Join us October 4-November 8
Women Writing Memoir
memoirists on the topics that
expose us, shame us,
embolden us, and thrill us.
Register for both events for the bundled price of $299.
++ These are online courses and will be recorded! ++
Women Writing Memoir
6 Mondays: 10/4, 10/11, 10/18, 10/25, 11/1, 11/8 4pm Pacific | 7pm Eastern
If you’re a woman writing memoir, you’re part of a growing movement. Women are showing up more than ever to write our personal stories, to assert that our stories matter, to claim our right to write. For centuries, men’s stories have been the cornerstone of our cultural heritages while women’s stories were lost to history. Not anymore. But as we show up to write, fears emerge, doubts surface. Emotions threaten to overwhelm us, even stop us in our tracks.
The women authors teaching these six sessions have been there. They have walked through the fire of writing their own stories. They have faced shame, fear, and doubt, and they have written and published their truths. They’ve risked fallout, and been met with others’ outrage. They’ve written into their own anger and grief and come through the other side. Writing memoir is one of the most courageous things you’ll ever do, and gaining insight into other authors’ processes and hearing their survival stories is like armoring yourself up for the journey ahead—because yes, you’re gonna need that armor along the way.
If you’re writing a memoir, it’s likely because you must. You might be writing to help others, to save yourself, to call out and be heard. Whatever the reason, these six weeks will give you great fortitude. We welcome you.
Sessions are on Zoom.
Each class is 90 minutes.
All sessions are recorded and accessible indefinitely after class ends.
Week 1 - October 4
The Art of True Confessions
In this session, Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of three confessional-style memoirs, tackles the intersection of memoir and confession. Our culture sometimes treats confession like it’s a bad thing, and yet any writer of personal story knows that the work of digging deep and drawing up the gems of experience and reflection from within is both an art and a gift to the reader. Not to mention that so much of good storytelling comes from honoring the confessions of other people in writing. Considering what you might confess on the page makes you a better writer, and it supports readers to more deeply connect with your work. In this session, Nadia will share how she thinks about confession in her own memoirs, and offer a few tips about reframing how and what you share in your work in order to harness your message in ways that offer powerful takeaways for your readers.
Week 2 - October 11
Writing the Hard (and Sometimes Taboo) Truths
In memoir, truth is subjective. Truth is what you choose to share, and omission is the writer’s prerogative. And yet, modern memoir has set the bar quite high for what is permissible to share, and even what the reader expects authors to disclose. In this session, Gina Frangello will discuss what to weigh when it comes to the truth you put on the page. How do you go all in? What are the boundaries and parameters you want to consider, and what are those you must choose to plough down in service of your memoir, and the truth you want to tell. Gina will share personal anecdotes about how she wrestled with what to share, and how she found her way through her story, which has been described as difficult, messy, and taboo, all of which was core to the story she needed to write.
Week 3 - October 18
I Am a Girl from Africa
How to Give Voice to Family and Community Stories
Our stories are a tapestry of many stories stitched together. Without the stories of those in our families and communities, our singular story would not exist. So, how do we use our stories in memoir writing to give voice to our larger communities? In this session, Elizabeth Nyamayaro, discusses why it is important to use our individual stories to either shift misperceptions about the communities where we come from, or give voice and dignity to invisible communities. You’ll hear about Elizabeth’s own struggles and challenges to interrogate the stories of under-privileged communities in her memoir, I Am a Girl from Africa. How did she identify community stories? What trade-offs did she have to make in order to do so? What were the most difficult aspects about this process? All this and more will support you to consider the many facets of writing about family and community, meaningfully connecting the reader to your story and to your place.
Week 4 - October 25
Finding the Anger in Your Story
In this session, Lilly Dancyger will discuss her experience uncovering the emotions buried under the surface of a story—both as an author and as an editor guiding other writers. Women are so often kept in small boxes, even when they’re trying to express the truth of their experience. We’re told not to be angry, that grief doesn’t sell, that every story has to have a tidy and redemptive ending. For Lilly, it wasn’t until she was deep into the process of writing her memoir, Negative Space, that she realized how much anger was buried under her grief. While editing Burn It Down, the anthology she edited of essays by women about anger, she found that many of her contributors also discovered anger masquerading as something else—sadness, guilt, etc. In this session, she’ll describe how she unapologetically tapped into her own anger—and helped other writers do the same—to process it, own it, and write it.
Week 5 - November 1
Writing Through and Into the Scary and Hard Stuff
You cannot write a memoir without self-awareness. You don’t get the luxury of writing your story without coming face-to-face with some of the less flattering aspects of yourself, or grappling with some of the less-than-perfect decisions you might have made. A perfect protagonist is not only unbelievable, but also boring. Plus, no one gets to write a memoir without confronting painful emotions—fear, doubt, loss, guilt. In addition to writing her own memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman has taught memoir writing to incarcerated writers for years. She understands writing that grapples with owning the consequences of one’s actions—and this session will focus on how and why the process part of memoir writing is equally important as the craft. Moving through those emotions, and leaning into them at times, is also the only way through the writing of a memoir.
Week 6 - November 8
What You Need to Know about Shame and Memoir Writing
For many memoirists, shame can be the biggest obstruction there is to getting the writing done. How do you navigate the fact that writing your truth will invariably unearth shameful events? Knowing that people you know and love will read your words may give you pause at best. Memoirists have to overcome the impulse to self-censor, and for women especially, the layers of shame are manifold—around our roles as mothers and daughters, our sexuality, our choices, and expectations placed on us about what it means to be “good” or “dutiful” (or fill in the innumerable blanks). Furthermore, we live in a shame-based culture that too often prevents people from speaking honestly. We live in fear of bringing shame upon our families. Shame is so central to the experience of writing memoir, and yet one we seem only to contend with in private. Well—no more. In this session, Firoozeh Dumas will share her thoughts, experiences, and reckoning with shame in her own memoirs, shining a light on this all-important subject so that you might find more empathy for yourself along your writing journey.
2022 Book Club
Second Tuesday of Each Month (January – April 2022)
11am Pacific | 2pm Eastern
Led by Linda Joy Myers (National Association of Memoir Writers) and Brooke Warner (She Writes Press), this book club will be the most important and foundational one you’ve ever been a part of—if you’re seeking to write your memoir. This is an opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of the most important memoirs that have shaped the genre and profoundly influenced women memoirists for decades.
Linda Joy and Brooke chose these four books for how impactful Woolf, Angelou, Jong, and Hong Kingston have been to so many women. Each of these memoirs, in their honest and brave portrayals, opened doors for other women writers and shone light onto what was possible for those of us who followed in their footsteps. Don’t miss this opportunity to kick off 2022 by reading these foundational books, and joining these conversations (and teachings) about how you can learn from their legacies.
Moments of Being
(1907-1936, published posthumously in 1972), by Virginia Woolf
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
(1969), by Maya Angelou
Fear of Flying
(1973), by Erica Jong
The Woman Warrior
(1976), by Maxine Hong Kingston
• Sessions are on Zoom.
• Each session is 90 minutes.
• If purchasing books for these sessions, please consider buying from Bookshop.org or from your local indie bookstore.
• All sessions are recorded.
Piper Kerman is the author of the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which was adapted into an Emmy Award-winning original series for Netflix. She serves on the board of directors of the Women’s Prison Association and the advisory boards of the PEN America Writing For Justice Fellowship, InsideOUT Writers, Healing Broken Circles and JustLeadershipUSA. Piper speaks regularly about criminal justice reform and teaches writing in state prisons.
New York Times bestselling author Nadia Bolz-Weber has been called “a pastor for America’s outsiders” (BBC). Nadia Bolz-Weber is the author of Pastrix, Accidental Saints, and Shameless, as well as a Lutheran minister and public theologian. She served as the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Denver, Colorado, until July 8, 2018.
Firoozeh Dumas is an award-winning author and humorist best known for her New York Times bestsellers Funny in Farsi and Laughing Without an Accent. Her award-winning middle grade novel, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel is a favorite among educators. She has also written for the New York Times, and many other publications, and recently finished her first screenplay. Firoozeh travels the world on the lecture circuit reminding us that our commonalities far outweigh our differences.
Gina Frangello’s fifth book, the memoir Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason, has been selected as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. She is also the author of four books of fiction. She’s the Creative Nonfiction Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, and previously founded the independent press Other Voices Books and the fiction section of the popular online literary community The Nervous Breakdown.
Lilly Dancyger is the author of Negative Space, a reported and illustrated memoir selected by Carmen Maria Machado as a winner of the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards; and the editor of Burn It Down, an anthology of essays on women’s anger. Her writing has been published by Longreads, BOMB, Guernica, The Washington Post, Glamour, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and others. She lives in New York City, and you can find her on twitter at @lillydancyger.
Linda Joy Myers is the president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the author of two award-winning memoirs Don’t Call Me Mother and Song of the Plains. Her three books, The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, Becoming Whole, and Journey of Memoir, guide writers through the stages of creating a powerful, truthful, and universal story. Together with Brooke Warner, she teaches memoir intensives here and at WriteYourMemoirinSixMonths.com.
Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Write On, Sisters!, Green-Light Your Book, What’s Your Book?, and three books on memoir, including How to Sell Your Memoir, and two books co-authored with Linda Joy Myers: Breaking Ground on Your Memoir and The Magic of Memoir. She is committed to helping writers become creative entrepreneurs and thought leaders, a message conveyed in her TEDx talk, “Green-Light Revolution.” Together with Linda Joy Myers, she teaches memoir intensives here and at WriteYourMemoirinSixMonths.com.