I bought your book that day and spent this past weekend reading, thinking, feeling my way through it, making notes like mad along the way. I’ve read dozens of books on this subject, Dawn, but yours is a standout for all the right reasons.

So I just added it to the very top of my list, “Resources for Lifewriting and Family Storytelling” — a handout for an all-day workshop I’m giving (as a fundraiser for scholarships) for the Stanford Women’s Club of the East Bay, called “How to Be a Great Ancestor.” Lauren Dunbar, video biographer at Memoria

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The Thurstons have written a clever and lively how-to book with the tasty subtitle “How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read.” This is harder than you may imagine. Even the most interesting life can be written in a dull, lifeless way. The Thurstons want all of us to know that there are techniques that can be learned, and practiced, in pursuit of a lively, readable story.

Much as an exercise instructor teaches his student to breathe and bend, to twist and turn, the authors transform the awesome task of writing into a series of rhetorical exercises. Step by step, they lead the prospective writer through the steps of building a proficiency in telling the story. They detail the pitfalls many writers face, and explain how to move from envisioning your project to bringing it to completion.

Each lesson has a “Learn by Doing” exercise, designed to hone the skills taught and to give the writer the confidence to move on to the next step in the writing. In the margins are quick inspirations and, at times, hilarious observations by writers we know and respect. …

Finally, … the authors take a holistic approach to writing. They insist, and I agree, that one’s entire life must go into the project. People who read your life’s history want to relive that life with you. They want to walk where you walked, even breathe the air you breathed, as much as is possible through the medium of the printed page. The authors are relentless in pushing the aspiring writer into achieving a great victory over the fear and uncertainty that face new writers.

“Breathe Life into Your Life Story” is a great introduction to writing that even experienced authors will find helpful…. Maybe we should be aiming at developing the confidence, and the skills, required to pen an exciting autobiography. This book is an excellent place to start. It is highly recommended. Jeffrey Needle, AML, Chula Vista, CA

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 Dawn and Morris Thurston have written a book, Breathe Life Into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will WANT to Read, that is filled with helpful advice and examples to help the reader create an interesting, well-written life story. They have presented a methodical approach to putting your thoughts and stories on paper. This book will be helpful to those who have always wanted to write their life story but never had the courage to pick up a pen. It also serves the experienced writer well with ideas, hints, and tips to overcome a writer’s block hurdle.

The book begins with a “pep talk,” a chapter filled with encouraging words. The authors demonstrate that by following a plan, and using this book for guidance, the reader will become a writer. Everyone has a story to share. With encouragement, these stories can be written and preserved.

The authors offer an abundance of quality writing examples throughout the book. These examples serve to accentuate the points made in each chapter. Many how-to books tell the reader how to write. This book offers numerous examples of good writing throughout each chapter that demonstrate each principle. These examples illustrate the authors’ point of showing your readers the details of your life through your life story rather than merely superficially telling a story. Showing involves action and vivid descriptions. This principle of “showing” resonates throughout the book.

The authors have created a guide to help the reader to “learn by doing.” There are several dozen specific tips offered throughout the book that will provide impetus for moving pen on paper. These tips, offered in grayed boxes, correlate with each chapter’s theme. They allow the book’s reader to apply principles learned in each chapter to immediate practice. Appendix A provides a complete list of these learn-by-doing exercises.

Dawn and Morris Thurston have written a useful manual. Their years of experience in writing, and helping others to write, shine through in the pages of Breathe Life Into Your Life Story. If you have been thinking of writing your life story, or even if the thought has not crossed your mind, this book will provide the encouragement and the guidance to put your life stories on paper. Your grandchildren will be glad you did.–Phyllis Matthews Ziller, webmaster for and editor of “Columns,” the newsletter of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors

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