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Not in Your Head, But Your Bones: Memoir Foundations with Megan Stielstra


Pulling from both literary and oral storytelling traditions, we’ll engage in activities (adapted for Zoom!) to get our stories out of the body and onto the page.

Start Date

July 19

Day(s) of the Week


Class Times

6:30pm – 9:00pm CT


Zoom (online)






Out of stock



This four-week workshop starts with the gut—the memories, fascinations, and questions that live not in your head but your bones—and moves into craft—how to tell our own stories in ways that are equally urgent to an audience. Pulling from both literary and oral storytelling traditions, we’ll engage in activities (adapted for Zoom!) to get our stories out of the body and onto the page, encouraging risk and discovery and examining the building blocks of memoir: scene, reflection, narrative distance, authorial voice, and the wider societal investigation that shows that our experiences aren’t just personal, but also systemic.

Writers at all levels are welcome.

Class Outline

Week 1: Establishing a Writing Practice.

You get to make a mess. You get to have a space to try out weird ideas, generate complex material, and experiment with voice and form. We’ll talk about what it means to build a practice that works for your deeply unique life, while kickstarting ideas towards your own memoir project, or—for those of you already in the depths of a project—we’ll take it deeper. We’ll also tackle the memoir foundation of narrative distance; how the meaning of our stories can change depending on how we grow and change.

Week 2: Establishing a Reading Practice.

We’ll approach reading as inspiration, challenge, and treasure map: how can the work that has come before us guide us in our own creative problem solving, which is a fancy way of saying how the hell do I get this on the page? Your bookshelf, independent bookstore, and local library (as well as the shows you’re binge-watching on Netflix and the stories you love on stage and screen) hold the key to any question of craft. Specifically, we’ll dig into the memoir foundations of scene-building and reflection, otherwise known as showing and telling (spoiler alert: both are great!).

Week 3: Establishing a Sharing Practice

We write because it matters to us. We rewrite so it matters to others. There is a difference between the practice of writing and the choice of if, when, and how to share that writing, and regardless of whether or not you’re ready to submit, query, perform, or publish, knowing the homes and audiences where you want your work to live or land can influence how you revise that work: what to include and what to cut, to question or interrogate or argue, to tell from the body or the head. We’ll talk about the process of inviting people into your practice, and tackle the memoir foundation of audience and form.

Week 4: Sharing With One Another

We’ve invited one another in. Let’s hear it. 🙂

About Megan Stielstra

Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections, most recently The Wrong Way To Save Your Life. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, New York Times, Poets & Writers, The Believer, Longreads, Tin House, Guernica, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, Museum of Contemporary Art, Goodman Theatre, and regularly with The Paper Machete live news magazine at The Green Mill. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University.