Memoir I: Beyond Self Absorption with Heather Donohue (9/21 – 10/26)

Instructor: Heather Donahue
Number of sessions: 6
Meeting time: Wednesdays 6:30-9:00

Dates: September 21 and 28, October 5, 12, 19 and 26.
Course fee: $385 with $100 to reserve space in the class

Description: In this six-week class we’ll burrow into your life story to find the universal in your particulars. If you’re still at a stage where you’re journaling and not quite sure how to step onto the path toward a publishable memoir, this class is for you. If you’re struggling through that first draft and your voice is sometimes unsteady or you feel like you might be stringing together events and anecdotes without a coherent story, this class is for you too.

As texts, we’ll be using David Shield’s Reality Hunger as well as Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story. To supplement, there will be excerpts from Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (for our discussion of voice), Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (for our discussion of language and structure), Mary Karr’s Cherry (for our discussion of rites-of-passage stories), and Robert Sapolsky’s A Primate’s Memoir (for our discussion of “secret world” stories and where narrative non-fiction meets memoir).

This class is for the serious beginner who wants to stop talking about that book and make it a reality. Along those lines, we will discuss perhaps (for me, anyway) one of the most challenging aspects of completing a memoir: time management. We will make time for the other challenges of memoir too, like the delicate dance and occasional crashes of writing about loved ones, the places where memory and narrative hug and where they wrestle, and the moral implications therein. In the last class, we will discuss strategies for finding agents and publishers as well as the new digital options for bringing your story to readers.

There will be a prize for the two students who volunteer to workshop their pages in the first class. Because really, this class ain’t cheap, so why not hit the ground running? You’ll like the prize. Promise. See you in September.

Instructor Bio: Heather Donahue’s first story, about spider plant babies being severed from their mothers was an elementary school award winner. Still, she got a little bit sidetracked by acting, and after getting a BFA in Theater at the University of the Arts she appeared in the Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken, The Blair Witch Project, Always Sunny in Philadelphia and other things. Her first adult writing prize, as the winner of the Bust Magazine/Good Vibrations erotica contest, was definitely adult. In addition to Bust, her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, the Orange Coast Review and the interdisciplinary art show Men Without Names which is currently traveling through LA, Berlin, and elsewhere. She has participated in the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and studied with Jim Krusoe in Santa Monica. Her memoir, Growgirl, will be published by Gotham/Penguin on January 5, 2012. There’s more at

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