Telling Your Story: The Art of Writing Your Memoir

Dover Lifetime Learning                                                        Winter/Spring 2019

Meeting Monday February 11; Monday, February 25; Monday March 11 and Monday April 8

Assignments for the next three classes will appear on this website, so check it regularly for any  updates.

Today at our first meeting, we pondered the differences between autobiographies and memoirs. We also looked at a few sections of ‘Tis (McCourt), and examined the language, the details McCourt used to paint a picture of himself at age 19, as he arrived in America, alone,  for the first time.

Gathering the Essential Writing Tools:

You will need:

a notebook for writing in every day, ten minutes minimum. this can be the homework, or random thoughts you think you might want to draw on for a memoir piece.

a timeline of your life, from @ age 4 to now. Draw/compose  one in your  notebook. Add pertinent dates and key events.

a good place to write: good surface, comfortable chair, water,  coffee or tea nearby, quiet music (or silence),  solitude if you prefer that–or the hiss of the barista’s tools if you prefer the energetic atmosphere of  a Starbuck’s or Peet’s.

–a watch, clock or cell phone, so you can be sure you write for at least 10 minutes.

–a tablet, computer, or pad of lined paper+ pen or pencil

Home Task to prepare in advance of  February 25:

(1) Assemble your writing tools:

(2) Reading:   Pick out  one sentence from each of the following :

excerpt from the Mary Cantwell memoir, American Girl   (Pages 21-29)  and the Roger Angell excerpt, “Movie Kid” from Let Me Finish (Pages 21-28).

Decide if you like or dislike the sentence you chose, and be ready to say why. Or, if you find the sentence puzzling or perplexing, be ready to explain why you think so. I’ll be trying to get everyone to speak , and will start with those who didn’t speak up at our first meeting.  No need to send this to me in advance–but  be prepared to report back on February 25.

If you did  not receive the email from the LL office with the pdfs of all the readings, please contact  Cindy Holmes in the office. Alternatively, you can visit your local public library and borrow the book!

Writing: (try to email this to me at, by a few days before the class, for feedback)

Find a family photo,  preferably  one from an album of snapshots or formal portraits from years ago.

Write (or type, double spacing, please) at least 7 or 8 sentences describing the scene, the people in the photo, and your memory of that occasion. If you  can’t pinpoint exactly what was happening when the photo was taken and how you figured into it, then let your creative mind get to work Free associate If the photo reminds you of another event  or strong emotion in response to something you experienced or witnessed, describe that. How did it feel? What did other say? What smalls, sounds, tastes do you recall from the occasion or event?  Experiment with dialog if you want.

Email me with any questions!