Writing Your Life 2021
This eight-module online course is for those who have an interest in writing about personal history for publication, for their own satisfaction or to leave for family. Students work at their own pace to explore the art and craft of memoir and are given guidance in the process of imposing a narrative framework on experiences, memories and emotions. Each session of this course will be based on a theme: eg: a childhood memory, places, family and significant life events. By the end of this course, students will have greater clarity on how to create a compelling memoir. Comprehensive workbooks and examples accompany this course, and tutor feedback is given on 20 writing exercises. The course is designed to be completed within four months, but we allow a year to complete the course.
Students can start at any time by arrangement. Fees $450 payable by the start of the course. Previous Creative Writing Dunedin students who have completed a full-length course will be given a $50 discount.
Writing Your Life Programme 2021
Topic One: Broad Approaches to Memoir and Autobiography
In this topic, we take a broad look at different genres of Writing Your Life. Not everyone will wish to write about themselves, they may prefer to explore their families. That said the emphasis is on writing about your life. Even if you wish to explore the lives of others, the exercises in this course will help you know yourself. In my opinion, in order to write well, it helps to know yourself first. Some topics will focus on developing good writing skills, as much as content. The aim is to for you to create a compelling life story that others will want to read.
In this topic, we will explore how you might go about imposing a structure on your writing project. If you set off on your writing journey with some sort of plan you will save yourself a lot of time. going down unnecessary pathways. That said I make no excuses for setting exercises that may cause you to deviate from your chosen path. This is necessary when you first begin to write, even for experienced writers beginning a new project. First, you discover what you can and want to write and then you set about organising the material into some readable whole. The aim is to create the same sense of story and tension that you encounter in a novel. This is what will make your writing compelling.
Topic Three: Fictional Techniques
In Fictional Techniques we explore some of the skills fiction writers employ in novels and short stories, but also some writing techniques that all good writers use. So we touch on the use of tense, and how to manipulate the real-time in your life to make a more interesting story. We look at style and the classic instruction most creative writing teachers will tell you, show don’t tell.
Topic Four: Truth and Memory
This topic explores some of the tricky nature of remembering the past and trying to be faithful to your memory of the past. You all would have had experiences in your family when your memory differs completely from someone else’s. There is no definitive answer to whose memory is the most accurate. All you can do is try to write about the past as honestly as you can. That means being prepared to look at your own behaviour as well as that of others. Writing your life can be a form of therapy but we aim to get beyond the ego and write in a way that others can relate to.
Topic Five: The Real People in Your Life
Writing about real people is akin to negotiating a potential minefield. It’s possible you may stand on a mine even if you stick to telling the truth. The problem is that you don’t see yourself as others see you and your relationship with the observed one will influence the way you write about a person. In this course, I encourage you to look at people in your life with clarity, understanding and as much objectivity as you can muster.
Topic Six: Writing the Physical World
Writing about the real places you and the real people you are writing about love in or visit is an opportunity to explore more than just the physical facts of place but also the social and cultural environment. Obviously, if you grow up on a rubbish dump in the Philippines, your attitude to life will be quite different from someone born to a wealthy family in New York. Even relocations in the same country can have a profound effect on your life. And how do you describe what you see?
Topic Seven: Research
In this topic, we take a look at research into family history and where you might start. We also consider some possibilities of how you might approach family history. We have explored different aspects of Memoir Writing. Now is the time to start thinking about how you might approach Writing About Your Life to make a coherent whole. This is not something that can be dashed off quickly. Writing a book-length project if that is what interests you is a big job, but at least you have somewhere to start.
Topic Eight: Publication Possibilities
In this final topic, we look at the possibilities of publication. While it’s harder than ever to get published by a mainstream publisher it’s easier than ever to get published by alternate means, from e-publishing to indie publishing. Many people who worked for publishers have set themselves up as publishing consultants, book designers, editors, distributors etc. It costs money and commitment of course, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility to earn your money back from sales. This topic will be a good starting point.