Number of sessions: 8
Time: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Dates: Wednesdays, July 8, 15, 22, 29, August 5, 12, 19, 26
Course fee: $540
An autobiography is the story of a life; a memoir is a story from a life. Great memoirs captivate us with their drama and inspire us with universal themes of transformation. Bad memoirs trudge through boring details and self-pitying moments. How do you shape your memories and experiences into a compelling story? What do you put in and leave out? How do you compress time and remember dialogue? William Zinsser wrote, “To write a memoir, you must manufacture a text.” That means practicing the storytelling crafts of creating tension, developing a dramatic narrative arc, knowing when to use scenes or summary, writing realistic dialogue, and developing a theme. In a memoir, you are the protagonist, and your protagonist needs a plot. Memoir isn’t about you, it’s about the story. In this course, we will study aspects of craft by reading selections of memoirs from the masters. Then we will take your memories, journal entries, and musings and learn to shape them into a story with universal appeal. You will complete a couple of short assignments leading up to a longer piece of your memoir to workshop, and you can also develop an outline of your memoir by the end of the course. The emphasis of this class is on craft.
Required Texts: selected Shebooks (short e-books); Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art (Judith Barrington). For the first week, you’ll be required to read ONE memoir of your choice from a list the teacher will provide. Note: If you miss any classes because of vacation, Laura will provide you with a written lecture for the week(s) you miss.
Laura Fraser is an award-winning essayist, the editorial director of Shebooks.net, and author of the memoirs An Italian Affair and All Over the Map. She has published personal essays in such publications as the New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, Sunset, Elle, Tricycle Buddhist Review, Afar, and many others. Laura has taught magazine writing at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and at many other venues. She brings her practical sensibility, compassion, and sense of humor to every class.