Writing Memoir: Advanced Workshop


We do not stop time’s passage in a memoir: we understand it. A memoir resonates with the deeper story of our lives, the one known only to the individual. This interactive workshop is designed for writers who have already embarked on writing memoir and who wish to shape and creatively craft their narrative further.

Lively discussion and participation are at the heart of this creative writing workshop.

Pre-course activity:
Please bring a 750- to 1,000-word writing sample of your own personal narrative to the first session and be prepared to share it with the class.

Target audience:
This workshop is geared toward writers who have taken courses in writing creative non-fiction, memoir or the personal essay and who wish to explore memoir writing further, both on the page and around the seminar table.

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

  • explored personal experience for its narrative potential
  • learnt to examine the 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 to the finished product.

Course outline:
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:

  • Who speaks: the filter of self
  • Concrete blonde: keeping it real
  • Route/root: the narrative
  • Distance and nearness
  • Risk: trust in the difficult
  • Time in a memoir: then, again
  • Piece work: collage, mosaic, vignette
  • Structure: the river under the river
  • Revision: getting the words right

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. Lively discussion and participation are at the heart of this creative writing workshop, so be open to sharing your work and giving feedback to others.

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.

Diane Comer is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been publishing creative non-fiction for over 20 years. Her book The Braided River: Migration and the Personal Essay was published in 2019 by Otago University Press. She lectures at Victoria University for the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.

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

“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
School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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.