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CNF 72 W — Memoir Writing: Finding Your Voice

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 21—Aug 27
Refund Deadline: Jun 24
Units: 3
Tuition: $910
Instructor(s): Rebecca Schuman
Limit: 20
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jun 21—Aug 27
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jun 24
3 Units
Rebecca Schuman
Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
You don't need to be a celebrity or the survivor of a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy to draw readers to the story of your life. In fact, “regular” people are often the best memoirists. Instead of relying on a famous name (or a ghostwriter!), we can devote ourselves to the single most important element in any memoir: a strong, inimitable voice that makes the reader instantly feel they know you—or want to.

In this course, you will not simply narrate your life story. You will learn to tell that story the way only you can, by learning to identify—and then set on the page—your unique vocabulary, slang, sentence length, and cadence. Each week, we will engage with some of the most compelling memoir voices in print, including Mary Karr, Jesmyn Ward, and Augusten Burroughs. Students will respond creatively to two prompts per week designed to develop a particular aspect of their writerly voice, and present one piece per week to a small-group workshop moderated by the instructor. In the second half of the course, students will submit a longer chapter or essay draft for further workshop and instructor feedback. The prompts are designed to be cumulative, so students will leave the course with new chapter drafts or revisions.

This course is appropriate for beginning and advanced writers. For students who have previously taken this course, the structure is the same but the content is new.


Rebecca Schuman is the author of the comic memoir Schadenfreude, A Love Story, a Spring 2017 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, a People pick of the week, a Hudson Booksellers Best Book of 2017, and a Fodor’s Holiday Gift Guide selection. Her essays have appeared in Slate, Longreads, Quartz, Guernica, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. She received an MFA in writing from The New School and a PhD in German literature from UC Irvine.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped (ISBN 978-1608197651)
(Required) Augusten Burroughs, Dry: A Memoir (ISBN 978-125003440)
(Required) Samantha Irby, Wow, No Thank You (ISBN 978-0525563488)
(Required) Lindy West, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (ISBN 978-0316348461)
(Required) Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (ISBN 978-0062223074)