Memoir writing course: Resources, examples, benefits

Taking a memoir writing course provides structured guidance, constructive feedback and a supportive community, helping aspiring writers develop the necessary skills, craft and confidence to share their personal stories effectively.

This post explores memoir writing courses available at the following platforms:

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a non-fiction genre of writing that presents a personal account of specific experiences, events or periods in an individual’s life. It often reflects the author’s thoughts, emotions and reflections on the events, providing a subjective and introspective narrative. Memoirs can cover many topics and may focus on personal growth, challenges, relationships or significant life moments.

What is the difference between a memoir and a biography?

A memoir differs from a biography in its focus and scope. A memoir is a personal narrative that typically centres on specific aspects of the author’s life, experiences and emotions. Furthermore, it often uses a subjective and reflective tone. In contrast, a biography is a detailed and comprehensive account of a person’s entire life, providing an objective and factual overview of their achievements, challenges and contributions, often researched and written by someone other than the subject. Memoirs delve into personal reflections, while biographies aim for a broader, external perspective on an individual’s life.

What are examples of successful memoirs?

There are many famous memoirs across various genres and themes. Here are some notable examples:

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank chronicles her experiences as a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during World War II.
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls recounts her unconventional and often challenging childhood, growing up with her eccentric and unpredictable parents.
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt details his impoverished childhood in Limerick, Ireland, capturing the struggles and resilience of his family.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert explores her self-discovery and personal growth as she travels through Italy, India and Indonesia after a difficult divorce.
  • Educated by Tara Westover recounts her journey from a rural, isolated upbringing without formal education to earning a PhD from Cambridge University.
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed shares the transformative solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, reflecting on grief, healing and self-discovery.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot combines biography and memoir, exploring the impact of Lacks’s cells on medical science and Skloot’s journey in uncovering the story.
  • Becoming by the former First Lady Michelle Obama reflects on her life, from her childhood to her experiences in the White House.
  • The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell chronicles the author’s experiences living in Denmark and explores the Danish way of life, hygge.
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, comedian and The Daily Show host, shares stories from his childhood in apartheid-era South Africa.
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance is a personal and sociological exploration of the author’s Appalachian roots and the challenges faced by the working class in America.
"The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank
"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
"Educated" by Tara Westover

What are the benefits of taking a memoir writing course?

Taking a memoir writing course can offer several benefits for someone looking to write a memoir:

  • Structured learning: Memoir writing courses provide a structured environment with lessons, assignments and feedback.
  • Expert guidance: Experienced instructors can offer valuable insights, guidance and techniques to help writers effectively convey their personal stories and navigate challenges in the memoir-writing process.
  • Feedback and critique: Courses often involve peer review and instructor feedback how to improve writing skills, refine voice and enhance the overall memoir quality.
  • Community and support: Being part of a writing community can provide emotional support, motivation and encouragement. Moreover, as fellow writers share experiences and offer insights that can be beneficial in the often introspective and personal nature of memoir writing.
  • Skill development: Memoir writing courses cover various aspects of the craft, from structure and pacing to character development and dialogue.
  • Deadlines and accountability: Courses typically have deadlines for assignments, encouraging writers to stay on track and maintain a consistent writing schedule. This accountability can be particularly helpful for those navigating the challenges of completing a memoir.
  • Networking opportunities: Writing courses may provide opportunities to connect with industry professionals who can provide guidance on the publishing process.
  • Exploration of techniques: Memoir writing courses often introduce writers to different narrative techniques and styles. This can help them experiment with approaches to make their memoirs more compelling and unique.
  • Access to resources: Courses may provide additional resources and reading materials that can deepen writers’ understanding of the memoir genre and inspire their creative process.

Where can you find a memoir writing course?

Coursera

Coursera is an online learning platform that offers a wide range of courses, specialisations and degree programs in collaboration with universities and organisations worldwide. Their mission is to provide accessible education to learners globally. On Coursera, you will find two memoir writing courses, which are part of the ‘Memoir and personal essay’ collection. To access them, register with Coursera and pay the monthly subscription fee of $49. However, you can also use the seven-day free trial to sample these courses.

Memoir and personal essay: Managing your relationship with the reader$49Link
Memoir and personal essay: Write about yourself$49Link
Memoir writing courses available at Coursera.

CreativeLive

CreativeLive provides online courses across various creative disciplines, including writing. Look for courses specifically focused on memoir writing or creative non-fiction. The platforms offer at the moment one memoir writing course. To access it, you can pay a one-off fee of $74 for this class or start using the CreativeLive for $11 per month (billed annually).

How to write a full-length memoir$74Link
The memoir writing courses available at CreativeLive.

Gotham Writers’ Workshop

Gotham Writers’ Workshop offers online and in-person writing classes. Moreover, they often have courses specifically focused on memoir writing, titled Memoir Writing I and II. Both are taught online or in-person.

Memoir writing I$439Link
Memoir writing II$439Link
Memoir writing courses available at Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

‘Memoir writing I’ course by the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Source: wp.writingclasses.com

Memoir Writing Club

The Memoir Writing Club is an online platform that offers courses, workshops and resources specifically tailored to memoir writing. The course takes twelve weeks to complete; the masterclass consists of two-hour long sessions taking place over a six-month period.

Memoir writing course$495Link
Memoir writing masterclass$2,495Link
Memoir writing courses available at the Memoir Writing Club.

SkillShare

SkillShare is an online learning platform that offers a diverse array of video-based courses, primarily focused on creative skills such as design, photography or writing. The platform enables its subscribers to access a wide range of classes taught by professionals in their respective fields.

Presently, it offers nine different memoir writing courses targeting different writing aspects and skills. To access them, you will need to register with the platform and pay the annual subscription fee of $168. In addition, SkillShare offers a free thirty-days trial.

Crafting memoir: How to outline your own hero’s journey$168Link
How to write a book about your life (Memoir outlining)$168Link
How to write honestly about friends and family in memoir$168Link
Memoir journaling: Make your life richer through stories$168Link
Memoir writing: Beginner lessons to an inspirational book$168Link
Unlock your creative power with childhood memoir$168Link
Write a story based on your life: Use your life as inspiration to write a memoir$168Link
Writing the truth: How to start writing your memoir$168Link
Memoir writing courses available at Skillshare.

A SkillShare course, ‘How to write honestly about friends and family in memoir.’ Source: skillshare.com

Udemy

Udemy is an online learning platform with various courses, including those on memoir writing. Different instructors may offer courses, so check reviews and course content to find one that suits your needs. As of February 2024, all Udemy memoir writing courses are heavily discounted; the platform also offers a thirty-day money-back guarantee.

10-day kickstart your memoir writing experience$15Link
How to write a memoir$15Link
Kickstart your memoir: Writing exercises$15Link
Memoir writing: Beginner lessons to an inspirational book$15Link
The rebel memoir. Creating your first memoir$15Link
Write a memoir for yourself or a family member in 60 days$15Link
Write your memoir in a weekend: Putting life in life stories$15Link
Writing your life story: Turning memories into memoir$16Link
Memoir writing courses available at Udemy.
‘Writing your life story: Turning memories into memoir’ course by Udemy. Source: udemy.com 

Writers Studio

The Writers Studio is a writing school and community that provides creative writing workshops and courses. They emphasise the development of craft and narrative techniques across various genres for writers at different levels of experience. Currently, they offer three memoir writing courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced writers.

Memoir$385Link
Intermediate memoir$395Link
Advanced memoir$490Link
Memoir writing courses available at the Writers Studio.

Memoir writing courses by the Writers Studio. Source: courses.writerstudio.com

What are other ways to learn how to write a memoir besides taking a memoir writing course?

Aside from taking a memoir writing course, there are various ways to learn the necessary skills for writing a memoir:

  • Read widely: Read various memoirs to understand different styles, tones and narrative approaches. Consider how authors structure their stories, develop characters and convey emotions.
  • Study craft books: Explore books on the craft of writing memoirs. Notable examples include The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith, The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. These books offer insights into the writing process and techniques specific to memoirs.
  • Join a writing group: Participate in a writing group to share and receive feedback on your work. Alternatively, you can look for a writing partner or buddy. Engaging with a community of writers can provide valuable perspectives and suggestions for improvement. For instance, Reddit’s r/writing or Goodreads have communities where writers discuss their experiences and share advice.
  • Practice journaling: Regularly journaling about personal experiences can effectively hone your observational and reflective skills. This practice can serve as a foundation for crafting a memoir.
  • Seek feedback: Share excerpts of your writing with friends, family or writing peers and gather constructive feedback. This external perspective can help you identify areas for improvement.
  • Work with an editor: A professional editor can provide invaluable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript, offering suggestions for improving structure, pacing and overall narrative impact. A developmental editor can address broader story elements, while a copyeditor can help fine-tune the language.
"Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott
"The Art of Memoir" by Mary Karr
"The Memoir Project" by Marion Roach Smith

Final thoughts

In conclusion, taking a memoir writing course offers aspiring writers a range of benefits. They include structured guidance, expert feedback and a supportive community. With access to experienced instructors, peer review and various resources, writers can refine their skills and create a compelling narrative that reflects their personal experiences. Whether you are an experienced writer or just starting, a memoir writing course can provide the necessary tools and techniques to help you craft a memorable and impactful memoir.

If you have already finished your memoir manuscript, contact me or a free sample edit of your text (and remember to use my early bird discount). I am an experienced editor working with non-fiction, academic and business texts. I can help prepare your text for publication, from a big-picture analysis, through bringing to fore your authorial voice, to ensuring correctness and consistency of the language.

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Magda

I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).