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The Memoir Toolbox

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ClassGraphic The Memoir Toolbox: Generative Workshop

Everyone has a story to tell, but where do you begin? In this generative workshop we’ll look at creative nonfiction from several angles: voice, point of view, tension, shape and more. Each week we’ll discuss craft elements that can go in our toolbox of tools writers use to sculpt their story into its best form. There will be in class writing prompts to surprise and intrigue us as we explore our personal narratives. 

What may begin as a potent memory captured on paper can blossom into a personal essay or chapter of a longer memoir. Excerpts and craft readings will drive our discussion, and there will be the opportunity for mini-workshops for all students to share their work in progress. The syllabus will include creative nonfiction from Alexander Chee, Mary Karr, Kiese Laymon, Amy Krause Rosenthal, Nicole Chung and Carmen Maria Machado, among others. 

Drawing on contemporary memoirs and personal essays this class will look under the hood of examples of creative nonfiction, including memoir excerpts, synopsis, personal essays, flash nonfiction, essay collections and more. What makes a great piece of creative nonfiction great? Where can we draw inspiration from memoir to move our own writing forward? The goal of this class is to create a place where writers can experiment, ask questions and develop a writing practice that will sustain them to write their best story. There's no wrong way to show up for this memoir class: all that's required is an open mind and an open heart. 

Week One: Inspiration & Beginnings
Week Two: Writing from The Five Senses
Week Three: Mining Our Childhoods
Week Four: The Second Person
Week Five: When Is This An Essay, When Is This A Memoir?
Week Six: Creative Containers for Creative Nonfiction
Week Seven: Fiction Vs. Memoir
Week Eight: How to Keep Going

April 9 to May 28, 2024
Tuesdays, 10:00am - 12:00 pm EST, On Campus 

Who Should Take this Class?

Writers who are new to memoir writing and curious about how to begin. Writers who have written creative nonfiction and are looking for a fresh perspective. Anyone looking to improve their creative practice and engage with the craft of memoir writing. 


Courtney’s class was so fruitful for me - one of the very best I've taken. The exercises and reading samples have really helped me move some projects forward. - former student

This class was excellent. Courtney is a talented and gifted educator. She shared her knowledge, skills and perspectives as a writer and editor which were valuable to all present. Her choice of readings each week provided valuable background content for classroom conversations. Each evening was memorable and illuminating. - former student

Courtney is an excellent educator. She was confident, engaging and organized, and there was always a good flow to the class.Her ability to demystify the writing process and to provide thoughtful feedback in our discussions was invaluable. Her personal approach and philosophy/process of writing and publishing was also helpful to learn more about. She had a unique ability to guide, inspire and provide feedback that was gentle but on point made all the difference for adult writers who needed encouragement in using our imaginations and what it takes to show up on the page. - former student

Everyone in our workshop appreciated Courtney's expert yet down-to-earth approach with writing and with us. I’m so grateful I got to take this class. - former student
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Class Details

8 Session(s)
Weekly - Tue

Sarah Lawrence College - Wrexham

Courtney Gillette 



Schedule Information

Date(s) Class Days Times Location Instructor(s)
4/9/2024 - 5/28/2024 Weekly - Tue 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Bronxville, Sarah Lawrence College - Wrexham  Map Courtney Gillette