This is the year to write your memoir

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.

Please note: this program will be fully on Zoom. All 11 months will meet virtually due.

It’s a chance to devote an entire year to your project, giving it the attention and effort your work deserves. Memoir writer Gina Frangello 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!

Gina Frangello is the author of four books of fiction in addition to the memoir, Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason (Counterpoint 2021). Blow Your House Down received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and BookPage, was an Editor’s Choice pick at the New York Times, and has already been named one of the best debut memoirs of 2021 by BookPage. Her novel A Life in Men (Algonquin 2014) is currently under development by Charlize Theron’s production company, Denver & Delilah. 

Gina has taught at many universities, including University of Illinois Chicago, Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies, UCLA Extension, the University of California Riverside Palm Desert, Roosevelt University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, and Lake Forest College. 


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.

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.


Specific topics covered during the class sessions include:

  • How to write about “universal” topics (example:“I had a difficult relationship with my mother” or “Someone close to me died”) in a way that allows your individual voice to come through and contributes to existing literary conversations in new and relevant ways.

  • Privacy vs. Secrecy: Who do do our stories belong to?

  • Spinning memory into scene: did it really happen that way?

  • Structure: How to crack the code of the form your story needs to take

  • Crafting strong narrative arcs within chapters (or individual essays in a collection) without excessive repetition or taking away from the book’s larger, overarching arc

  • Moving beyond generalizations, “surface writing,” and self-censorship to craft a truly intimate book that makes an impact on readers

  • Writing about taboo and emotionally difficult topics without sliding into cliches or platitudes

  • Revision, literary agents, and paths to publication


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 Gina for 100-page manuscript reviews.

Students enrolled in this course will receive complimentary admission and early registration to two (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 Gina 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 eight 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 $2,350. 

This tuition includes:

11 sessions, meeting once per month for 11 months
A manuscript review with Gina Frangello
3 comped passes to our Master Class/PJ Seminar series
A private online chat forum
VIP status at the Studio
A literary community to take well beyond this program

2021-22 Schedule Meets On Zoom on the Following Thursdays:
6:30pm CT – 9:30pm CT

November 11, 2021
December 9, 2021
January 13, 2022
February 10, 2022
March 10, 2022
April 14, 2022
May 12, 2022
June 9, 2022
July 14, 2022
August 11, 2022
September 8, 2022



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 short essay or chapter/excerpt. 12 point font, double spaced is appreciated.
  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. A scholarship offering $500 is available. Please see our application for details.
application closed

The next cohort will begin in November 2021. 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.