Students will attend NYC Memoir writing classes at their scheduled times via video chat (with or without cameras enabled) or by calling in to the live chat with your phone. Each student will present two page exercises each week, to be shared electronically, and the format of the live class will be the same as when you attend class in person, with students and teachers responding to your work and discussing the next week’s exercise. The technology for attending class remotely is provided by Google Meet and is extremely easy to use.

What is so challenging about writing a memoir is that you are asking yourself to take the emotionally charged events of your life and shape them aesthetically, so they appeal to the unknown reader—the reader who doesn’t know you and doesn’t necessarily care what happened to you. Unless you can make them.

Using the tried and true Writers Studio method, we will closely examine the work of writers who have been able to turn their personal experiences into memoirs that are transcendentally universal. What kind of persona narrators did writers like Tara Westover, Roxanne Gay, Joan Didion or James Baldwin create to project themselves as a character on the page? What narrative devices do they employ to transform the raw material of their lives into an engaging and compelling story? By focusing on craft, we will learn how to establish the narrative distance we need to connect to the emotional power of our experiences without being overwhelmed by it.

We will look at a short excerpt of a different author each week. Our goal in this eight-week course is to try to emulate different models by extracting their narrative tools and using them to unlock the full potential of our own stories.


Writers Studio Teacher

Sylvie Bertrand

Sylvie Bertrand's stories and poems have appeared in Peregrine Journal, Epiphany, Cleaver Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, Alexandria Quarterly, and December magazine, among others. She was nominated for the 2017 Pen / Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, received a 2018 Pushcart Special Mention, and was a finalist for the 2019 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. Sylvie is the co-founding editor of Cagibi, an online and print literary journal. She studied with Philip Schultz at The Writers Studio and has degrees in Communications and Literature, Political Sciences, and a MA in Anthropology from Princeton University. She is currently completing her first novel.

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