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 class was a wonderful mix of lecture, assignments, exchanges, and critiques. I've learned so much. My technique has improved, and I will continue to refer to the lectures as I write my memoir.

Deborah Lehman

freelance journalist

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

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
  • You can still enroll in this class.
    Starts Wednesday, July 17 2 spots left
    Zoom, 7pm – 10pm ET
    10-Week Workshop
  • Starts Wednesday, October 9
    Online, anytime
    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

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.

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