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  • Workshop
  • Online: Zoom
  • Intermediate
  • 9 Weeks

Memoir in Progress: Section A

No Longer Enrolling

  • $480.00 Non-Member
  • $455.00 Member

Class Description

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 being structured like a traditional workshop (where manuscripts are read and critiqued outside of the classroom for discussion the following week), in this class students will take turns sharing 5-page excerpts, which we will workshop in class "on the fly." In the remaining time, we will participate in some in-class exercises; 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 memoirsand personal essays, including work by such authors as:

  • Edmund White
  • Mary McCarthy
  • Paul Auster
  • Richard Rodriguez
  • Marguerite Duras

There is no work outside of class other than continuing to write, with the goal for each student to write 5 new pages or revise 10 pages each week, and develop a solid outline of the memoir in progress. On the last class, writers may hand in 20 pages of their work to receive a 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 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); a list of three to five memoirs that are similar to yours; and the first two pages (double-spaced) of yourmemoir/essay collection to the first class.

Please note: this class is not group therapy; our focus will be on the craft of the work, not the identity of the author.

To learn more about instructor Alysia Abbott and her teaching style, check out the short podcast with her in our GrubStreet Instructor Interview series:

Scholarships Format/Location

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

This class will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. Please visit the Resources tab to access the video-conference link.

Zoom Participation:

Students are not required to turn their camera on, but are encouraged to participate any way they feel comfortable through functions such as the live chat, emoji reactions, and unmuting the microphone. Learn more about using Zoom here.

Zoom Accessibility:

We ask that instructors enable closed captioning and send a transcript of the session after class. You can also enable closed captioning at any time during the meeting. If your instructor forgets to send the transcript, just send ’em an email!