See also:
Memoir Writing Intensive
Up next:
Memoir Writing II

Memoir Writing I

GUIDE TO NONFICTION COURSES
Nonfiction Pathways
Foundation
If you’re not sure what kind of nonfiction to write...
If you know what kind of nonfiction to write...
Or...
If you want a rather short course...
Next Steps
After completing a Level I ten-week course...
After completing Memoir II, if you want to write a book...
Selling Your Work
If you hope to get published somewhere...
Memoir Writing I

Memoir Writing I is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. It’s for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

Every life holds many tales. Whether your life is wildly unconventional or relatively normal, there’s bound to be something fascinating about it. That’s why the contemporary memoir—everyday people telling their stories—has become such a popular phenomenon. A memoir covers an aspect of a life, whether it’s a short piece about, say, a bicycle ride with a friend, or a book about, say, your entire childhood.

To make readers care, your memoir must be told with the finesse of fiction. Here you’ll learn techniques for focusing your life stories, as well as well as writing craft and how to market your work.

Whether you seek to write essay-length pieces or a book, we’ll show you how to best tell the stories from your life.

About Memoir Writing
Memoir Writing I

I learned the nuts and bolts of memoir. Specifically, I got connected to the process of writing, and the course took it out of the theoretical and made it real for me.

Drew Hastings

performing artist/writer

Notes

A memoir is similar to a personal essay; both incorporate elements from the writer’s life. But a personal essay focuses more on the viewpoint, and a memoir focuses more on the story. Gotham also offers courses on Essay & Opinion Writing and an Intensive on Personal Essay Writing.

Upcoming Classes NYC COVID Info

Masks are not required, but we’ll provide masks for those who want them. We are no longer requesting proof of vaccination.

More Covid details

Price

Registration fee $25, paid once per term

See Payment Options

To register for a 10-Week course, you need to pay in full to guarantee your place in class. Or you can pay a $95 deposit plus a $25 registration fee (total $120) to temporarily hold your place, but tuition must be paid in full 10 business days before your class starts or you risk losing your spot.

10-Week

Syllabus

This course gives you a firm grounding in the basics of memoir craft and gets you writing a short memoir (or two) or a book. Course components:
     Lectures
     Writing exercises
     Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

New York City/Zoom classes
The syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, term to term. Many topics will be similar to those covered in the Online classes.

Online classes 
Week 1
Introduction to Memoir: The contemporary memoir defined. Short and long memoirs. Finding the “who cares?” in your story. Focusing on an aspect of your life. Types of memoirs—coming of age, adversity, relationship, career, travel.

Week 2
Mining Your Memory: How “true” must it be? Researching your past. The balance of being “actor” and “observer.” Not using memoir as therapy. Facing the truth.

Week 3
Character: Thinking of real people as characters. Making characters dimensional through desire and contrasts. Creating character profiles. Showing vs. Telling. Methods for showing characters.

Week 4
Plot: Finding a major dramatic question. Shaping a beginning, middle, and end. The difference between short and long plots. Pros and cons of outlining.

Week 5
Description: Using the senses. Specificity. Techniques for creativity. Finding the right words. Merging description with point of view.

Week 6
Dialogue: The importance of scene. Turning real life conversations into dialogue. Quotation marks and tags. Stage directions. Summarized dialogue. Characterization through dialogue. Subtext.

Week 7
Point of View/Voice: Point of view defined. First person and other memoir alternatives. Voice defined. Exploration of the various types of voice. Tips for finding your voice.

Week 8
Setting/Pacing: Creating setting through time, place, and weather. Description of setting. Mood and emotion of setting. How to manipulate time through pacing. Flashbacks.

Week 9
Theme/Revision: Theme defined. Types of theme. Weaving theme into a story. Exploration of the various stages of revision.

Week 10
The Business: Proper format for manuscripts. How to target publishing houses, literary magazines, and agents. How to send your work out. Query letters.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.

Teachers

A. Hansen Miller
A. Hansen Miller

A. Hansen Miller has published essays, articles, and poems in the New York Times, Line of Advance, Columbia Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Raffish, and the Journal of Military Experience, and been anthologized in The Weight of My Armor (Parlor Press). His essay “Threads of Fiction” was adapted into the short film Solemn Return. Formerly he was an editor for the Syracuse Peace Council Newsletter, the nonfiction editor of the Journal of Military Experience, and the online managing editor of Columbia Journal. He served as an artillery officer in the US Army overseas in South Korea and Afghanistan, deployed to Afghanistan a second time as a military intelligence officer, and was honorably discharged at the rank of captain. He is a cofounder and board member of the Ivy League Veterans Council, a cofounder of the Charlotte Veterans Writing Group, a cofounder of the Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University, and a former group leader of the Syracuse Veterans Writing Group. He holds a BA from Illinois Wesleyan University and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University.

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Amanda Oliver
Amanda Oliver

Amanda Oliver is the author of the nonfiction book Overdue: Reckoning With the Public Library (Chicago Review Press), and her essays have appeared in Electric Literature, the Los Angeles Times, the Rumpus, PANK, and Medium, among many others. She is the nonfiction editor of Joyland Magazine, and she has taught for the University of California at Riverside. She holds a BA and an MLS from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and an MFA in nonfiction from the University of California at Riverside. 

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Cindy House
Cindy House

Cindy House is the author of the memoir Mother Noise (Scribner/Marysue Rucci Books), and her essays and short fiction have appeared in Passengers Journal, Lily Poetry Review, Wig Leaf, Solstice Literary Magazine, Longleaf Review, and So To Speak, among others. She is a humorist who opens regularly for David Sedaris at Kennedy Center, Symphony Hall, and The Town Hall in New York, among others. She teaches in the MFA program at Lesley University. She attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and holds an MFA in Fiction from Lesley University. 

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Jil Picariello
Jil Picariello

Jil Picariello is the co-author of the memoir Jessica Lost (Union Square Press). She is the Theater Editor for ZealNYC, and her nonfiction has appeared in Afar, Food + Wine, New York, Seventeen, and USA Today. She has worked as a copywriter for New York and People, as copy chief for The Parenting Group at Time Warner, and as copy director for Reader’s Digest. She has taught at Media Bistro. She holds a BFA from New York University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School.

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Kyleigh Leddy
Kyleigh Leddy

Kyleigh Leddy is the author of the memoir The Perfect Other: A Memoir of My Sister (HarperCollins), which is based on her New York Times Modern Love essay “My Sister Disappeared Years Ago. I See Her Whenever I Want.” Her essays and articles have also appeared in New York Magazine, Parents, People, QCODE, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology, among others. She has worked for Parents magazine. She holds a BA from Boston College and an MSW from Columbia University.

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Nan Mooney
Nan Mooney

Nan Mooney is the author of the memoir My Racing Heart: The Passionate World of Thoroughbreds and the Track (HarperCollins), and the nonfiction books (Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents (Beacon Press) and I Can't Believe She Did That: Why Women Betray Other Women at Work (St. Martin's Press). Her nonfiction has also appeared in The Atlantic, the Washington Post,Slate, Motherwell, Alternet, and Babble. She holds a BA from Scripps College.

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Stacy Pershall
Stacy Pershall

Stacy Pershall is the author of the memoir Loud in the House of Myself  (W.W. Norton), selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Program, and her work is included in the anthologies Lost and Found (W.W. Norton) and Spent (Seal Press). She has taught at Writopia, Pratt Manhattan, City College of New York, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. She holds a BA from the University of Arkansas and an MFA in Performance Art from the University of Cincinnati.

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