inventive, it does not make me want to read her book… long ago I threw away the writing prompts, I go to very few writers’ conferences, and I read very few books about writing memoir. I think we all have our “writing path” and listening to advice from others tends to confuse my process. I’d much rather read memoir itself, partly because I learn better from example than I do from advice. (My mother was full of advice, but I didn’t always want to hear it.)

    I suppose I do sound like a curmudgeon, don’t I?

    • shirleyhs on July 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Oh, Saloma, I love curmudgeons! Thanks for taking a contrarian stance, one I am sure Marion herself would approve, since she is eager to have us toss other kinds of advisers and other advice.

      As for the 38DD, here’s a hint. The only time that size ever applied to me was when I was nursing my babies.

  7. Brenda Sims Bartella Peterson on August 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Fabulous videos! Yes, my PR friends are trying to bang it in to my head that videos are the new necessary tool in publicizing my book. Grrrr, one more thing on my To Do list. But first, I have to finish the book and find a publisher!

    Great post, Shirley.

  8. shirleyhs on August 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I understand the feeling completely, Brenda. I plan to practice video production in the new blog I’m writing about taking care of my grandson, Owen. I am using the Posterous platform there, which is about the simplest blogging one can do. Direct from email into a post using a smart phone. Here’s an example:

    Marion Roach Smith’s videos were both much more polished than the one I put up here, but I think unpolished video can be just as effective as polished in some situations.

    Good luck with the writing and the search for a publisher. Keep checking in here, and I hope you will find helpful hints and positive connections.

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