Do you want to write a memoir but aren’t sure where to start? Or have you already started a memoir but aren’t sure how to keep it going? This class will give you some solid ground from which to jump into the mysteries of memoir writing. We’ll start by exploring memory itself. How do you access vague memories? What is your responsibility to the truth? What will make your own small story relevant and crucial for others?
From there, we will look at some of the key building blocks of every memoir: character, setting, point of view, plot, context, and theme. We’ll examine how different memoirists have used these building blocks in different ways, learning from excerpts by a variety of writers such as Jo Ann Beard, James Baldwin, Maxine Hong Kinston, Isabel Allende, J.M. Coetzee, and more.
You’ll have a chance in class to play with these building blocks, experimenting with different ways to access your own story. What should the jumping off point of your story be? What is the story you really need to tell anyway? And what is the right voice for that story? After much experimentation, you should have a solid opening to share and the inspiration to keep going.
Monica Wesolowska is the author of the memoir Holding Silvan: A Brief Life and a forthcoming children’s picture book Leo Plus Lea. In addition, she publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of venues including The New York Times.
A former fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Monica has been teaching at UC Berkeley Extension, Stanford Continuing Studies, and elsewhere for over sixteen years. She also runs an independent editing business.