Writing Memoir Writing Memoir Writing Memoir

Writing Memoir

You’ve got a story to tell – but how and where do you begin? Start developing your memoir in a supportive environment with expert guidance from writer and tutor Margie Orford.

Level

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Improving

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Location

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London

Length

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12 weeks
  • Start Date
  • Time
  • Tuesdays, 19:00–21:00

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£1095

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£300 / month for 2 months and a £495.00 deposit

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Throw yourself into writing your memoir

Memoir, like all writing, has storytelling at its heart. The writer needs two keys to open that double-locked heart. The first key is the story – your story. The second key is the voice – your writing voice – to write your story in the way it can be best told.

Memoir is both an art and a craft and, like all writing, it is born from both inspiration and perspiration. In this course, led by Margie Orford, you will explore the arts and crafts of memoir, with a particular focus on how inspiration – that gift of a sudden flow of creativity and newness – emerges from the practice and the practical craft of writing.

Over the twelve weeks, you will explore, define, map and develop the tale you wish to tell and in which form. We will examine different ideas of truth, modes of truth-telling, and consider the complex and contested terrain of memory.

Covering topics such as the form, the voice and writing time, each workshop will also include a guided writing session – using prompts that can be adapted to your own work. This will put your own writing front and centre, turning the blank page from foe to our friend.

Is this the right course for me?

This course is suitable for writers who are just starting out, and for those who wish to continue developing their work.

You may have been considering your memoir for years, even decades – squirreling away fragments or working by yourself. Or perhaps you’ve always wondered about how to turn your ideas into a fully realised book-length work, but don’t know where to begin.

Either way, you want to take your craft to the next level – and this course is the place to do it.

We will look at the range of ways to structure memoir, the practicalities of finding and crafting a clear and vivid narrative voice. We will discuss how to tell stories from the past and the present.

We will read a number of extracts from memoirs, novels, works of narrative non-fiction, short stories, and poetry – including Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Roxane Gay's Hunger, Noreen Masud's A Flat Place, Karl Ove Knausgaard's Boyhood Island, Body Work by Melissa Febos and many others.

We will unpack how these stories were made, crafted, put together, so that you can draw on these techniques for your own unique writing practice.

Other writers are there to illuminate and guide your own, new writing. There will be time in each week’s workshop to focus on extracts from a range of writers, mainly memoirists but fiction writers too.

    The course consists of twelve two-hour evening sessions, which will take place on Tuesdays from 19:00 until 21:00 at The Bindery, Faber's offices, near Farringdon Station.

Course Programme

Session 1

Tuesday 1 October, 19:00–21:00

Introductions...

Session 2

8 October, 19:00–21:00

The Story...

Session 3

15 October, 19:00–21:00

The Form...

See remaining sessions

Course Programme

Writing Memoir

Session 1

Tuesday 1 October, 19:00–21:00

Introductions

Session 2

8 October, 19:00–21:00

The Story

‘The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.’ - Anaïs Nin

This workshop will explore finding stories, making stories and the basic tools of storytelling – as well as beginning to outline the story you wish to write.

Session 3

15 October, 19:00–21:00

The Form

‘Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blythe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law.’ – Louis Sullivan, Bauhaus principle

We will explore the right shape for your work, and work with different forms – as well as making your own to suit what it is that you want to say.

Session 4

22 October, 19:00–21:00

The Voice

‘Perhaps all writing is motivated, deep down, by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead’. – Margaret Atwood

Voice and point of view are how we tell a story – it is the guiding structure of any story. In this workshop, we’ll explore what you want to say, finding how what you want to say and how to find your own ‘voice’.

Session 5

29 October, 19:00–21:00

Writing the Body

What it feels like to live, love and suffer is at the heart of an effective memoir – and how to create an embodied narrative is central to this workshop. We’ll look at the specificity of bodily experience, our own bodies (both past and present) and the bodies of others.

Session 6

5 November, 19:00–21:00

Guest Tutor

Session 7

12 November, 19:00–21:00

Truths and Specificity

In this workshop we’ll explore the question of how to tell the truth and how to create a feeling of truth. What to make of lies, of omissions, and of the truth of others? These questions, which are both aesthetic and ethical, are central to any memoir and we will address them from a range of angles and through our writing.

Session 8

19 November, 19:00–21:00

Before and After: Writing Trauma, Writing Violence, Writing Survival

Trauma, violence and survival are issues that are at the heart of many contemporary memoirs. This is complex but navigable terrain that we will explore through the texts of others and in our own writing. These issues are not always spectacular – but often a particular experience prompts a memoirist, so the questions of before and after moments are crucial to any writing project.

Session 9

26 November, 19:00–21:00

Writing Time

‘Lewis Carroll has the reversing watch that can turn back time, and make history repeat itself, twice or more, each time differently. [The writer’s] Magical devices which give power to characters inside the story reflect the power of narrative to go over the same ground again, and change what happens: a writer can handle time in contradiction of physics.’ – Marina Warner.

Writing is a form of metamorphosis and storytelling has a transformative magic. Creating time and its passing – and how it changes us, others, the world, our imaginary characters is key to creating the writing world.

Session 10

3 December, 19:00–21:00

Writing Place

We’ll explore how to create and recreate world – looking at place, setting, context and detail.

Session 11

10 December, 19:00–21:00

Language and Style

‘The sound of the language is where it all begins. The test of a sentence is, does it sound right? The basic elements of language are physical: the noise words make, the sounds, the silences that make the rhythms marking their relationships. Both the meaning and the beauty of the writing depend on these sounds and rhythms.’ – Ursula K Le Guin

We’ll deep dive into language, beauty, pain, love, loss, hope and the senses, which are the material of life and the raw material of your story.

Session 12

17 December, 19:00–21:00

The Future and Celebration

We’ll finish the course by looking at the publishing process and next steps – and a reading and celebration for all students.

Margie's course was a rich and inspiring experience [...] it has renewed my sense of possibility and interest in my own writing.

There was definitely magic in Margie's words and in the spirit of our group.

Margie's course was a rich and inspiring experience.

Tutor

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Margie Orford

Margie Orford is an internationally acclaimed writer. Her Clare Hart novels – a literary crime fiction series that explores violence...

More About This Tutor
Margie Orford

Location

The Bindery

51 Hatton Garden

London EC1N 8HN

How to get here

Faber’s office, The Bindery, is well connected by public transport, with Farringdon Station just five minutes’ walk away, and stops for several bus routes in the area too. If you’re coming from outside of London, the office is a short bus or taxi journey from Kings Cross, Euston and St Pancras stations.

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.

For more information, message us or call 0207 927 3827