Memoir In a Year

with Gayle Brandeis


Our Memoir in a Year program will help and support you during the long road from plotting to composition to revision and beyond. It’s a unique opportunity to join a writing cohort, study craft, workshop key scenes, measure your progress, and meet deadlines.

It’s a chance to devote an entire year to your project, giving it the attention and effort your work deserves. Memoir writer Gayle Brandeis will help you through the drafting process, whether you want to complete a draft, make revisions, or push yourself toward your own page goals.

Writing a memoir can be tough. You explore the past, examine your experience, write about the people and places close to you, overcome doubts or fears, and shape all of this into a narrative that connects with readers…

Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone!

This program will meet virtually for the 2023-24 cohort.


The author Gayle Brandeis

Gayle Brandeis is the author, most recently, of the memoir The Art of Misdiagnosis (Beacon Press), and the novel in poems, Many Restless Concerns (Black Lawrence Press), shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Award. Earlier books include the poetry collection The Selfless Bliss of the Body (Finishing Line Press), the craft book Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne) and the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize judged by Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Maxine Hong Kingston, Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine), and My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt BYR), chosen as a state-wide read in Wisconsin. Her essay collection Drawing Breath: Essays on Writing, the Body, and Grief will be released by Overcup Press in 2023. Gayle’s essays, poetry, and short fiction have been widely published in places such as The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, O (The Oprah Magazine), The Rumpus, Salon, and more, and have received numerous honors, including the Columbia Journal Nonfiction Award, a Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Award, Notable Essays in Best American Essays 2016, 2019, and 2020, the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award and the 2018 Multi Genre Maverick Writer Award. She was named A Writer Who Makes a Difference by The Writer Magazine, and served as Inlandia Literary Laureate from 2012-2014, focusing on bringing writing workshops to underserved communities. She teaches in the low residency MFA programs at Antioch University and Sierra Nevada University.


Students at any stage of memoir drafting are encouraged to apply. You may be anywhere in the first draft – some students may have 200 pages; others may have nothing more than an idea and a first sentence. Work of any length is welcome. 

Participation in a workshop is not a prerequisite for this course. If you are newer to this process, but feel you have the ability, submit your writing and let us decide. We will work with you if you are ready to take the leap, and have a strong voice and POV.


Specific topics covered during the class sessions include:

  • Excavation: Digging deep to find your central question (and other epiphanies)
  • Come to Your Senses: Bringing your unique physical experience to the page
  • This Must Be the Place: Exploring the important settings of your life and how they inform your story.
  • Piecing the Puzzle Together: Finding the right form for your memoir
  • The Ethics of Writing About Others: Whose stories can we tell?
  • Speculative Nonfiction: Ways to free your imagination as you tell your truth.
  • Writing Trauma: Balancing interrogation and self-care (and maybe even finding healing)
  • Writing Joy: Bringing humor, playfulness, pleasure into the mix.
  • Re-visioning: A chance to see your story afresh
  • The Business Side of Things: Agents, the publishing process, marketing yourself, being a literary citizen, etc. 

PLEASE NOTE: This application-based class is selective. We are looking for students with talent and drive, though familiarity with the workshop process or previous experience writing a book is not mandatory. This program is for memoirists who are ready to make a strong commitment to their work, and our waitlist for the course is typically very long. Students will be expected to participate in the full program.


Students will meet monthly for three-hour sessions to discuss craft, solve drafting challenges, workshop scenes, and share some snacks and beverages. In between class sessions you’ll have plenty of time to write and generate new work while still staying in touch via StoryStudio’s private online class forum.

We’ve structured this program to provide maximum benefit without demanding too much time away from focusing on your own work. In addition to workshopping short scenes in class, participants will meet individually with Gayle for 100-page manuscript reviews.

Students enrolled in this course will receive complimentary admission and early registration to three (3) classes from our acclaimed Master Class/PJ Seminar series throughout the year. (Recent and upcoming writers include Alexander Chee, Pam Houston, Vu Tran, R.O. Kwon, Sara Paretsky, and Garth Greenwell, among others.)

The class also includes optional evening social gatherings via Zoom, to be scheduled between Gayle and the cohort as desired. As a writer in our Memoir in a Year program, you’re considered a “VIP” at the studio with early-bird access to programs and events.

Throughout the course, you’ll have access to a private online forum for exchanging additional work and sharing articles and links of interest. And most importantly, these courses provide accountability check-ins to report your progress and struggles, and keep you writing.


Whether you’re already drafting query letters to send to literary agents or just focusing on revision, your cohort will provide the structure, companionship, feedback, good humor, and emotional support to help you see your project through.

You’ll also join StoryStudio’s larger community—in person and on social media—where you can connect with students from other classes, receive “first chance” invitations to special programming, and stay informed about literary events around the city.

The Memoir in a Year program has been going for ten years strong, and you will have the opportunity to benefit socially and professionally from a wonderful network of alumni, many of whom are experiencing publishing success.

The program fee is $2,500. 

This tuition includes:

11 sessions, meeting once per month for 11 months
A 100-page manuscript review with Gayle Brandeis
3 passes to our PJ Seminar series
A private online chat forum
VIP status at the Studio
A literary community to take well beyond this program

2023-24 Schedule Meets on the Following Dates on Tuesdays, 6:30pm – 9:30pm Central:

October 10
November 14
December 12
January 9, 2024
February 13, 2024
March 12, 2024
April 9, 2024
May 14, 2024
June 11, 2024
July 9, 2024
August 13, 2024



This course is limited to 12 students and is submission based.

  1. You will be asked to submit a 10-page writing sample in a .doc or PDF. The sample can be a essay or memoir excerpt. 12-pt font and double-spaced is preferred.
  2. Someone who submits on the first day has the same chance as someone who submits on the last day, so don’t worry, and don’t rush.
  3. Payment isn’t due until after the application period is closed and acceptances have been sent out. We are happy to discuss payment plans with students who are accepted.
  4. You can indicate you’d like to be considered for the Doro Boehme Scholarship fund, which offers a $500 grant for tuItion. 

The next cohort will begin in October 2022. Please subscribe to our newsletter to get the most up-to-date information. When applications open, we will update this page as well. To be notified when details are available, please put your name on our waitlist and we’ll contact you.