Prerequisite:
Memoir Writing I
Up next:
Memoir Writing II Book

Memoir Writing II

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 II

Memoir Writing II is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. The prerequisite is Memoir I (10-week), or the equivalent; Level II courses work best when students know the fundamentals and have experience with the workshop process.  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 II

This course was one of the best things I've done for myself to jumpstart my own work.

Adam Ward

student

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
  • Starts Monday, April 8
    Zoom, 2pm – 4pm 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 helps you sharpen your skills at memoir craft and work toward completion of one or two short memoirs or a book. Writers often repeat Memoir II to continue their projects. 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
Starring You: Putting yourself at the center. Creating a persona. Ways to reveal yourself on paper. Your distinctive voice.

Week 2
Describing Your Life: Conveying your view of things. How quick or lingering your views should be. Effective description.

Week 3
Story Construction: Story devices—desire/change, inciting incident/climax. The single event story. The chronological story. The collage story. Techniques for putting the story together.

Week 4
Action & Reflection: Finding the balance of action and reflection. Using action—scene and narration. Using reflection—present and past perspectives. Broader reflection. Blending action and reflection.

Week 5
Going Short: The really short memoir. Finding ideas. Short piece, big meaning. Analysis of a really short piece.

Week 6
Making Scenes: The importance of scenes. Veracity. Connecting scenes. Scene dynamics—conflict, dialogue, direction.

Week 7
Alternative Strategies: Alternative forms of memoir. Memoirs that don't just focus on you. Family history. Not first person. Unusual forms. Not just prose. The deliberate experiment. Memoir hybrids. Autobiographical fiction/fictional memoir.

Week 8
Openings/Closings: Strategies for opening a memoir. Strategies for closing a memoir.

Week 9
Humor: Using humor in memoir. Funny situations. Human folly. Writing humor. Exaggeration.

Week 10
In Print: The benefit of publishing short pieces (even if you're writing a book). Literary magazines. Mainstream and niche magazines. Newspapers. Guidelines for sending out work. Responses, rejection, contests. Other avenues to publication.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.

Teachers

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. 

Read more
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.

Read more
Kelly Caldwell
Kelly Caldwell

Kelly Caldwell is the dean of faculty at Gotham Writers Workshop. Her nonfiction has appeared in Vox, House Beautiful, SugarSugarSalt, Pacific Standard, New York Newsday, Time Out New York, The Writer, and Essay Daily, and been named Notable by the editors of the Best American Essays series. She's also been anthologized in If These Walls Could Talk: Thoughts of Home (Hearst) and Getting to the Truth: The Craft and Practice of Creative Nonfiction (Hippocampus Books).  She holds a BJ from the University of Missouri and an MS from Columbia University.

Read more
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.

Read more