February 05, 2015

Shimmering Images, A Review by Brenda Leyland

 Reviewed by Brenda Leyland

Shimmering Images
A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir
by Lisa Dale Norton
© 2008 St. Martin's Press, New York, NY

I first came across Shimmering Images a few years ago when I was at the library looking for books about memoir writing. I soon needed my own copy, as it was through this handy little guide by Lisa Dale Norton that I began to unravel the mystery of how to write a memoir.

Ms. Norton wrote this book because she kept meeting people who wanted to write personal stories but they didn't know how to begin. Shimmering Images tells you how -- how to turn your personal memories into memoir, one small step at a time, by using simple tools, including her secret tool, shimmering images.

A shimmering image is one of those memory pictures that just show up. It's a memory that remains vivid and 'pulsing with meaning' no matter how much time passes. Ms. Norton is convinced that "these images flitting into consciousness are stories waiting to happen". 

Norton believes the most successful memoir is written about periods of our lives that are further away in the 'mists of memory', allowing us the distance of time to make sense of events and experiences. She says, "in the world of written stories, the truths we present to readers ring most believable when they are fashioned to include new insights we couldn't see when events transpired."

Just for the record, the author also clarifies what memoir is and what it is not. For example, if you want to write a chronological overview of your entire life from "I was born" to the "here I am now" stage, that is autobiography. If, on the other hand, you want to write about personal experience -- one slim slice of your life story -- and explore its meaning and truth, that is memoir.

Ms. Norton writes in a stimulating, conversational style. The book is easily read, has just over 100 pages in length, with 20 short chapters. It's divided into three sections: The Ideas Behind the Process, The Process, and The Tools To Craft the Process. Lisa gives inspiration to the aspiring memoirist to sit down and begin typing, because now you know what to do with all those Shimmering Images that bubble up.

If your heart is calling you to write your personal stories, this is an excellent resource that will help you take your memories and turn them into rich, readable memoir.

In case you're not convinced yet that you need to read the book, check out these links:
Lisa reads excerpts from Shimmering Images.
Read the first three chapters of the book.
Check out Lisa's website for other info.

Brenda C Leyland, long-time InScribe member, enjoys writing on her blog It's A Beautiful Life. She is currently working on her first memoir with some personal tutoring from Lisa Dale Norton.


  1. What wonderful confirmation, Brenda. I've just finished a memoir about a period in our lives 30 years ago, where images were still so vibrant I had to finally sit down and describe them. One image led to another until I ended up with a small book. And yes, in the writing, I discovered insights that only distance and life experience and growth in Christ could allow.

    Thanks for sharing this. It's very encouraging!

  2. Great clarification and a lovely review. makes me want to write my memoir!

  3. Very helpful review, Brenda. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.

  4. thanks Brenda - will likely pick one up. :)

  5. Thanks for your review of this book, Brenda. I wasn't familiar with it at all but now I will definitely start by reading the first three chapters. Thanks.

  6. Thank you Brenda! I read the first chapter and I'm hooked. Definitely going to get this book for myself.

  7. Thanks for this book review and the connecting links ... the shimmering images has visual appeal!

  8. Thanks, everyone, for your enthusiastic feedback.

    I just heard from Lisa Norton and she was pleased to learn that her book continues to help writers.

    About finding copies:

    I went to Amazon.ca and realized that they didn't have paperbacks in stock.

    They do have the Kindle version for $8.99.

    However, if you need a paperback, like I do, then I recommend checking out Book Depository as there are copies available there:


    Or, you can also find used copies online at places like AbeBooks.com.

    Hope that helps.


  9. Thanks for sharing, Brenda. I certainly sounds like a book I need to plug into. Look forward to reading it.

  10. I too appreciate your comments on this book, and I also would like to read the chapters you've included and then go from there.

    Blessings on your memoir writing, Brenda.


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