I’ll be teaching a month-long series of classes on memoir writing this August at the San Francisco Writers Grotto. Here’s the info:

Memoir Writing: Fact Is Not Truth – Memoir and the Art of Honesty
Instructor: Rachel Howard
Contact: rachel (dot) howard (at) gmail.com
Number of sessions: 3, with optional 4th session for personal critique
Meeting times: Monday evenings, 6:30 – 9:30, August 3-17. Optional critique session 6:30 – 9:30, Monday, August 24
Course fee:$195. Optional critique session $75

Description: You want to tell your story and you want to tell the truth. But what does ‘truth’ in a memoir really mean? And how do we find and communicate the deeper truths that compel readers to compulsively turn pages?

Memoir poses a contract with the reader—“this really happened.” Whether your story is outrageous or ordinary, compelling memoir need not depart from facts. But it must dig beneath them to unearth a deeper emotional honesty.

In this class, we’ll use Vivian Gornick’s excellent book The Situation and the Story to help examine the personal story you’re trying to tell, and how you can best tell it. We’ll look at excerpts from memoirs by such writers as Jo Ann Beard, Alexandra Fuller, and Tobias Wolff, and do lots of in-class writing of our own which we will share and discuss. We’ll explore how memoirists use fictional techniques to transport the reader beyond surface factuality, and we’ll find the truth that can drive your personal story. Plenty of time reserved for practical Q and A. Ethical quandaries—“What will my family think if they read this?”—welcome.

An optional fourth session will be reserved for critique of excerpts from students’ memoirs-in-progress. Each participant in this session (limited to six students) will receive a written personal critique from the instructor.

This class is for students already at work on a memoir, as well as those just starting out.

Instructor Bio: Rachel Howard is the author of the memoir The Lost Night: A Daughter’s Search for the Truth of Her Father’s Murder, one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Best Books of 2005. Her personal essays have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and O, the Oprah Magazine. Her advice is quoted extensively in The Autobiographer’s Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir.

Click here to visit our Grotto Classes webpage.

PS: The Grotto is offering plenty of other great classes this summer. Check out these other courses:

Writers’ Sampler Menu: Varieties of Non-Fiction Genres
Instructor: Laura Fraser
Contact:laura@laurafraser.com
Number of sessions: 4 (can be taken separately, or as a series)
Meeting times: Wednesday evenings,7 pm to 9 pm; July 2 – 29
Course fee: $45 per class, or $150 for the 4 class series

Description:
This class will be like a tapas menu of different non-fiction genres. Learn everything you wanted to know (or at least everything Laura knows) about each In each two-hour session, Laura will focus in on what makes a successful article in each genre—how to come up with ideas, structure the story, make it sparkle, and sell the piece. Students will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas, and she’ll talk about publishing venues for each genre. Students may drop in to a single class or take the whole series.

JULY 8: TRAVEL WRITING

JULY 15: FOOD WRITING

JULY 22: PERSONAL ESSAY AND MEMOIR

JULY 29: BETTER BLOGGING and BREAKING IN TO MAGAZINES
Instructor bio: Laura Fraser is an award-winning journalist who has published feature articles in all these genres, for such publications as Gourmet, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, the New York Times, More, and O the Oprah Magazine. Last year she won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for Essay Writing. She has taught writing at numerous venues, including the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Fiction Bootcamp
Instructor: Janis Cooke Newman
Contact: j-newman@comcast.net
Number of sessions: 1
Meeting times: Saturday, Julty 11, 2009, 10:00 am until 4:00 pm
Course fee: $155.00
Description:
“Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.” — Graycie Harmon

This is especially true if you write fiction, which requires you to spend long periods of time in the company of imaginary characters.

This one-day intensive is designed to help fiction writers turn out pages, while staying (more or less) sane.

By looking at the work of other authors, we’ll cover all the craft elements of writing fiction – plot, character, setting, dialogue, and scene. By doing lots of in-class writing, we’ll test drive these techniques for ourselves. We’ll also spend time practicing some strategies to help us access our own creativity – that part of the brain where those imaginary characters live.

Note: This course is appropriate for anyone interested in writing fiction, including beginners. It fulfills the prerequisite for the Advanced Fiction Workshop, which will be offered in Fall 2009.
Instructor bio: Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the novel, ‘Mary,’ which was a Bay Area Bestseller, a BookSense Pick of the Year, and was named by USA Today as the Best Historical Novel of 2006. ‘Mary’ was a Finalist for an LA Times Book Award. Janis Cooke Newman is also the author of a memoir, ‘The Russian Word for Snow,’ and has taught writing in the Bay Area for the past 8 years.

Master Class: Workshop your Non-Fiction
Instructor: Laura Fraser
Contact:laura@laurafraser.com
Number of sessions: 4
Meeting times: Thursday evenings, 6:30 – 9:00, July 9 – 30
Course fee: $150.00, (additional $50 for one-on-one coaching session)

Description:
This class will give experienced writers an opportunity to workshop their pieces to get feedback on their stories. The focus will be on structure and craft, not publication. Writers should pre-register, and preference will be given to Laura’s previous students (maximum 10 in the class). At the first class we will talk about craft and publishing, and draw lots for who will read at subsequent classes. For an extra $50, students will have a follow-up coaching session one-on-one with Laura to go over revised drafts or new articles.

Thursdays, July 9 to July 30, $150 for the series. Please pre-register by sending a check to Laura Fraser at the Grotto, 490 Second St. #200, San Francisco, CA 94107. No refunds.
Instructor bio:

Laura Fraser is an award-winning journalist who has published feature articles in all these genres, for such publications as Gourmet, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, the New York Times, More, and O the Oprah Magazine. Last year she won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for Essay Writing. She has taught writing at numerous venues, including the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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