Home About Us Features Write Now! Submit Resources


The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss

by Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd

A practical and inspiring guide to transformational personal storytelling, The Story You Need to Tell is the product of Sandra Marinella's pioneering work with veterans and cancer patients, her years of teaching writing, and her research into its profound healing properties. Riveting true stories illustrate Marinella's methods for understanding, telling, and editing personal stories in ways that foster resilience and renewal. She also shares her own experience of using journaling and expressive writing to navigate challenges including breast cancer and postpartum depression. Each of the techniques, prompts, and exercises she presents helps us "to unravel the knot inside and to make sense of loss." Click to see her column on the Survivor's Review Write Now! page.

Expressive Writing: Words that Heal

by James Pennebaker and John Evans

Expressive Writing: Words that Heal provides research results, in layman's terms, which demonstrate how and when expressive writing can improve health. It explains why writing can often be more helpful than talking when dealing with trauma, and it prepares the reader for their writing experience. The book looks at the most serious issues and helps the reader process them. From the instructions: "Write about what keeps you awake at night. The emotional upheaval bothering you the most and keeping you awake at night is a good place to start writing."

Other Selected Books

Writing As a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms our lives

by Louise DeSalvo

In this inspiring book, based on her twenty years of research, highly acclaimed author and teacher Louise DeSalvo reveals the healing power of writing. DeSalvo shows how anyone can use writing as a way to heal the emotional and physical wounds that are an inevitable part of life. DeSalvo's program is based on the best available and most recent scientific studies about the efficacy of using writing as a restorative tool. With insight and wit, she illuminates how writers, from Virginia Woolf to Henry Miller to Audre Lorde to Isabel Allende, have been transformed by the writing process. Writing as a Way of Healing includes valuable advice and practical techniques to guide and inspire both experienced and beginning writers.

The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity

by Louise DeSalvo

In a series of conversational observations and meditations on the writing process, The Art of Slow Writing examines the benefits of writing slowly. DeSalvo advises her readers to explore their creative process on deeper levels by getting to know themselves and their stories more fully over a longer period of time. She writes in the same supportive manner that encourages her students, using the slow writing process to help them explore the complexities of craft.

A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement

Edited by Barbara Abercrombie

In this collection of anecdotes, lessons, quotes, and prompts, author and writing teacher Barbara Abercrombie provides a delightfully varied cornucopia of inspiration - nuts-and-bolts solutions, hand-holding commiseration, and epiphany-fueling insights from fellow writers, including Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and Abercrombie's students who have gone from paralyzed to published.

The Cancer Poetry Project

Edited by Karin Miller

A single poem -- heart-rending, fearful, raging, beautiful, grotesque, even hilarious -- lets us know we're not alone in dealing with cancer. Hailed by critics and readers alike, The Cancer Poetry Project offers not lofty verse, but accessible, extraordinary poetry from published poets, first-time poets and everyone in between. The anthology includes 140 poems, plus the story and people behind each. These are the words we long to say when someone we love is diagnosed. Cancer survivors find solace in its pages. And it is frequently used by cancer support groups.

Not Done Yet: Living Through Breast Cancer

by Laurie Kingston

Laurie Kingston was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and decided to create a blog about it. That blog is the basis for this very candid, moving, and often very funny book about a mother, lover, and angry cancer activist who continues to find a great deal to enjoy in life. Spanning a two-year period, the entries take the reader on a compelling journey-from first diagnosis and what that meant personally and professionally, to preparing for treatments, learning how to ask questions of hospital caregivers, and coping with the physical hardships of undergoing chemotherapy. When Laurie learned in November 2006 that the cancer had spread to her liver, she was devastated. But she kept on writing--and went from a prognosis of "years not decades" and innumerable tumours, to "spectacular" results and (at last count) six clean scans under her belt. Not Done Yet opens a window on one woman's journey through breast cancer treatment, recovery, recurrence, and beyond.


by Sharon Bray

Writer and educator Sharon Bray is best known for her innovative work in leading therapeutic writing groups for men and women with cancer and for teaching and mentoring helping professionals in the use of expressive writing for those who have suffered pain, loss or trauma. Writing Through Cancer is a website designed for those whose lives have been touched by cancer. Each week, Sharon posts a writing prompt designed to inspire us to write from our cancer experiences. Each prompt will be available on the site for one month.

When Words Heal: Writing Through Cancer

by Sharon Bray

Preface written by Martin L. Rossman, M.D., Author of Fighting Cancer from Within and Guided Imagery for Self-Healing.

An insightful and useful book for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer, When Words Heal explores the power of words to heal. Dr. Sharon Bray provides detailed instructions for those wanting to lead a writing group for individuals living with cancer, or for those who simply wish to write through their experience of cancer.

A Healing Journey: Writing Together Through Breast Cancer

by Sharon Bray

A Healing Journey describes and demonstrates the healing power of writing and sharing our stories aloud through the experience of breast cancer. Building on the research of James W. Pennebaker, David Spiegel and others, the women's stories are interwoven with the author's observations as writing group leader. An informative and moving account of the power of writing together to heal and create community, it is a useful and helpful book for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer, for helping professionals and for writing group leaders.

Writing Down the Bones

by Natalie Goldberg

For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice - "it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind." Full of insightful anecdotes and practical writing exercises, this is a "must own" writing classic.

Old Friend from Far Away

by Natalie Goldberg

This is Goldberg's first book since Writing Down the Bones to focus solely on writing. Old Friend from Far Away reaffirms Goldberg's status as a foremost teacher of writing, and completely transforms the practice of writing memoir. To write memoir, we must first know how to remember. Through timed, associative, and meditative exercises, Old Friend from Far Away guides us to the attentive state of thought in which we discover and open forgotten doors of memory. At once a beautifully written celebration of the memoir form, an innovative course full of practical teachings, and a deeply affecting meditation on consciousness, love, life, and death, this book welcomes aspiring writers of all levels and encourages us to find our unique voice to tell our stories.

Writing Out the Storm: Reading and Writing Your Way Through Serious Illness or Injury

by Barbara Abercrombie

This powerful and deeply inspirational handbook is for anyone coping with serious illness or injury - be it theirs or that of a loved one-who wants and needs to help themselves through the healing process. Offering her own experiences with breast cancer, as well as stories from other authors who have suffered from illnesses or severe injuries from Steven King to Lance Armstrong Abercrombie encourages readers to write what is in their hearts and to benefit from the power of shared experience. Writing Out the Storm is a book about healing the soul.

Courage and Craft: Writing Your Life into Story

by Barbara Abercrombie

Have you always wanted to write about your life, but wondered how to get started, how to keep going, and whether it's even worth it in the first place? Under the guidance of veteran author and writing teacher Barbara Abercrombie, you'll learn how to turn the messy, crazy, sad, and wonderful stuff of your life into prose or poetry that has order, clarity, and meaning.

Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and Loss Through Writing

by Susan Zimmermann

When Susan's first child, Katherine, developed a neurological disorder that left her unable to walk or talk, Susan struggled with fear, denial, guilt, bitterness, and despair. She began to heal only through writing. Working through conflicting emotions with paper and pen enabled her to transform her sadness into acceptance and even joy. Writing to Heal the Soul was written for those suffering any kind of grief or loss, whether the injury, disability, or death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the end of a relationship. Lyrically illustrated with true stories from the author and others, the book offers simple yet inspiring writing exercises to help you resolve your pain as you transform your grief into words of hope and healing.

Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval

by James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D.

The simple act of expressing your thoughts and feelings about emotionally challenging experiences on paper is proven to speed your recovery and improve your mental and physical health. This book, written by one of America's most distinguished research psychologists, guides you through a brief, powerful series of directed writing exercises. Each will leave you with a stronger sense of value in the world and the ability to accept that life can be good -- even when it is sometimes bad.

Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions

by James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D.

Psychologist James W. Pennebaker has conducted controlled clinical research that sheds new light on the powerful mind-body connection. This book interweaves findings with insightful case studies on secret-keeping, confession and the hidden price of silence. Filled with information and encouragement, Opening Up explains how writing can improve your health; how long-buried trauma affects the immune system; why it's never too late to heal old emotional wounds; and when self disclosure may be risky and how to know who to trust.


Writing and Breast Cancer

Benefits of Writing about Trauma


American Cancer Society

Academy for Guided Imagery

National Association for Poetry Therapy

Quit Smoking Community

Freedom From Smoking