Summer Writing Retreat 2022: “Memory + Form: Finding Models of Inspiration in Memoir” with Donna M. Johnson
July 12, 2022 - August 2, 2022$269.00 – $389.00
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Level 1 (Class Only): $269 for Members, $329 for Non-Members
Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation): $329 for Members, $389 for Non-Members
This July, join us for our virtual 2022 Summer Writing Retreat featuring three classes on memoir, fiction, and revision plus lots of special events throughout the month, including two Saturday Craft Seminars, meet-ups, and dedicated writing time.
Each class will meet weekly for four weeks, starting the week of July 11, ending the week of August 1. Our memoir class with Donna M. Johnson will meet every Tuesday (July 12, 19, 26, August 2) from 6:30 PM CDT to 9:30 PM CDT via Zoom. A recording of each class session will be shared with all class registrants the day after – so you won’t miss anything even if you need to skip a session. Class details are below.
Registration for this class will close at 5:00 PM CDT on Tuesday, July 12.
Patricia Hample wrote that the work of the memoirist is not only to learn to tell the story but to learn to listen to what the story is telling the writer.
In this class we will practice listening to our stories as well as the stories of others, circling around the question of why: Why do we remember certain events the way we do? Why do seemingly inconsequential scenes stick in our imaginations? Why do we want to tell this story? Why do writers choose one form or style over another? This interrogation will enable us to produce meaning packed pieces and to begin to assemble those pieces into a narrative.
Over the course of four sessions, we will explore different categories of memoir style, including work by Natasha Tretheway, Melissa Febos, and Paul Lisicky. These discussions will focus on voice, distance, tension, character, and revision. We will look at how style can unlock the strength of a story and practice incorporating elements of different styles into our own projects. Writing exercises will focus on the staples of good storytelling – events, places, people, emotion, and intimacy. Participants already engaged in a project will be able to tailor exercises to fit their needs.
Before each class, students will be asked to read a published excerpt of a work and will be given a list of questions to guide their reading. Short written exercises may be assigned.
By the end of the course students will have written several pieces that can be revised and threaded into a larger narrative, as well as a working outline. They will have a knowledge of the elements of memoir as well as a familiarity with contemporary memoir models.
About each session:
Week 1 (July 12): Reimagining the story: We’ll open our time together with a discussion of personal narrative and how it overlaps and differentiates with autobiography, journalism, and fiction. We will begin our exploration of memoir models with a discussion of the familiar scene-driven style. Through a series of writing exercises designed to capture clearly recalled events as well as more shrouded memories, we’ll work toward identifying the shape as well as the true subject of our stories.
Week 2 (July 19): “I” means more than “me:” In this second session, we’ll focus on enlarging personal narrative in ways that use the self to reflect and comment on the world. We will discuss an excerpt from a thematic memoir in which a writer pairs a personal story with the story of an outside event or character, charting how the narratives converge and diverge, each changing how we see the other. We’ll also practice finding connections between the narrative “I” and outside sources including diaries, news articles, and social movements.
Week 3 (July 26): Tell it!: Writing teachers traditionally demean exposition, but expository memoirs – narratives that tell as much as they show – have earned places on Best Of lists in recent decades. In this third class session, we’ll look at narrative that exploits exposition to serve story. Our goal as writers will be to make the telling in our stories as powerful as the showing and to explore the interdependent relationship of the two modes. The second half of the session will focus on how the desire of the narrator – both in the past and the present – drives structure forward in memoir.
Week 4 (August 2): Dare to go deep: Revision in personal narrative often means digging deeper into the story through language choice and/or character. In this final session, we’ll revise our earlier work and explore how to hone meaning through the process of editing. We’ll wrap up our time together with ideas on how to keep the writing process moving forward.
Take this class if…:
Take this class if you are just beginning to write personal narrative, are currently engaged in a memoir project, or are stalled somewhere in the process. The writing examples, exercises, and class discussions are geared toward exciting creative response to the past by expanding your knowledge of the possibilities of the memoir form.
Preparation for the first day:
Participants will be asked to read two excerpts from Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood and one and a half excerpts from Kin by Shawna Kay Rosenberg by the first day of class.
Choose your registration level:
Level 1 (Class Only) or
Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation)
The difference: Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation) registrations include one 20-minute meeting with Donna M. Johnson sometime during the month (via Zoom). If you’d like, you can also share 10 pages of your work for feedback ahead of the meeting.
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