Memoir Writing/Study Workshop

Let’s do it! At the Mechanics’ Board Room again: Study two best-selling works and probe them deeply for how the authors crafted their books. We’ve looked at the Magnificent Seven Entry Points to writing memoir (or any creative non-fiction). Let’s look at those points from the back door—following the authors’ journeys. In this way, we can learn much about story, situation, narrative arc, characters, and my favorite, “archetypal juice.”

Bring your own work too to discuss and read as you like. Please read one or preferably both of the following books (two contrasting styles of creative non-fiction) for the workshop:

1. Liar’s Club by Mary Karr – Karr is the enfant terrible of memoir. More than one observer credits her with formidably changing the way memoir is written. Let’s see what we can learn from her in shaping our own stories. The Queen of Personal Memoir has also written Cherry, Lit, and books of poetry. What an artiste!

2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand – Hillenbrand, another iconoclast in non-fiction, broke the boilerplate with her archetypally juicy Seabiscuit, the gangly horse that could.

We go deeply into each work, looking at how the authors distill and capture the essence of personal experience; how they shape & craft the elusive narrative arc and give it “drive”; how they use or break from writing conventions, and much more.

WHEN: Two consecutive Mondays: November 19 & 26, 2012 – 6:45 pm to 8:45 pm

(one-on-one makeup time with instructor  available if you can’t make both dates – drop-ins to one class available thru special arrangement with instructor)

WHERE: The Mechanics Institute – 4th Floor, Room 405 (Board Room), 57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 – Information: (415) 425-6515,

$84 (new students) $76 (returning students)

Some pithy statements to jog your memoir:

• We live our life forward but remember it backwards, said the sage.

• Writing about our lives has a quantum effect: observing alters the outcome. How can that be? The outcome has already occurred. You think so, do you?

• Does the observer (writer) really alter the outcome? Or does the outcome retroactively alter the observer (writer)?

• In the Self-fulfilling-Prophecy dynamic what comes first? The Self or the Prophecy. Or is there a third option, as in Buddhist thought: dependent co-arising (or co-dependent arising)?

• As in life, a developed Sense of Time is all-important to writing memoir. Once you tap the archetypal current (time eternal) of your story, you know how/when to dilate or contract Time.


  1. Looks good. I plan to sign up if the dates work. should be ok. thnaks so much for putting this together.

  2. Molly Dolley says

    Yes, as I e-mailed before, I plan to make it to the workshop. I hope I can find Mechanics Bank.
    I am looking forward to it.