What I’m Reading: Let It Bleed

I’ve been a huge fan of Pamela Des Barres since I read “I’m With the Band” at age 15, and in recent years, I’ve had the good fortune to meet her in person and participate in her writing workshops. So I was excited when I heard that she was putting out a “how-to” book based on her workshops. My pre-ordered copy of “Let It Bleed: How to Write a Rockin’ Memoir” arrived April 18, and it’s classic Pamela, written in her typically effervescent, to-the-point, girl-to-girl-talk style. She uses juicy snippets from her own memoirs to illustrate, for example, how to write a passage that recalls all five senses and engages the reader’s imagination. She also includes pieces from many of her students from past classes – such as Jessi, who sat next to me at the first workshop I attended in Nashville – so a variety of voices are represented. (I’m not in the book, alas… maybe next time!)

It’s a fun read even if you’ve never thought of writing a memoir, but it also contains dozens of writing prompts to help you start creating one. Pamela’s method of writing practice is pretty straightforward – given a prompt, you set a timer for 12 minutes, then write with no restrictions, no crossing out, no self-editing. It’s like writing in a journal, but more focused. The result is wonderfully freeing, even if you’re like me and need several rounds of editing before you’re close to happy with a piece. (And if you don’t want to write a memoir, the exercises are still a great way to break through writer’s block, get the creative juices flowing and get in touch with your true self!) If the divine Miss Pamela comes to a city near you, I highly recommend signing up for her workshop, but if you don’t have that opportunity, then reading “Let It Bleed” is the next best thing.