This advanced workshop-based course concentrates on the process of writing memoirs. It is a second-level course designed primarily for students who have taken CRWR 1202 (Personal Narrative) and wish to further explore their creative writing in this genre. Students will craft and shape an extended narrative built on significant episodes and themes from their personal experience. Each student will be required to write several chapters of a memoir during the course. By reading and discussing contemporary texts, students will also be introduced to a wide array of narrative approaches and techniques used in memoir writing, particularly those related to form and structure.
Student manuscripts will form the majority of course content. Published texts, such as This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff and The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr, will also be read and discussed, with particular attention to: structure; point-of-view; repetition; theme; the relationship between narrative, exposition and scenes, as well as transitions between those three forms of prose.
Students will identify episodes from their lives as “launching pads” for their full-length memoirs.
Students will access possible material for their memoirs through in-class exercises; they may also draw on photographs and other memorabilia.
Students will be exposed to a variety of structural methods used in full-length memoirs. These methods may include, but are not limited to: framing devices; flashback; flash-forward; juxtaposing different time periods; repetition of images, phrasing and events; and the various uses of past and present tense.
Students will produce a detailed outline part-way through the course, in which they will be required to give thoughtful consideration to the way their individual memoirs will be structured.
Students will write at least four chapters of a memoir; these chapters may form the beginning, or other significant sections, of a full-length work.
Students will learn and put into practice different methods of beginning, developing and shaping the narrative of a memoir.
Students will study and explore different narrative techniques such as: prose style and the development of voice; the role of detail, setting, dialogue and characterization; different approaches to point-of-view; structure; linear and non-linear story patterns; exploration of themes, as well as the interplay of scene, narrative, and exposition.
Explore different approaches to both linear and non-linear storylines.
Learn to develop skills and habits necessary to produce writing that is engaging, readable, thoughtful and well-developed.
Students will recognize the importance of revision in long-form memoirs as an essential component of shaping and crafting a narrative toward its full potential.
Students will receive comments and constructive criticism from their classmates and instructor and will selectively incorporate them into their own work, in order to improve and develop their memoirs through revision.
Students will develop a keen editorial eye when it comes to revising their own memoirs.
Students will use appropriate technical terms in their discussion during workshops and in any analytical writing assignments or presentations.
Students will learn how to prepare manuscripts for submission to magazine and book publishers.
Methods of Instruction
Classes will be conducted in the workshop format. The following may be combined with the workshop:
- Lectures and discussions
- In-class writing exercises
- Small group work and/or class presentations
- Assigned readings
Means of Assessment
A minimum of five separate writing assignments, with an overall minimum of fifty pages. The bulk of the student’s written work will be composed of opening chapters, or other significant chapters, of a full-length memoir. Students may be required to provide a brief synopsis and explanation of each chapter’s role within the context of their planned work as a whole. Students will produce a detailed outline part-way through the course, in which they will be required to give thoughtful consideration to the way their individual memoirs will be structured. A grade will be assigned for written responses and class participation. Student work will be discussed by both the instructor and the students in the workshop.
Students are required to attend 80% of the workshops. A student missing more than 20% of the workshops without receiving prior permission from the instructor will receive a 0 in class participation. Leaving after the break is considered a half-class absence.
Students of Memoir Writing will be able to identify autobiographical material and themes to be developed within a large narrative framework; will discover how to adapt structure and form to suit the stories they have to tell; will be able to discuss this work with other students in a workshop environment; and will develop skills in selection, editing and revision.
B in CRWR 1202: Personal Narrative, or instructor permission plus satisfactory result on College Writing Assessment or substitution/equivalent as stated in College Calendar.
Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.
Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system.
A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.
For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.
If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.