The Art of Writing Memoir


Memoir has long been a popular genre. Now it’s hotter than ever. Three of the top ten books on the New York Times Best Seller list for nonfiction are memoirs: #2 is WILD, Cheryl Strayed, IT WORKED FOR ME, Colin Powell, #10 is AN AMERICAN SON, by Marco Rubio. In this series we’ll activate your “autonomic writing system” and cover:

How and why memoir differs from autobiography

How to capture the essence of your personal experience

How to make your story captivating to readers

How to shape the elusive narrative arc and give it “drive”

How to find and use writing conventions that fit your story & situation

How and when to use present and past tense

How and when to breakaway from conventions

How to incorporate experimental writing

WHEN: Three consecutive Tuesdays: September 18 & 25, and October 2, 6:45 pm to 8:45 pm


The Mechanics Institute

4th Floor, Room 405 (Board Room)

57 Post Street

San Francisco, CA 94104

Information: (415) 425-65XX

$125* (for all three classes—recommended you take all three, but special arrangements may be possible; contact me)

*Price includes choice of a signed copy of the travel memoir, Tango, an Argentine Love Story or of Italy, a Love Story (anthology).

BRING: A piece of writing that you’re working on, whether personal essay or larger memoir. It needn’t be very developed—even an outline or short paragraph is a good start.

About your instructor: Camille Cusumano is the author of Tango, an Argentine Love Story, memoir of a woman who loved, lost, got mad, and decided to dance. She is the editor of four literary anthologies (Seal Press) of personal essays on travel in France, Italy, Mexico, and Greece. Her essays and memoir-style travel stories have appeared in books and numerous publications, including National Geographic Traveler, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Mariner, Islands, Perceptive Travel, and San Francisco Chronicle.

What People Say about Her Writing Workshops

Read a post on memoir and Archetypal Juice.

It’s recommended, but not required, that you read or have read two or three of the following. (If you love a particular memoir, let me know):

Liars’ Club,  Mary Karr

The End of the Story, Lydia Davis

Bluets, Maggie Nelson

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

Tango, an Argentine Love Story by Camille Cusumano

Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama

Fierce Attachments, Vivian Gornick

A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle

Kiss and Tango, Marina Palmer

An Italian Affair, Laura Fraser

And, a great guide to creative non-fiction in general worth having on your shelf is The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick.