Creative Writing - Memoir

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Course description

Learn how to write a memoir in Sydney.

Everybody has a story. But what’s the best way to tell it?

This Memoir Course will guide students in their memoir writing. Whether you’ve already completed a first draft or are yet to write a word, this course will help develop your ideas and polish the writing in your memoir.

We’ll begin by reading and discussing excerpts of published memoirs from a writer’s perspective, and quickly move on to write our own. Students will be given writing exercises and we’ll share our stories in an encouraging classroom environment, with the teacher providing personal comments, constructive criticism and encouragement.

Course content

Class time will be spent writing and talking about writing. Students will have in-class writing exercises that focus on a particular aspect of memoir each week and these writings will be shared with the class on a voluntary basis. The final four classes will include workshops, where students will read and discuss each other’s writing, giving constructive criticism and encouraging feedback.

Week 1: A million ways to write a memoir

  • What would you like to write? What have you already written?
  • Choosing a scope for your memoir
  • Experimenting with different voices
  • Looking at memoir styles (from Jo Ann Beard to Rick Moody to Nugi Garimara’s Follow the Rabbit-proof Fence)
  • In-class writing exercise

Week 2: Perspective / bring a personal memento to class

  • Discussion of David Sedaris excerpt
  • In-class writing exercise: point of view
  • The benefits and limitations of writing in first, second and third person
  • In-class writing exercise: write a story about your memento

Week 3: Character development / bring a photograph to class

  • Just because it’s not fiction, doesn’t mean you can’t develop your characters!
  • Reading from Mazie by Joseph Mitchell
  • In-class writing exercise: character
  • Workshop dsicussion of student work
  • In-class writing exercise: write a story about your photograph

Week 4: Setting the scene

  • Painting the scene to create a sense of place and time
  • Looking at Natalia Ginzburg’s personal essay, Winter in the Abruzzi
  • In-class writing exercise: setting
  • Workshop discussion of student work

Week 5: Dialogue

  • How dialogue develops character and moves the plot along
  • Reading and discussion of excerpt from Vox, by Nicholson Baker
  • In-class writing exercise: dialogue
  • Workshop discussion of student work

Week 6: Where do I go from here?

  • Making a plan for completing your memoir
  • Workshop discussion of student work
  • In-class writing exercise
  • How to self-edit
  • Discussion of publishing opportunities

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • generate new writing ideas and find the best story to tell
  • explore different perspectives—first, second or third person
  • understand how setting creates a sense of time and place
  • use dialogue to bring your story and characters to life
  • feel more comfortable editing your own work
  • share information on publishing in Australia
About the tutor

Sarah Klenbort is a prize-winning short story writer. Her writing has been published in The Guardian, Overland, Southerly and Best Australian Stories 2015, and more. She teaches Literature at Western Sydney University. Sarah has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a PhD in Literature from Binghamton University. She has been teaching for fifteen years and she enjoys meeting new students and reading their stories.

Before the class – please organise:
  • A notebook with removable pages and something to write with
  • Laptops (optional)

Avoid disappointment. Enrol early.

Please ensure that you have given a valid email and mobile number as all course changes will be communicated via sms or email.