May 26, 2024

Mastering Memoir—an 8-Week Advanced Intensive

If you’re interested in joining us this summer (2024), please email Brooke.

Mastering Memoir meets for 8 consecutive one-and-a-half hour sessions that include intensive lessons and intimate group coaching. This course is limited to 10 students.

8 consecutive Mondays:
June 10, June 17, June 24, July 1, July 8, July 15, July 22, July 29
3-4.30pm Pacific/6-7.30pm Eastern

In this 8-week intensive focused on the craft of writing memoir, Brooke and Linda Joy will help you develop your understanding of memoir writing by diving deeper into specific craft points, complete with examples from published memoirists and student examples. We will hold group group coaching sessions following each class where you’ll have the opportunity to have your work critiqued by Brooke or Linda Joy. Group coaching gives you an opportunity to get one-on-one feedback on your work in a group setting. Each class is focused on a particular craft point, and we will drill down into specific elements—scene, takeaway, narrative arc, flashback, and memory, etc.—to help you hone the elements you’re comfortable with and get a firmer handle on those you may wish you understood a little better.

Your mentor (Brooke or Linda Joy) will read 1,000 words of your work each week and give you overarching comments (not line edits) on each submission. Each week the class will divide into two groups, with five students going with Brooke and five with Linda Joy to do group coaching sessions. The work of two students will be the focus of each group coaching session. On the weeks you’re not “on,” you’ll listen and offer your own insights. Everyone benefits from learning about the issues the writer getting group coaching might be confronting.

Syllabus

CLASS 1: June 10
Structure and Narrative Arc

Structure is one of the most challenging elements of writing a memoir. Choosing the structure that best fits your story is a challenge that involves a writer needing to uncover a deeper understanding about how structure works and how to think about it. We will present examples of specific structures and teach you how to best tune into which one that will highlight your own story.  Even if you’ve already chosen a structure, you will learn how to think about structure in a way that will help you hold the big picture of this fundamental craft point. Arc will be addressed in this class by way of considering how you intend to present it, since even fragmented memoirs typically have through-lines and story arcs that carry the reader through the plot of your story (beginning, middle, end). This first class will delve into narrative arc so that you leave with a firm understanding of what it is and how it’s functioning in your own memoir.

CLASS 2: June 17
Scene
By now you know what scenes are composed of: sensual details such as sight, sound, texture, and smell, and that a scene is grounded in a certain place and time. And yet, writing scenes takes practice. It’s so easy to fall out of scene and to find yourself writing only in narrative prose (too much telling!). There’s a big learning curve every writer undergoes as they truly “feel” how and when a scene works, and how to stay embodied. We will offer examples of good scenes that accomplish what the writer set out to do—show you their world. Remember, a scene is like the pearl on the necklace of narration, and in a scene the camera lens focuses in to bring the reader, and you, the writer, close in to the unfolding moment.

CLASS 3: June 24
Form, Voice, and Style

Form informs the structure of your book. It’s the container that holds your story. It’s living and breathing alongside your story, beckoning you to listen. How does your story want to be told? In short vignettes or essays? In long prose chapters? In snippets of poetry and poignant moments of meaning? In this hour, we’ll be diving into form and how it holds your story and its impact on your reader. We’ll also discuss voice (what it is and how to harness your own) and style (your unique aesthetic on the page). We’ll help you to identify what form your current story might be in, support you to see your voice and style in our feedback, and encourage you to consider how and where you might introduce new concepts and ideas to your work-in-progress.

CLASS 4: July 1
Flashback and Memory

A flashback is a full scene in the past, while a memory is a line or two in from the vantage point of the “now” narrator that brings us back to an earlier time (ie, a memory). But how to decide which to use and when can be a dilemma for many memoirists. We will give examples of how other writers have used flashback and memory in their works, and show you the many functions of these elements of craft—how flashback and memory provide context, develop layers of meaning and takeaway in your work, and may even be central to the structure of your memoir.

CLASS 6: July 8
Narration and Language Development

Narration is often one of the most confusing things memoirists struggle with due to not being in control of which point of view they’re writing from (the “I” character experiencing the unfolding of the scene; the reflective “I” who makes sense of it all; or the “now” writer (writing from the present moment) who feels tempted to jump in, but who generally readers want to hear from sparingly, if at all. In this class, we will break down into the simplest of terms how to understand your narrative options. This supports writers to feel in control of the book they’re writing. We will also touch upon language development—writing through the senses, the power of metaphors and analogies, avoiding cliches, and more. This class will focus on the art of good writing, something that all writers must finesse and sit with and develop over the course of writing (and editing) a book. We will be teaching best practices for combing through your own work and self-editing, as well as using elements of speech to deepen your work and complete a more sophisticated memoir in the process.

CLASS 7: July 15
Character and Characterization

“Characters” are the foundation of any kind of storytelling, but memoir writers are challenged by the fact that their characters are real people, and the protagonist is themselves. Studying how characters are developed both in memoir and fiction will help you go beyond the simple description from a photograph or the color of someone’s hair. We will encourage you to consider doing character trait lists to capture what is singular about a given character you’re writing. We will talk about composites as well—how to blend characters together and the rationale for doing so. Characterization involves getting into the nitty-gritty of your “characters” personalities, mannerisms, and psychology to create people on the page who are as real for your readers as they are for you.

CLASS 7: July 22
Dialogue

If you have not gotten comfortable using dialogue yet, this class will be about breaking through and learning a new skill. If you are already pretty comfortable with it, we’ll be taking it to the next level. Writing good dialogue is fundamental to characterization, and we’ll be building upon the previous week’s class to talk about how to allow your reader to feel like they’re there with you in a given scene. We’ll share tips for accessing how your characters speak—since this is where the juice of good story-telling really flows! We’ll also give an overview of best practices for formatting dialogue, and attributing dialogue to your characters without always needing to write “he said”/”she said.”

CLASS 8: July 29
Reflection and Takeaway

Reflection and takeaway appropriately round out this course since this is what you want to leave your reader with when they finish the last page of your book. Reflection and takeaway hold the meaning. Reflection answers the question of why the scenes you chose to share really matter to the story, but also to you. Takeaway does something similar, but instead of showing why what you shared matters to you, it’s broadened out to consider why your story matters to your readers. Takeaway is the reward memoirists give to their readers—the thing they want their reader to leave with, to ponder later. If you’re moved by a book, or recommend it to your friends, it’s often because the writer has succeeded in creating a strong takeaway. In this class we will offer lots of examples of how and when to do reflection and takeaway, and why memoir beckons us into the realm of ideas, in addition to storytelling.  Deepening your relationship not only with your story, but with your ability to share it with the world, is part of learning how to offer deep meaning that will touch your readers, and even change their lives.

Group Coaching Calls

Half-hour-long sessions will be held following each hour-long class. You will be informed in advance which weeks you are “on” to have your work highlighted. The class will be divided into two groups of five for group coaching, one group led by Brooke and one by Linda Joy. You will have your same coaching cohort over the entire eight weeks. We encourage you to attend all group sessions whether or not your work is the focus both for the insight you’ll gain from listening to other students’ work get workshopped and for the support you offer as a witness.

Class Details

  • Class is limited to 10 students. Brooke and Linda Joy teach all 8 classes together.
  • 1000-word submissions are due each week and written feedback will be given to you in advance of each class by your designated mentor.
  • Group coaching calls following every class will be divided into two groups of five students each. Each group will have a designated mentor—Linda Joy or Brooke. Whoever is your designated mentor will be who reads and gives feedback, and who leads your group coaching sessions.
  • Each week, two students’ work will be the focus of the group coaching. You will know in advance which dates your work will be discussed in group coaching.

REGULAR PRICE: $2150

DISCOUNTED PRICE for Write Your Memoir in Six Months Alums: $200 off.

Contact Brooke directly if you have questions!
Recently another MFA grad told us that our classes are better than getting an MFA. Cheaper too. 🙂

Claim your spot with a $500 deposit. Enroll today!

Cancellation Policy

After the course begins, there is no cancellation policy unless there’s a serious emergency; we make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Consider your deposit a full commitment. We do this for a reason. People get stressed about their writing and the inner critic can come up to tempt writers to stop. We know that if you keep going, you will be glad you did. The structure of the course is built on supportive sessions and conversations about your work, along with the weekly workshops. It’s important to maintain the stability in the course so you can move forward to revise and develop your memoir to the next stage.

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