Course Duration: 5 weeks: 3/21, 3/28, 4/4, 4/11, 4/18

Course Description: “Developing Your Memoir” is a five-week generative writing course focused on exploring personal memories from various perspectives to unearth the essence of the memoir each student aims to write. Through discussions, readings, writing prompts, and exercises, this course will help writers identify their memoir’s core themes and develop its content effectively. Students are encouraged to actively share their work and engage in constructive feedback with peers, fostering a supportive and collaborative writing community.

Week 1: Discovering Your Narrative Lens

  • Theme: Introduction to viewing memories through different narrative lenses.
  • Reading Assignment: “The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr, Introduction and Chapter 2.
  • In-Class Exercise: Discuss how different narrative perspectives can alter the understanding and emotional impact of a memory.
  • Take-Home Assignment: Write a brief memoir piece from two different perspectives (first person and third person) to explore how narrative perspective shapes the story.

Week 2: Unearthing Core Themes

  • Theme: Identifying and developing the central themes of your memoir.
  • Reading Assignment: Excerpts from “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion, focusing on thematic development.
  • In-Class Exercise: Group brainstorming session to identify and discuss potential themes within personal stories.
  • Take-Home Assignment: Write a reflective piece that identifies a central theme in your life and explore a memory connected to this theme.

Week 3: Character Depth and Complexity

  • Theme: Developing complex characters, including the portrayal of oneself.
  • Reading Assignment: Selections from “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, examining character development and complexity.
  • In-Class Exercise: Writing prompts focused on revealing character flaws, motivations, and growth.
  • Take-Home Assignment: Create detailed character sketches of two people who will play significant roles in your memoir, including yourself as a character.

Week 4: The Role of Setting in Memory

  • Theme: Exploring how settings influence and reflect memories and emotions.
  • Reading Assignment: Excerpts from “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, observing how setting impacts narrative and character development.
  • In-Class Exercise: Share and discuss a memory significantly influenced by its setting.
  • Take-Home Assignment: Write a memoir piece where the setting acts as a catalyst for memory, reflection, or change.

Week 5: Shaping Your Memoir Structure

  • Theme: Experimenting with various structures to best tell your story.
  • Reading Assignment: “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro, focusing on non-linear narrative structure and pacing.
  • In-Class Exercise: Workshop session to experiment with structuring memoir pieces.
  • Take-Home Assignment: Select a memory or theme from previous assignments and write a memoir piece using a non-traditional narrative structure (e.g., segmented, braided, circular).

Course Requirements:

  • Active participation in discussions and peer reviews.
  • Completion of all reading and writing assignments.
  • Engagement in constructive feedback with peers.
  • Final project: A polished memoir piece that incorporates learnings from the course, focusing on perspective, theme, character, setting, and structure.

By the end of “Developing Your Memoir,” participants will have a clearer vision of their memoir’s direction, enriched by a deeper understanding of how different perspectives can influence the narrative. Students will leave the course with a solid foundation for their memoir projects, equipped with practical tools and insights to continue their writing journey.