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CNF 72 W — Memoir Writing: Finding Your Voice

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 3—Jun 9
Refund Deadline: Apr 6
Units: 3
Tuition: $955
Instructor(s): Rebecca Schuman
Limit: 17
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Closed
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Apr 3—Jun 9
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 6
3 Units
Rebecca Schuman
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 Tobias Wolff. 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.


Rebecca Schuman is the author of the comic memoir Schadenfreude, A Love Story, a Hudson Booksellers Best Book of 2017, a Fodor’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide Pick, and a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Memoir/Biography of Spring 2017. Her essays and reportage on a wide variety of subjects—from higher education to German culture and elite gymnastics—have appeared in Slate, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Guernica, Literary Hub, and other national and international outlets.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Augusten Burroughs, Dry: A Memoir (ISBN 978-1250034403)
(Required) Lindy West, Shrill (ISBN 978-0316348461)
(Required) Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped: A Memoir (ISBN 978-1608197651)
(Required) Samantha Irby, Wow, No Thank You: Essays (ISBN 978-0525563488)
(Recommended) Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (ISBN 978-0062223074)