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

A great place to get clarity on your memoir writing. I feel a lot more clear and confident about my memoir.

Ruwan Meepagala

life coach

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

  • Starts Tuesday, January 3 2 spots left
    Online, anytime
    10-Week Workshop
  • Starts Monday, January 9
    NYC, 6:30pm – 9:30pm ET
    10-Week Workshop
  • Starts Tuesday, January 10
    Zoom, 2pm – 5pm ET
    10-Week Workshop

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

Barbara Schoichet
Barbara Schoichet

Barbara Schoichet is the author of the memoir Don’t Think Twice: Adventure and Healing at 100 Miles Per Hour (Putnam) and the nonfiction book The New Single Woman: Discovering a Life of Her Own (Lowell House). Her short stories have appeared in MSS, the Sarah Lawrence Review, Permafrost Magazine, and Westword, and she has worked as a literary agent for Flannery, White and Stone, as an editor for RGA Publishing, and head publicity writer for Paramount Pictures. She has taught at Denver University, Lancaster University, Long Beach City College, Santa Fe Community College, and Stephens College. She holds a BA from Stephens College, an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Ph.D in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in England.

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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 has taught for the Green Street Home School Co-Op. She attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and holds an MFA in Fiction from Lesley University. 

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Cullen Thomas
Cullen Thomas

Cullen Thomas is the author of the memoir Brother One Cell (Viking). His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Salon, The Rumpus, The Sonora Review, World Hum, Current Biography, and Penthouse. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and the National Geographic channel and has taught at NYU. He holds a BA from Binghamton University.

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David Berner
David Berner

David Berner is the author of the memoirs Walks with Sam, October Song, (both Roundfire) and The Consequence of Stars (Adelaide); the novels Things Behind the Sun (Adelaide) and A Well-Respected Man (Strategic); and the novella Sandman: A Golf Tale (Roundfire, forthcoming). His essays and short stories have appeared in Chicagoland Journal, Clef Notes, Epiphany, Eunoia Review, Longshot Island, Under the Gum Tree, and Write City. He is a reporter/anchor for WBBM Radio-Chicago and a contributor to the CBS Radio Network. He is the producer/writer of the audio documentaries NaNoWriMo (PRX/WRST Oshkosh, WI), Bracelets of Grace (Prairie Public Radio), and Finding My Kerouac (WFUV Radio, NYC). He teaches at Columbia College. He holds a BS from Clarion University, an MA in Teaching from Aurora University, and an MFA in Creative Writing-Nonfiction from Fairleigh Dickinson 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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Joselin Linder
Joselin Linder

Joselin Linder is the author of the memoir The Family Gene (Ecco/Harper Collins), and co-author of the nonfiction books The Gamification Revolution (McGraw Hill), Game-Based Marketing (Wiley and Sons), and The Good Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin (Adams Media). She is also co-author of the humor books The Stoned Family Robinson (Adams Media) and The Purity Test (St. Martin’s Press). Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, Elle, This American Life, NPR’s Morning Edition, StoryCollider, Life of the Law, and the New York Post. She holds a BA from Tufts University.

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