Lifestories with Patti Miller

Books by Patti Miller

      Writing True Stories

      The complete guide to writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, biography, travel and creative nonfiction.

      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.

      'A rich, practical and accessible source of wisdom ... the complete tool kit.' Caroline Baum

      Allen and Unwin 2017


      Ransacking Paris
      To buy: UQP |

      An exquisite memoir of a year spent daydreaming in Paris by award-winner Patti Miller

      It must mean something, a dream that can propel you to the other side of the world. Couldn’t it be the heart wanting something it needs, this longing for elsewhere? After all, we are all strangers wandering around this planet, apparently lost most of the time, looking for something or someone – or some place.

      What does it mean to fulfil a dream long after it seems possible? When Patti Miller arrives to write in Paris for a year, the world glows ‘as if the light that comes after the sun has gone down has spilled gold on everything’.  

      But wasn’t that just romantic illusion? Miller grew up on Wiradjuri land in country Australia where her heart and soul belonged. Mother of grown-up boys with lives of their own, what did she think she would find in Paris that she couldn’t find at home?

      She turns to French writers, Montaigne, Rousseau, de Beauvoir and other memoirists, each one intent on knowing the self through gazing into the ‘looking glass’ of the great world. They accompany her as she wanders the streets of Paris – they even have coffee together – and they talk about love, suffering, desire, motherhood, truth-telling, memory, the writing journey, how to know who we are in the family and in the cultures that shape us.  

      This story, of a year spent writing and reading in Paris, explores truth and illusion, self-knowledge and identity – and evokes the beauty, the contradictions and the daily life of contemporary Paris.

      The Mind of a Thief
      To buy: UQP
      |  Booktopia

      ‘The whole Wiradjuri nation was born in the Valley. Baiame came out of the sea in the east on his emu feet, a giant of a man, with his two wives, and he strode up through the Valley and he created it. It’s the most important place. It’s where the stories come from. That’s why I won’t let it go.’

      When writer Patti Miller discovers that the first post-Mabo Native Title claim was made by the Wiradjuri in the Wellington Valley where she grew up, she begins to wonder where she belongs in the story of the town. It leads her to the question at the heart of Australian identity – who are we in relation to our cherished stolen country?

      Feeling compelled to return to the valley, Miller uncovers a chronicle of idealism, destruction and hope in its history of convicts, zealous missionaries, farmers and gold seekers who all took the land from the original inhabitants. But it’s not until she talks to the local Wiradjuri that she realises there’s another set of stories about her town, even about her own family. As one Wiradjuri elder remarks, ‘The whitefellas and blackfellas have two different stories about who’s related to who in this town’.

      Black and white politics, family mythologies and the power of place are interwoven as Miller tells a story that is both an individual search for connection and identity and a universal exploration of country and belonging.

      Long-listed for the Stella Prize and the Nita Kibble Prize, Short-listed for the WA Premier’s Prize for Non-Fiction, Winner of the NSW Premier’s Prize for History 2013. It has also been put on the syllabus for English for the VCE in Victoria.

      The Mind of a Thief  
      UQP May 2012

    Winner 2013 NSW Premier's Prize for History, VCE English syllabus listed.


        ‘Thoughtfully and perceptively relayed, this is a story all about identity, connection to place and how we gain a sense of self through stories of the generations.’ Courier-Mail

      ‘If this book does not resolve all the contradictions of its material that is a tribute to Miller's integrity. It is an appropriately complex and illuminating response to the Mabo judgment.’ Sydney Morning Herald

        ‘This exploration of identity and belonging is brilliantly crafted, brave and full of love.’ Hobart Mercury

      ‘A seamless narrative. [Miller’s] powers of observation give her stories a colourful cohesion. She has produced a remarkably fluid, virtuoso piece of writing.’
      Saturday Age

      Native title is a complex and vexing issue. This thoughtful, well-researched and beautifully written personal story helps us to understand why it is so important to indigenous people.
      Herald Sun ‘Great Read’.

      ‘The Mind of a Thief deals with the big issues… the book unfolds into one of the best descriptions I've seen of the native title mediation process. This is complex stuff but Miller sets it all out calmly and clearly, using the craft of storytelling.’
      Weekend Australian

      ‘Thoughtfully and perceptively relayed, this is a story all about identity, connection to place and how we gain a sense of self through stories of the generations.’



Writing True  Stories











Mind of a Thief cover

Listen to actress, Claudia Karvan reading from The Mind of a Thief, accompanied by artist, Gria Shead’s images, Graphic Festival, Opera House 2013.

      Writing Your Life
      Now superseded by Writing True Stories

      If you have dreamed by childhood creeks, played in a dusty schoolyard,watched the sun rise after a partner has died, or lived through any of life’s twists and turns, then you have a life story to write. Writing Your Life shows you how.

      This book is also about the psychological and spiritual journey of the writing of the self. The journey is one of discovery and this book is a map of the terrain. Writing Your Life gives you the skills you will need to undertake that journey. In writing your life you reveal and create its meaning.

      This best-selling edition of Writing Your Life provides techniques for getting started, finding your writing voice, accessing memory and discovering the structure of your story. It also explores the wider area of life writing: sojourn and travel writing, ‘recovery’ writing and memoir. It discusses issues such as selective memory, emotional pain and growth, objections from family members, how to communicate your philosophic and spiritual truths without cliche and the challenges of sorting through the raw material of your own life.


Writing your life


      Corrie and Michael's twenty-year-old son, Tom, goes to Asia after dropping out of university - no-one hears from him and he does not return on the due date. His parents are left to contemplate the nightmarish possibilities. Corrie, haunted by her own unremembered past, waits, while Michael travels through Asia looking for their son. 

      A beautiful novel about family secrets and loss  and our deepest hopes and fears.

      Allen and Unwin
      Available Print-on-demand 



      Last One Who Remembers

      Creating stories from her own experience, Patti Miller tells real and fictional narratives about her great-aunts, weaving imaginary tales about actual lives, and exploring the possibilities in the silence under the stream of stories. 

      The Last One Who Remembers traverses the boundaries of fiction, personal history and essay. Miller explores the stories which shape our lives shifting from the overhead murmurings of family, through tales of childhood landscape and religion, to fantasies of sex and the illusory certainties of intellectual knowledge. She looks at how these stories create our sense of self and form our picture of the world. 

      The Last One Who Remembers,
      Allen and Unwin
      Out of print. Available only online.


the last one who remembers

      Whatever the Gods Do

      After spending the past seven years being the " second mother" of ten-year-old Theo, life-writing teacher Patti Miller is devastated when he and his father move away. Desperately missing Theo and needing to distract herself, she decides to take singing lessons, something she has always longed to do, despite misgivings about her voice. But, if anything, the lessons make her feel worse - she can't even get the notes out, let alone sing them in tune.

      While recounting the saga of her singing lessons, Patti - who for many years has helped other people write their experiences - also tells the story of her life with Theo: her friendship with his parents, Kit and Dina: the fateful day Dina's life changed irretrievably: and the agonising months that followed. In charting this instantaneous transformation of Dina's life, as well as the slow unfolding of her own connection to Theo, the subterranean shifts of her body's rhythms, and her painstaking efforts to sing, Patti reveals the trials and ultimate triumph in discovering how one's own voice can transcend the everyday.

      Resonating throughout with hope and love of life, Whatever the Gods Do is a passionate and lyrical account of friendship and loss, of singing and storytelling, and of the universal quest to express one's own experience of being.

      Whatever the Gods Do, Random House
      Now  available  as  an  ebook  here.


Whatever the gods do

      The Memoir Book

      Now superseded by Writing True Stories

      Memoir - writing about an aspect of a life rather than a wholelife - expresses and shapes these stories within us so that the writing becomes more than a record, it becomes a creative journey.

      Drawing on Patti's extensive teaching and writing experience, and using examples and exercises, The Memoir Book provides invaluable insight on how to find your topic, develop narrative voice, find a balance between factual truth and vivid story-telling, explore creative ways of structuring memories, and helps identify the best form for your writing – whether it be literary memoir, narrative non-fiction, sojourn and travel writing, or even the personal essay.

      Written in Patti's warm, clear and conversational style, this book is an essential guide for anyone who wants to write memoir or extend the possibilities of autobiography and non-fiction. The Memoir Book, a companion volume to her highly successful guide Writing Your Life, provides inspiration and practical advice for both new and experienced writers exploring the popular genre of memoir.


The Memoir Book

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