Patti Miller - Author Q & A

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5 minutes with Patti Miller

Patti Miller is an award-winning memoirist and nonfiction writer, whose 2012 book, The Mind of a Thief, was longlisted for the Stella Prize and the Nita Kibble Prize, shortlisted for the WA Premier's Prize for Non-Fiction, winner of the NSW Premier's Prize for History and on the syllabus for English for the VCE in Victoria. Patti is a highly successful life-writing teacher and mentor who offers courses at the Faber Academy, as well as many other writing centres around Australia and in Paris.

What was the last good book you read?

This summer I caught up with some reading - I really enjoyed H is For Hawke by Helen MacDonald, beautiful writing on an unusual topic.

Do you have a favourite Library?

Because I’m normally on foot, I go like to use my local library at Kings Cross (but I hear Woollahra has a beautiful new library!).

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever read about yourself or your work?

I think being called ‘the mistress of life writing’ was pretty strange. (Also the ‘queen' and the ‘guru’). They all make me squirm!

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

It wasn’t given to me personally, but I’ve found Hemingway’s advice very useful: ‘Write drunk, edit sober.’ (Symbolically speaking, of course).

What inspired you to write your book?

Writing True Stories was inspired by my own interest in the borderlands between memoir and creative non-fiction. My own writing, especially The Mind of a Thief and Ransacking Paris explored this territory and so I decided to share what I’d learned about ‘Writing True Stories’. It’s an expanding area, more people are reading creative nonfiction and memoir than ever before.

Want to read more about Writing True Stories?

Writing True Stories is the essential book for anyone who has ever wanted to write a memoir or explore the wider territory of creative nonfiction. It provides practical guidance and inspiration on a vast array of writing topics, including how to access memories, find a narrative voice, build a vivid world on the page, create structure, use research- and face the difficulties of truth-telling.

This book introduces and develops key writing skills, and then challenges more experienced writers to extend their knowledge and practice of the genre into literary nonfiction, true crime, biography, the personal essay, and travel and sojourn writing. Whether you want to write your own autobiography, investigate a wide-ranging political issue or bring to life an intriguing history, this book will be your guide.

Writing True Stories is practical and easy to use as well as an encouraging and insightful companion on the writing journey. Written in a warm, clear and engaging style, it will get you started on the story you want to write- and keep you going until you reach the end.

Writing True Stories is available now from Allen & Unwin Book Publishers.