Memoir Bootcamp

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The best way to decipher the truth about yourself is by setting about the sometimes grueling, always revealing, usually embarrassing task of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). How else to process your childhood fear of dolls (guilty as charged), make sense of your obsession with Victorian hair jewelry (guilty again), or wonder what’s at the root of your sibling rivalries. In this 5-day workshop on the essentials of memoir writing, you will learn how to frame a narrative, find a unique voice, reflect on the past through the present and much more. By the end of our week together, you will have a deeper understanding of the form and see that writing memoir is a way to find meaning in our lives, and wrangle art from our pain, trauma, coming of age, and struggles with identity. You know, all the stuff that makes up a life worth examining.

As a group, we will discuss the hallmarks of all good memoir and personal essays, take time for a short writing prompts, discussion of work in progress, and, because good writing demands good reading, we will take a look at other fine examples in this genre.

About Cathy Alter

Cathy Alter’s feature articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in local and national newspapers and magazines including The Washington PostWashingtonianThe AtlanticThe Huffington PostSelfMcSweeney’s, and SMITH Magazine. Her book, Virgin Territory: Stories from the Road to Womanhood was released in 2004 and her memoir, Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over was released in July 2008. She holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, where she is currently a faculty member and nonfiction adviser. More about her at:


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