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Summer Writing Retreat 2024: “Finding Clarity in Memoir: Permission, Story Ownership & Truth-Telling” with Elissa Altman

July 9 2024 - July 30 2024

$269.00 – $409.00


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Level 1 (Class Only): "Finding Clarity in Memoir" w/ Elissa Altman (Member Price)
2024 SWR / Memoir Class / Level 1 (Class Only)
$ 269.00
Level 1 (Class Only): "Finding Clarity in Memoir" w/ Elissa Altman (Non-Member Price)
2024 SWR / Memoir Class / Level 1 (Class Only)
$ 329.00
Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation): "Finding Clarity in Memoir" w/ Elissa Altman (Member Price)
2024 SWR / Memoir Class / Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation)
$ 349.00
10 available
Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation): "Finding Clarity in Memoir" w/ Elissa Altman (Non-Member Price)
2024 SWR / Memoir Class / Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation)
$ 409.00
19 available

Level 1 (Class Only): $269 for Members, $329 for Non-Members

Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation): $349 for Members, $409 for Non-Members*

*WLT Members have an exclusive window to register for the 20 seats available in the Level 2 registration. Starting June 10, non-members will be able to register for Level 2 if seats remain. To access the member price, please be sure to log in to your account.  

This July, join us for our virtual 2024 Summer Writing Retreat featuring three classes on memoir, fiction, and revision plus lots of special events throughout the month, including registration for a Saturday Craft Seminar with author Steve Almond (July 13; includes a copy of the book), weekly presentations and meet-ups, and dedicated writing time. 

Each class will meet weekly for four weeks, starting the week of July 8, ending the week of July 29. Our memoir class with Elissa Altman will meet every Tuesday (July 9, 16, 23, 30) 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 9. 

The writing of memoir often begins with the daunting questions of permission, story ownership, and truth-telling, which together can keep the writer from moving into a place where voice and story are free to emerge and the work of crafting their story can truly begin.

In this 4-week class, we will tackle questions and explore creative processes that will enable students to move beyond any constraints to a place of creative clarity. Each class session will jump off from a question or questions aimed at finding clarity around a specific aspect of the memoir writing process. This will include examining the writer’s motivation, identifying the key characters and their narrative arcs, considering the best ways to approach time, tense, and point of view, and more. Throughout the four weeks, we will read from seminal works including those by Mark Doty, Melissa Febos, Vivian Gornick, Emily Bernard, and others.

Students are asked to show up with a willingness to unravel process and permission, and an acknowledgement that the impulse to tell one’s story must be honored. Throughout the four weeks, we will read from seminal works including those by Mark Doty, Melissa Febos, Vivian Gornick, Emily Bernard, and others.

About each session: 

Week 1 (July 9): Story Ownership: Understanding the Process of Narrative Inquiry: In this first session we’ll look at storytelling versus craft as we examine important questions every memoirist faces around story ownership, including “Why must I tell this story?,” “What is the core of the story?,” and “What are the words trying to do?”

Week 2 (July 16): What is the Story You are Trying to Craft?: This session will be devoted to an examination of permission and why it exists in art-making. What is the story you are trying to tell, and how vital are the secrets — if there are any — to the story on the whole? Must they be told, or are you writing from a place of revenge/sadness/joy/rage/fury? What is the point of view of the narrator?

Week 3 (July 23): Understanding Your Motivation, Your Characters, and How They Move Through the Story: In this session, Who are your characters (even though this is memoir)? Is the narrator staying in the story? Is the story autobiography or memoir? How can the writer separate themself enough from the narrator to create context and distance, allowing the story to move into a place of clarity?

Week 4 (July 30): Voice and its Impact on Permission and the Heart of the Story: Staying within voice, or stepping out; working with issues of time, tense, and point of view. How does changing tense create distance or intimacy? How does it diffuse issues of permission to allow for creative transcendence?

Take this class if…:
…you are at the start of a memoir project, are finding yourself stuck in the middle, or are ready to begin revising; if you’re running up against the most common elephant in the room – the belief that your story is not yours to tell because someone or something has told you that. This class is for all levels.

Preparation for the first day of class:

Registrants will be asked to read Mark Doty’s essay “Return to Sender” and sections of Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story ahead of the first class.

Registration details:

Choose your registration level:

Level 1 (Class Only): $269 for Members, $329 for Non-Members


Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation): $349 for Members, $409 for Non-Members

The difference: Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation) registrations include one 20-minute meeting with Elissa Altman 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.

You may register online, or download the mail-in registration form here.


Elissa Altman is the award-winning author of the memoirs Motherland, Treyf, Poor Man’s Feast, and her upcoming hybrid memoir about permission and creativity, On Permission, coming in winter 2025. A finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, Connecticut Book Award, and Maine Literary Award for memoir, Altman’s essays have appeared in Orion, Narrative, On Being, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and the Washington Post, where her column, Feeding My Mother, ran for a year. Altman writes and speaks widely on the intersection of permission and the creative spirit, and has appeared live on the TEDx stage and at the Public Theater in New York. She teaches the craft of memoir at the Fine Arts Work Center, Orion, Maine Media College, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, College of William and Mary, and internationally. She lives in Connecticut with her family.

Before purchasing, please read all policies as noted below and on our Classes page.

If your browser has difficulty with our website store, or if you prefer to mail in a check, click here for a class registration form. The document provides instructions on where to mail it. If you prefer this option, please email wlt@writersleague.org with a copy of the form as well to ensure we add you to the class roster as soon as possible.

Expecting to see the member price, but it’s not appearing?

Confirm you are logged into your account first and foremost. The member price will only appear when you are logged into your account and have an active membership on file. If you are having trouble accessing your account, please email member@writersleague.org and explain the situation.

Class & Event Registration Policy

Once a purchase has been made, registrations are not refundable and cannot be transferred to a different class or event. No exceptions will be made. If you purchase a registration and then find you cannot attend the class or event, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at wlt@writersleague.org and let us know the name and contact information for the person who will be using the registration so that we can update the class or event roster.

Accessibility Policy

Closed captioning is available for all online classes and special events.

The WLT is committed to making its programs & services accessible to all writers. Please contact us at wlt@writersleague.org or at 512-499-8914 for more information or to discuss accommodations you may need.

Credit Card Transaction Handling Fee Policy

All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee. If you’d prefer to pay by check for membership, a class, or an event, you can use the provided forms on the membership or event pages and mail to: WLT, P.O. Box 14355, Austin, TX, 78704.


Our classes offer a combination of lecture and practical exercises, determined by the individual instructor, on focused aspects of the craft and business of writing. Your fellow participants will come from a range of writing experience, from beginners to people with MFA degrees and published books. WLT instructors, participants, and administrators all work together to create a welcoming, supportive environment.

If you haven’t taken a class with us in recent years, feel free to email the WLT staff at wlt@writersleague.org if you’d like to discuss whether our programming is the right fit for your needs.


Once you register for the class, you’ll receive an email with detailed instructions no later than 48 hours before the class date. You should expect 2-2.5 hours of direct teaching and 30 minutes of Q&A (for three hours total). If you need to leave the class early or can’t attend the class on that date, all registrants will have access to the recording for one month after the class date. No microphone or camera required, just an Internet connection capable of streaming video. All online classes are hosted on Zoom. To learn more about how Zoom works, click HERE. 

Plan to log in to the online platform an hour before the class so that you can update your software or any other settings required to access the platform. (Updates usually only take a few minutes, but you don’t want to wait until the beginning of class.) Questions? Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Cultural Arts City of Austin

This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.

Texas Commission on the Arts

Writers’ League of Texas classes and workshops are also funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts – Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to www.arts.texas.gov.

National Endowment for the Arts

This project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

Mid-America Arts Alliance

This project is supported in part by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. For more information, go to www.maaa.org.


July 9 2024
July 30 2024
$269.00 – $409.00
Event Categories:
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Online via Zoom