Writing Memoir


Through writing a memoir we realise how much we live forwards and understand backwards. Memoirs combine narration with reflection, and from the wealth of images and memory a story emerges that is known only to and through you. This interactive workshop invites you to explore and shape your own life experience in writing.

Target audience:
This course is for anyone interested in writing personal narrative.

Learning objectives:
By the end of the course, you will have:

  • explored personal experience for its narrative potential
  • discussed and completed exercises integrating memory, reflection and narration
  • learnt how to examine a memoir for its structural elements: how the genre works and why
  • learnt how to give and receive constructive and positive feedback
  • gained an understanding of the importance of editing and revision of the finished product.

Course outline:
Over eight weeks, you will build on your writing from week to week. Each workshop explores a new writing prompt integral to life experience and the memoir: time, memory, character, place, and other themes. Themes for the weekly writing prompt include:

  • Memoir: the power of show and tell
  • Locating touchstones: memory’s persistent images
  • Setting scenes: making the past present
  • Speak, memory: the filter of self
  • “Only connect”: finding pattern and connection 
  • Time in narrative: then, again
  • Voice: the through-line in a memoir
  • Structure: the shape within

This workshop gives you the freedom and opportunity to explore your own voice to creatively write a memoir. It is not intended as an instructional course on how to write the memoir.

You will receive constructive feedback from the tutor and your peers that will allow you the chance to develop and build on your writing skills. Examples of published memoirs are considered, with an attention to craft. Discussion and participation are at the heart of this writing workshop.

In addition to group workshopping and outside of class time, the tutor will also provide you with tailored written feedback on the pieces you write throughout the course.

You will need to set aside time for reading and writing between classes.

Tea and coffee are provided at the start of each session. You are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Class limit:
The course is limited to 12 participants, so please enrol early.

Diane Comer is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and has been publishing creative non-fiction for over 20 years. Her work has been honoured in the series The Best American Essays and with a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She completed her doctorate on migration and the personal essay at the University of Canterbury in 2014. Before moving to Wellington, she taught a range of writing workshops at universities in Sweden and the United States of America, as well community education courses in Christchurch.

“Encouragement to write and feedback from teacher was excellent”, Writing the Personal Essay participant (2018)

“Very good, intimate class, where most works get discussed and comments provided”, Writing the Personal Essay participant (2018)

“Most impressed with the facilitator’s style of presentation and knowledge”, Writing the Personal Essay participant (2018)

Relevant links:
International Institute of Modern Letters

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email: conted@vuw.ac.nz

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.