This workshop examines the intersections of memory and research in crafting memoir and personal essays. Writers will explore the science of memory, its strengths and weaknesses, the ways it helps us make sense of our lives and the ways it complicates our feelings. We’ll use what we learn as an opportunity to retool our memories as writing prompts, recast them as research topics, and reimagine the way we tell our stories.
The six-week course, taught by acclaimed novelist and essayist Sheree L. Greer, uses selected readings, memory-mining exercises, and generative writing, research, and revision prompts to create work that engages both sides our brains, and ultimately, our whole hearts.
Students will build their own memoir excerpt or personal essay from memory-inspired free write to polished final draft while creating a foundation for a writing and research practice that blasts through the limits of memory and makes the most of writing from our experiences.
- Excerpt from Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
- “What Fullness Is” by Roxane Gay (in relationship to her memoir, Hunger)
- “My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK” by Kiese Laymon
- Excerpts from In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Week 1: I Remember: What are some of your favorite memories? What are some of your least favorite memories? How do we know what memories can become compelling stories?
Week 2: I Don’t Remember: What is memory exactly? How does it work?
Week 3: Excavation: How do we sift fact from fiction? And what do we do with the holes inherent to remembrance?
Week 4: Owning It: Taking ownership of our experiences
Week 5: The Reckoning: How do we decide if, and when, we’ll share our story? How do we protect ourselves, the people we love? We’ll look at work from writers whose memoirs and essays held significant stakes for their audiences, for their families, and for their own lives.
Week 6: I Said What I Said: Sharing our stories with confidence and without shame. Final reading, take-aways for future work, and publishing opportunities for memoir and personal essay.