Join us this fall 2020
Elevate Your Memoir
Bundle—includes Boot Camp and Children of the Land classes.
++ These are online courses and will be recorded! ++
Elevate Your Memoir
Boot Camp for Writers Who Care About Getting It Right
6 Tuesdays: 9/22, 9/29, 10/6, 10/13, 10/20, 10/27
4pm Pacific | 7pm Eastern
Ready for a course to challenge and inspire you—something to keep you on track and learning new elements of story and memoir craft? Never fear, Memoir Boot Camp is here! Each week you’ll be treated to an in-depth dive into an important aspect of memoir with our incredible roster of respected storytellers and memorists (Jacqueline Woodson, Terese Mailhot, Claire Bidwell Smith, Reyna Grande, Sue William Silverman, and Larry Smith—please scroll down to see their impressive teacher bios). Each session will include a lesson from the guest teacher, followed by specific examples of the topic, presented by Brooke and Linda Joy, followed by a short writing and sharing session. ELEVATE YOUR MEMOIR will get your wheels turning, your creative juices flowing, and provide 6 weeks of accountability. This is the kind of boot camp that will remind you that the best rewards come from showing up and doing the work.
Sessions are on Zoom.
Each class is 90 minutes.
All sessions are recorded.
Week 1 (Sept 22): Writing About the People in Your Life
Claire Bidwell Smith kicks off Boot Camp with a class on the rules and the consequences of writing about friends and family in memoir. There’s a lot to unpack here—how to be honest without being hurtful; how to stand in your truth when writing about people who’ve wronged you; how to create nuanced “characters,” whether to do composites, and more.
Week 2 (Sept 29): Likeability and Culpability
Terese Mailhot will challenge you to think about the nuance behind likeability and culpability. The best memoirs portray complicated protagonists, as none of us is all good or all bad. Each of us have things that make us likeable, and each of us has done things we wish we’d handled better. How to portray yourself—the highlights and the lowlights of your life—is what makes you relatable, is what supports readers to understand your actions and motivations. This session will give insight into the full spectrum of self and encourage you to open yourself up all the way on the page—in all your glory and all your messiness, too.
Week 3 (Oct 6): Getting To What Matters Quickly and Succinctly
Larry Smith will teach about how Six-Word Memoirs can be a cure for writer’s block, a catalyst to write longer stories, and a tool that helps you get to the essence of anything in life, love, work, faith, family, and more. From bestselling memoirists like Piper Kerman (“In and out of hot water”) and J.R. Moehringer (“Say when, childhood whispered, pouring, spilling”) to unknown writers such as John Roedel (“Son’s autism broke and rebuilt me”), and Isabel Lara (“My life made my therapist laugh”), millions have used the six-word form to get to the essence of who they are and what matters most. This session will support you to integrate the power of succinctness into your daily writing practice.
Week 4 (Oct 13): Theme: Your Memoir's Very Foundation
Reyna Grande will teach you a secret to writing a great memoir: theme. Knowing what to leave out of a memoir is just as important as knowing what to include, and understanding your theme is the key to making those sometimes-tough decisions. Theme is foundational not only to the memoir-writing experience but also to how readers will engage with your story. Reyna will share her own experience of finding the themes for her memoirs and give you the tools to help you find yours.
Week 5 (Oct 20): Savory Senses: From Detail to Metaphor to Art
Aristotle writes, “Place is a vessel that holds us.” Indeed, it is—and Sue William Silverman has a wealth of experience as an author of four memoirs plus a book about memoir writing, in addition to teaching the craft, to shine light onto how much it matters that we draw upon our physical surroundings for images and details. Doing so embodies our complicated and compelling interior lives and creates more than just an image for the reader to step into, but rather a whole world. Also, by doing so, we as writers discover the metaphors of our narratives, thus turning experience into art.
Week 6 (Oct 27): Memoir as Poetry
Jacqueline Woodson is a master at conveying a lot of meaning without using too many words. In this session, she’ll explain how to take the small moments from our lives and make them beautiful, specific, and something other people care to read about in this present time. Gaining an understanding of how to hone in on these small moments holds the key to resonating with your readers, and writing a book that others hold dear and recommend to their friends.
What Made Children of the Land
a Best-selling Memoir?
4 Mondays, November 2-November 23 at 4pm PT | 7pm ET
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s beautiful debut memoir, Children of the Land, touches on themes of not belonging, silence and invisibility, and the high price of hiding one’s truth. A rare memoir about being an undocumented immigrant since childhood, this memoir is unique in that it voices the unspoken challenges of countless people, and refreshing in its self-awareness and capacity to reflect upon situations that are particular to the immigrant experience and universal to the human experience. Children of the Land is a welcome addition to our popular “best-selling memoir series” as we explore what all memoirists can learn about the art and craft of memoir through the reading and study of this poignant new bestseller.
Sessions are on Zoom.
Each class is 60 minutes.
All sessions are recorded.
NOVEMBER 2: Memoir as Story Arc
Time. Pacing. Scope. Structure. All of these are considerations that contribute to a story’s particular arc—how a memoirist chooses to order the key events; how time gets tracked; what gets included and what gets omitted; how a story progresses along a linear or non-linear timeline; and what period of time a memoir attempts to track. These are fundamentals in any memoir, and Children of the Land offers lots to explore in its adept handling of time and pacing in the story.
NOVEMBER 9: Memoir as Metaphor
NOVEMBER 16: Memoir as Memory
All memoir is memory, but how do we handle the specifics of memory over an entire book-length project that seeks to capture what we remember and the meaning we take with us? Memoirists must understand where their narrator is positioned on the page—presenting their story from the vantage point of their lived experience (“showing”) rather than just a series of remembrances of what happened (“telling”). Children of the Land offers many powerful examples that showcase the many ways to think about memory in memoir, and we’ll show examples of good “showing” as well as tracking the author’s narration through the various timelines he presents.
NOVEMBER 23: Memoir as Poetry
A writer doesn’t have to be a poet to write memoir. That Hernandez Castillo happens to be a poet is a blessing for the reader in that it provides a way to observe all the nuance and flexibility of language, and to think about “takeaway” (a form of reflection) as poetry. If understanding your life and the meaning you discover can land in your readers’ hearts as a song from your own heart rather than a point that you’re trying to make, you create a universal story and connection. Here we will address how to tackle even though most difficult of subjects with an eye toward language and meaning, supporting you to elevate your voice and your self-expression.
We invite you to watch “4 Ways Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s Children of the Land Will Help You Improve Your Own Memoir,” in which Brooke and Linda Joy touch upon the four points we’ll cover in this class. We hope this will get you excited about the class—and especially about the book if you haven’t read it yet!
Jacqueline Woodson is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, and the NAACP Image Award. She’s also the author of Red at the Bone, Another Brooklyn, and dozens of books for young readers. Discover more about Jacqueline at www.jacquelinewoodson.com.
Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island Band. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Granta, Mother Jones, Medium, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Heart Berries, which was named Best Book of the Year by NPR, Library Journal, and Harper’s Bazaar. She teaches creative writing at Purdue University and you can find out more about her at https://teresemailhot.com.
Reyna Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us, about her life before and after she arrived in the US from Mexico as an undocumented child immigrant, and its sequel, A Dream Called Home. She’s also the author of Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies. She obtained a BA from UC Santa Cruz, and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. Discover more at https://reynagrande.com.
Sue William Silverman is an award-winning author of 7 books of creative nonfiction and poetry. Her most recent memoir, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, was named “one of 9 essay collections feminists should read in 2020” by Bitch Media. She’s also the author of Love Sick; Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You; The Pat Boone Fan Club; and Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. She teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. More at www.SueWilliamSilverman.com.
Larry Smith is the founder of the Six-Word Memoir® project, editor of the bestselling series of books, and sought-after speaker. His most recent collection is Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America. Larry’s online projects have been the inspiration for a dozen books, three graphic novels, and an anthology, The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure. He lives in Berkeley with his wife, the writer Piper Kerman, and their son.