Writing a memoir? Your story may be a journey, a search for meaning or purpose or an exploration of the self in relation to the world. You may already be aware of your theme, but how can you tell if you are writing a spiritual memoir?
Spiritual memoir can be defined as a really big search that has something to teach, redeem, reveal or heal. But it may also touch on something mystical or unknowable. In this four-week workshop, we will read and discuss essays and sections of memoirs that magnify the spiritual with literary craft. Each week will offer writing prompts and feedback for short works-in-progress highlighting language along with spiritual themes.
This four-week online course will rely on sections of memoirs and essays as texts to help us dig into elements that make a personal narrative spiritual. What separates these from personal, confessional, coming-of-age or quest memoirs? Our discussions will touch on faith and doubt and a variety of religions but our conversations will be secular. We’ll discuss writings that may include Pico Iyer, Brenda Miller, Brian Doyle, Anne Lamott, Dani Shapiro, Scott Russell Sanders, St. Augustine and Billy Collins. Each week will focus on four writing elements – storyline, structure, voice and theme, as well as a spiritual one. Writing prompts will be offered for those looking for subject matter. We will make time to provide feedback for short works already in progress.
Week One: The Moment (Storyline)
What’s the moment, or series of moments, that is/are memoir-worthy? How do we identify the starting place, or spark, of a lengthier piece of personal narrative? We’ll start with what we believe makes it spiritual and then ask this question again at the end of the four weeks.
Week Two: Memoir, Essay, Letters, Rant, Poetry, Song (Structure)
We’ll look at sections of differing forms of personal narratives with spiritual themes to see how form impacts message. How does Chris Thile’s expressions of doubt through music and Billy Collins through poetry compare with the confessions of St. Augustine and the winding essays of Brian Doyle?
Week Three: Contemplation and Interiors (Voice)
What makes Anne Lamott’s spiritual voice different from Pico Iyer’s? How do these compare with Scott Russell Sanders or Brenda Miller? We’ll compare and contrast different writer’s “brands” of internal reflection and thought through their unique voices.
Week Four: Healing & Redemption (Theme)
What do we now believe makes a piece of writing spiritual? We’ll pull together our readings and discussion and find definitions for ourselves. This final week will also be used for feedback about short works generated during the workshop.