Alaskan writer Leslie Leyland Fields weaves her life story, observations for writers and worthy writing tools into a smart and beautiful how-to for writing one’s stories and memoirs.
Chapters start with “Witnessing” and move from topics such as “Mapping” and “Editing” to conclude with “Launching.” The early chapter, “Witnessing,” takes the familiar Christianese term and turns it to mean “bearing witness”—the one who pays attention and writes the story. Here Leyland Fields acknowledges something important: our stories can be hard to carry.
Her storytelling and instructions are as fluid as the tide in Uyak Bay around the island where she lives. I find myself reading about her bus driver or Aunt Gabe or that literary agent that helped, and then leaving the story to learn about a writing tip, only to reenter the story once more. I admire how this longtime writer pulls off these difficult moves.
The book has a spiritual impetus as well. Leyland Fields writes, “Theology and story are never far removed from each other. What we believe about human existence, meaning, and the nature of time is fundamental to our storytelling.” Again and again she returns to verses and theology in teaching why our stories matter.
A touch of playfulness is apparent, too. On page 21, readers will find an illustrated “Get Out of Grammar Jail Free” card. This coupon made me smile. Anne Lamott, prophetess of the famous [crappy] first draft motto, would smile, too, and urge us to forget about such rules while we draft.
Known voices speak into why our stories matter like Dan Allender (The Wounded Heart), Frederick Buechner, and Ann Voskamp.
In part, Leyland Fields offers a writing class for those who want to narrate their story or someone else’s. She has the creds to do so; she began teaching writing in 1984. Your Story Matters is full of exploratory exercises that can propel someone forward.
Leyland Fields is wonderfully present in the Christian writing world—from teaching at Seattle Pacific U’s premier MFA program to writing columns for Christianity Today to now hosting writers on her Alaskan island. (See Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop.)
She has over 11 award-winning books that include The Spirit of Food, Forgiving our Mothers and Fathers, and Surviving the Island of Grace.
Leyland Fields’ Your Story Matters will encourage writers by helping us to understand that our job is about finding “holy meaning” and by showing us which path to take—and why. With its notions about LifeStory Circles and other fresh ideas, I highly recommend Your Story Matters for writing groups or individuals wanting to write a memoir. (NavPress).