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Writing the Sacred Journey

The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir

Elizabeth J. Andrew

“Religious traditions of all persuasions have a tendency to canonize certain stories and certain people’s lives; in the process of honoring these stories, followers forget to honor the revelatory qualities within their own stories. When memoir writers are responsible to the story, they honor that which is vital and true—what I call the spirit—within their own experience.”
—from Writing the Sacred Journey

Writing the Sacred Journey explores memoir-writing as a spiritual practice—a craft in which the writer uses his or her inner sanctum of hopes, dreams, doubts, anguish, and faith to reach out to the wider, external world of community. Drawing from personal experience and those of her students, writing instructor and memoirist Andrew explores the subjects that commonly arise in writing spiritual memoir and the corresponding issues of craft. Andrew also provides practical advice on how to overcome writing obstacles, work through revisions and uncover thematic trends. This incisive and unique writing manual examines how to construct a well-crafted spiritual memoir—one that honors the author’s interior, sacred story and is accessible to others.

Elizabeth J. Andrew teaches memoir-, essay- and journal-writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is the author of Swinging on the Garden Gate: A Spiritual Memoir (Skinner House Books, 2000) and On the Threshold: Home, Hardwood, and Holiness (Basic Books, 2005).

Praise for Writing the Sacred Journey:

"Elizabeth J. Andrew is a subtle and courageous spiritual memoirist. Her candid and compelling ability to share the hard-won secrets of her artistry with fellow writers is borne out in this fine book."
—Lawrence Sutin, author of A Postcard Memoir

As one who regularly teaches courses in spiritual autobiography, Writing the Sacred Journey is the most useful writing manual—of any kind—I have read in the last few years’ explosion of books about writing. Andrew has thought with exceptional depth and nuance about the inner processes of daily writing, what’s at stake in revision and what’s beyond the block. Andrew’s little snatches of biography help us to walk beside her on the path most of us take from traditional religious practice through queries of every kind—sexual identity, the authority of mystical experience, the claims of orthodoxy and the counter-claims of conscience—until we likely find something holy at the center of a thicket of metaphors, something that makes us smile. Andrew is astute not only on profound matters—like the psychology of integrating mystical experience—but also on the most practical, like how to cut a draft that’s too long or flesh out a brief, timorous account. I know I will assign this book with confidence to my students. I also look forward to rereading and living with this book, as with a wise and trusted mentor.
—Mary Rose O’ Reilley, professor at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, and author of The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

“In a time when books on spirituality abound, Andrew writes with uncommon wisdom and generosity. She weaves together elements of her own spiritual memoir with a practical array of writing tools that are precious and rare. To anyone skeptical that spiritual memoir may be too sentimental or self-centered, Andrew demonstrates that ‘the real subject of memoir is not self so much as the human condition’ and she urges us to write for the sake of the story itself. This is a book you will return to again and again.”
—Julie Neraas, spiritual director, Presbyterian minister and professor in the graduate liberal studies program, Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota

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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

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