Memoir Essentials Webinar Series


In this six-hour course, Theo Pauline Nestor discusses the essential elements of writing a memoir. With examples from popular memoirs, in-class writing activities, and homework assignments, this course offers you the opportunity to develop your skills writing personal narrative and a deeper understanding of the genre. Included: 4-1.5 hour recordings, 4 Power Point slideshows, course schedule with reading assignments.


What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened. For that, the power of a writing imagination is required. As V.S. Pritchett once said of the genre, ‘It’s all in the art. You get no credit for living.’”—Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story

This webinar focuses on the fundamentals of memoir writing and offers generative writing tasks designed to take you deeper into your story. We will discuss the essential elements of memoir writing—how to create scenes that move your story forward, how to use summary and reflection effectively, how to narrow your topic, and how to structure your narrative. This class is designed help you hone in on the story you need to tell and develop the voice in which to tell it.

Course outline:

  • First meeting: Introduction to the memoir genre; understanding story structure and how to develop your memoir’s narrative arc, narrator transformation and the hero’s journey.
  • Second meeting: The three narrative modes of memoir: Scene, Summary, and Musing; the essentials of scene writing; the use of time in a memoir; how to write a scene that sizzles.
  • Third meeting: Developing the emotional preoccupation of your memoir; creating a narrator and a narrative readers care about; developing the universal elements of your story.
  • Fourth meeting:  Finding your voice as a writer; letting your personality show up on the page; obsessions; special memberships; creating a narrator who serves as your story’s “central consciousness

Who’s the instructor?  Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And a Guide to How You Can Too) (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over (Crown, 2008), which was selected by Kirkus Reviews as a 2008 Top Pick for Reading Groups and as a Target “Breakout Book.” An award-winning instructor, Nestor has taught the memoir certificate course for the University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education program since 2006 and also teaches at Hugo House in Seattle. She holds and MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from the University of Washington. Nestor also produces events for writers such as the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat, Bird by Bird & Beyond, and the Black Mesa Writers’ Intensive, featuring talks by writers such as Anne Lamott, Cheryl Strayed, Julia   Cameron, and Natalie Goldberg.




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