Edgy Memoirs

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

There are memoirs that people write when they’ve had a great acting career or been president of a large country. We read these for their historic/cultural value—for our interest in the subject that is their lives. But there’s another kind of memoir that is trying to tell a whole other kind of truth. These are more personal stories of dysfunction, addiction, overcoming the odds. They take us on alcoholic journeys or into dungeons—into scary families and scarier souls. In this workshop, we attempt to uncover this kind of truth; but this isn’t a class in autobiography. What differentiates these stories from other tales of grief and woe is that they are, quite simply, well-told. It is one thing to have a story to tell. It is quite another to know how to tell it. In this workshop, we will read these memoirs and attempt to write one of our own. We’ll read Jonathan Ames, Mary Karr, Kathryn Harrison, Jeanette Taylor, and Nick Flynn, as well as others. The emphasis will be on how to tell our stories. We will work on scenes and scene development. The goal is for students to begin to write, or at least to contemplate, a memoir of their own.