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Story of a Lifetime:
A Nine-Month Masterclass in Memoir

With Julie Cantrell and Debra Engle 
Large Group meets Alternating Thursdays.
February 15 to October 17, 2024
8 to 10 p.m. Eastern (5 to 7 p.m. Pacific)
Specific dates listed below

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A well-crafted memoir rivals the dramatic impact of the greatest novels, offering adventure, obstacles, epiphanies, and a relatable character who transforms along the way.


Beyond what’s required for fiction, memoir demands the courage to be honest, to reveal deep emotions, to examine “failures” as well as successes, to grow into your own life story, and to find the threads of meaning and connection.


The impulse to write about your life, to share what you’ve learned through sorrow and triumph, is a powerful and purposeful calling. Yet memoir writing also requires careful crafting, a special alchemy to convert raw journal entries into well-sculpted literature.


But what elevates everyday experiences into a coherent story? And in a lifetime of endless moments and memories, where do you choose to begin?


Ah... that’s the pivot point.


Find the right key, and the door will swing open.


This class will walk with you through a generative nine months, helping you shape a memoir intentionally so that it brings value for the reader as well as for you.

Memoir combines passion with purpose.

Memoir allows you to craft a great read from your life events—a story that will inspire, enrage, support, inflame, motivate, or provoke readers to feel something real and meaningful.

To help you do this with unique and ongoing support, we’re offering nine months of instruction, mid-February through mid-October 2024. We’ll meet online as a Large Group for two hours every other Thursday, helping you to start, write, and/or finish your memoir. 

During the year, we’ll also bring in some of the most well-respected memoirists in contemporary literature. And to help you understand the publishing world, we’ll call on agents and editors to discuss the current publishing market as well.


In addition, during alternative weeks, you’ll meet with a Small Group of your writing peers to share support and feedback throughout the year.


We want you to bring your words to life. With the help of authors, agents, publishers, and creative folks, you will be encouraged, enlightened, and inspired to succeed. You’ll have opportunities to read your work in progress, get incisive feedback, and hear constructive criticism, while also receiving priceless professional insights from our guest instructors.


Nine months is a commitment. It’s a commitment to your work, your words, and your dreams. We believe investing in your life and writing can reap extraordinary returns, and we will be with you each step of the way. 

Image by Green Chameleon

Here’s how the class will unfold.

Format of each two-hour class:

10 minutes: Welcome/Community Announcements.

50 minutes: Craft Lesson/Guest Author.

45 minutes: Divide into two breakout rooms for Share and Care.

15 minutes: Return to Large Group for Announcements, Assignments, Q&A, and an Inspirational Quote.

  • Large Group Class will meet every other Thursday.

  • Peer Small Groups will meet alternative weeks.

  • Julie and Deb will meet with Small Group mentors for a training session in the first month (and as needed).

  • In addition to oral reviews during Big Group Share and Cares, and Peer Reviews during Small Group Shares, each participant will receive line edits from Deb or Julie for a 5-page sample once throughout the course.

  • Participants will also be invited to schedule one 30-minute Zoom chat with Deb or Julie to discuss critique feedback and receive individualized support once throughout the course.

Memoir Class Monthly Themes

February: Getting started, organizing materials, writing with a message and purpose (your why), dealing with self-doubt, setting up a writing practice, approaching memoir as literary nonfiction, signing agreements and establishing ground rules for small groups, understanding basic story structure, determining the first act of the story.

March: Understanding the basic elements of story, striking the balance of scene/background/meaning, developing an A story and B story, writing an introduction.


April: Conducting research, telling the emotional truth, using sensory  details, making the most of props/setting/costumes.


May: Revisiting and clarifying your theme, digging deeper, making your writing sing.


June: Keeping it simple, deciding what to include and what to leave out, elevating your memoir to a literary quality.


July: Understanding the legal and ethical considerations of telling your story (writing about family members, community members, or public figures), navigating the difference between fact and opinion, changing names and creating composite characters/scenes.


August: Tackling revision, adding content, weaving stories together, being true to yourself and your message, telling the whole story.


September: Running the home stretch, completing your first draft, fulfilling the promise of your message, and spotlighting the essential ingredient of transcendence.


October: Putting yourself “out there,” dealing with rejection, defining what success looks like for you. Completion, celebration, and next steps.

Memoir Class Dates

  • February 15, 29

  • March 14, 28

  • April 11, 25

  • May 9, 23

  • June 6, 20

  • July* 11, 25

  • August 8, 22

  • September 5, 19

  • October 3, 17

*Note: July 4, No Class for Independence Day.

The cost for Story of a Lifetime: A Nine-Month Masterclass in Memoir will be $2,600 for the full year of study. But when you sign up in full your cost for the nine months of instruction will be $2,400, an additional $200 in savings. 


Click each photo to expand and read more.

Guest Speakers

Note: Guests are subject to change.

Regular Price: $2,600
Pay in full and receive an additional $200 in savings for a cost of $2,400.


Alternating Thursdays, February 15 to October 17, 2024

8 to 10 p.m. Eastern (5 to 7 p.m. Pacific)

Please note: Our classes are designed specifically for live participation, so attendance is encouraged. If you need to miss a Large Group class for any reason, you can request a passcode-protected link to watch a recording of the craft lesson portion of the class. However, to protect participant confidentiality, shared readings, and Q&A discussions will NOT be recorded. 



A full cash refund will be made (less processing fees of 7.5%) provided you give us notice at least two weeks in advance of the class. If less than two weeks, the refund can be applied as a credit for another upcoming class.


Due to the nine-month commitment required for the Memoir Masterclass, no refunds will be made after the class starts. The only exception is for family or medical circumstances that make it impossible to continue. In that event, you will be refunded a pro-rated amount, based on the number of class sessions taken. A 7.5% transaction fee will also apply to the amount due to you.


If a student violates the trust or privacy outlined in the Virtuous Circle, Story Summit reserves the right to dismiss that student from the class and provide a refund pro-rated based on the number of classes taken. There will be no transaction fee refund.

A recent Q&A from our Memoir Mingle with Julie Cantrell and Debra Engle