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Starting A Memoir: 
Turning Your Life Into Art
July 20 and July 21
8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Pacific)

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“I think many people need, even require, a narrative version of their life. I seem to be one of them. Writing memoir is, in some ways, a work of wholeness.”

—Sue Monk Kidd

The impulse to write about your life, to share what you’ve learned through sorrow and triumph, is powerful and filled with purpose. Yet memoir writing requires careful crafting, a special alchemy to turn diary entries into literature.

But how? 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 give you the start you need to head in the right direction, shaping a memoir intentionally so it works for the reader as well as for you.

Writing memoirs can be therapy. But ultimately, to be marketable, it has to have a point.

Making that shift means establishing a universal theme for your memoir, then crafting a good read from your life events—a story that will inspire, enrage, support, inflame, motivate or provoke readers to feel something real and meaningful.

 

This class will get you started—or move you forward if you’ve already begun. Through writing prompts, workshopping and Q&A, we’ll cover these questions and more.

 

  • What’s the difference between memoir and biography, and why does it matter?

  • How do you get past the fear about whether readers will care?

  • How do you get used to writing in first person and get over the resistance to “I?”

  • Is memoir the right genre for the story you want to tell?

  • How do you decide on a “container” or timeline for your story?

  • Does a memoir need a theme? If so, how do you establish it?

  • How do you use that theme to determine the start of your story?

  • How do you establish a tone and voice from the beginning?

  • How do you decide what to put in and what to leave out?

  • How do you stay true to the message you want to convey?

  • How do you tell the truth about events when you want to hide?

  • How do you tap into your emotions and write about events that are painful to relive?

  • What can you legally and ethically write about others?

  • Are there “rules” for writing a memoir? If so, how do you break them?

Before the class, please read one of the following memoirs:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello

Educated by Tara Westover

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Here’s how the class will unfold.

July 20: Amy and Deb will explore the beginnings of different memoirs and what makes them work—or not. Why do you want to write a memoir, and what do you want to say? We’ll talk about the basics of memoir and how to establish your message and theme. You’ll leave with an assignment to write the first page of your memoir before the next evening.

July 21: We’ll ask several students to share and workshop their writing. We’ll talk about how to elevate your writing, using metaphor and symbolism to convey emotion, how to establish the main characters in your story, how to weave in details about setting, and how to marry reflection with narrative to add meaning to everyday life events.

Faculty

Registration fee: $95 for three hours of instruction.

EVENING CLASS

July 20 - 21

8 to 9:30 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Pacific)

Please note: Our classes are designed specifically for live participation, so your attendance is important. If you need to miss a class for any reason, you’ll receive a passcode-protected link to watch the recordings after the course is over.

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