Workshops

— Workshop in Memoir Writing —

I have had the privilege for some time now to teach workshops in writing memoir in the Los Angeles area. I run three-day and five-day courses. Workshops are structured around the various themes presented below, focusing on one or more of these themes in any given day. Life-writing is a thrilling, often emotional journey where the writer learns more about his or herself than anticipated. It is an adventure of the heart, mind, spirit and intellect. For more information about joining one of my workshops in the Los Angeles area and to inquire fees, please contact me at mizmoss@earthlink.net.

THEMES:

1. FINDING/DEVELOPING FORM FOR THE MEMOIR
Suggestions for opening discussion: How is memoir different from autobiography, fiction, the essay?
The approach to life writing: chronology vs. collage as a narrative technique
Tools for narration: photos, letters, historical documents and artifacts

2. ORGANIZING AND USING “TIME”
Using the present tense; writing from “now”
Moving between past and present
Verb tense in narrative

3. DEVELOPING SCENES AND DIALOGUE
The close up vs. the medium shot and the long view
Using concrete imagery
Using just enough sentiment

4. USING THE ESSENTIAL OF MEMOIR: MEMORY
A look at Daniel Schacter’s “The Seven Sins of Memory,” a book that tells us much about the uses of memory. The seven sins are: transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestability, bias, persistence. We will explore how these “sins” might apply to the “acts” of memory in memoir

5. HOW DID FREUD GET IN HERE?
Exploring the self in history. As Cathy Caruth says in her book, “Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, History,” “History is never simply one’s own … it is precisely the way we are implicated in each other’s traumas.” Briefly touching on Caruth’s understanding of Freud’s notion of trauma and individual history, I’ll look at the most fundamental aspect of writing memoir: seeing yourself in history, in a larger community and historical time. This gives the necessary weight to your memoir; to your understanding of your own self and history.

Our one required text is William Zinsser’s “Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir.” This book offers excellent testimonies from well-known memoirists about their personal experience with the form.

We will also look at excerpts from the memoirs of Joan Didion, Anne Frank, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard, Frank Conroy and Virginia Woolf. They have much to tell us about the craft of life writing.


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