Five Days to Write a Life Five Days to Write a Life Five Days to Write a Life

Five Days to Write a Life

There are many ways in which a life story can be presented but this course aims to understand the story you wish to tell – and to help you tell it well.



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1-5 days
  • Start Date
  • Time
  • Monday–Friday, 10.00–16.00

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A jump-start for memoir and life writing

This stimulating, intensive five-day course is intended for both those beginning their writing journey and those already well on their way to producing a finished manuscript.

With a combination of group discussion, 'quick sketch' and longer exercises each day, additional reading and structured writing time, plus individual tutorials with Julia, you'll finish the week armed with new technical skills, a greater understanding of your craft and plenty of writing under your belt. Each day we'll use examples from key texts to illustrate our theme for the session and to kick the discussion off.

Is this the right course for me?

Whether you've just started thinking about putting pen to paper, or if you've stalled part-way through writing your memoir, this is the course for anyone keen to throw themselves into writing memoir or biography.

    This course takes place Monday to Friday at Faber's offices in Bloomsbury. Teaching time will run from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. each day, followed by a break for lunch. Tutorials will then take place in the afternoons and your classroom will be available until 4 p.m. each day for writing time.

Course Programme

Session 1

Monday 23 January, 10.00–16.00

The Story You Wish to Tell...

Session 2

24 January, 10.00–16.00

Finding a Voice...

Session 3

25 January, 10.00–16.00

Deciding on a Structure...

See remaining sessions

Course Programme

Five Days to Write a Life

Session 1

Monday 23 January, 10.00–16.00

The Story You Wish to Tell

We'll begin by thinking about defining the scope and content of your subject, the foundation of any piece of life writing.

Julia Blackburn, Threads; Helen Macdonald, H is For Hawk

Session 2

24 January, 10.00–16.00

Finding a Voice

Jackie Kay is utterly honest without being confessional, while Simon Gray turns his erratic interior thought processes into a wonderful narrative. In this session, we'll experiment with the impact of using different voices: child or adult; first, second or third person.

Jackie Kay, Red Dust Road; Simon Gray,Coda; Stephen Bernard, Paper Cuts

Session 3

25 January, 10.00–16.00

Deciding on a Structure

Two family stories which use very different structure to suit very different sorts of parents and childhoods. We'll discuss how to be personal without getting in too deep and how to balance the need for honesty with the wish to not hurt anyone.

Julia Blackburn, The Three of Us; Claire Wilcox, Patch Work

Session 4

26 January, 10.00–16.00

Short Cuts and Sideways Glances

A memoir/ life story does not have to be a continuous narrative, nor does it have to be an orthodox narrative. The books mentioned here will start you think about the many possible alternative ways of approaching your subject.

Penelope Lively, A House Unlocked; Helen Dukes, A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings

Session 5

27 January, 10.00–16.00

The Loneliness of the Long Book

On Thursday we'll have worked out what you want to discuss and have help with during the final session, setting you up for completing the work once the group has dispersed. We'll end with readings from your best pieces.



Julia Blackburn

Julia Blackburn was born in London in 1948, the daughter of the poet Thomas Blackburn and the painter Rosalie de Meric. Her first book...

More About This Tutor
Julia Blackburn


Bloomsbury House

74 - 77 Great Russell Street

London WC1B 3DA

How to get here

Bloomsbury House is well connected by public transport, with Russell Square, Holborn and Tottenham Court Road stations all nearby, and stops for several bus routes a short walk away. We’re right next to the British Museum, on the corner of Montague Street.

Browse the Reading Room

From author interviews and writing tips to creative writing exercises and reading lists, we've got everything you need to get started – and to keep going.

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Announcing Faber Academy Newcastle
Writing Prickly Female Protagonists

Writing a Novel alumna Ania Bas on writing the main character of her debut novel, published earlier

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My Road to Publication… And What I Learned Along the Way

The author of Honey and Me (published by Scholastic Press) on how her book came to be

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