Writing the first draft of your memoir can be daunting. Determining its scope, narrative voice, and perhaps the most challenging of all, figuring out how to handle time, are no easy tasks. But guidance in a group setting of peers facing similar questions can help. This class will tackle these big-picture issues and pay close attention to the minutiae of good writing.
Rather than a traditional workshop-structured class (where manuscripts are read and critiqued outside of the classroom for discussion the following week), this class allows students to take turns sharing five-page excerpts, which we will workshop in class "on the fly." In the remaining time, we will participate in some in-class exercises, and we'll discuss craft issues such as writing scenes vs. exposition, integrating research, avoiding cliché, developing character, and "truth" and memory as it relates to recovering and recreating the past. We will also examine some exemplary memoirs and personal essays, including work by such authors as:
Alysia Abbott James Atlas Kim Barnes Augusten Burroughs Helen Fremont Gary Shteyngart Abigail Thomas Jeannette Walls
There is no work outside of class other than continuing to write, with the goal of each student writing 5 new pages or revising 10 pages each week, and developing a solid outline of the memoir in progress. On the last day of class, writers may hand in 12 pages of their work to receive critique from the instructor with suggested strategies for finishing the manuscript. Designed for writers with some knowledge of the craft of memoir writing who have either: (a) begun at least three chapters of a full-length memoir or (b) begun at least three essays of a connected series of personal essays. Please come to the first class with a copy of "an elevator pitch" for your potential or existing memoir (a compelling title and 150-word blurb that summarizes and encapsulates your work) or the first page of your memoir/essay collection.
Please note: This class is not group therapy; our focus will be on the craft of the work, not the identity of the author.
Did you know that we have scholarships available for all GrubStreet classes? To apply, click the "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button in the top right corner of this page. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your scholarship application and await our Scholarship Committee's decision before registering for the class. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.