Nothing seems to paralyze memoir writers more than wondering how to start, whether it’s a short personal essay or a full-length book. Beginnings, of course, are incredibly important moments in any story. At the beginning, you want to invite, even compel, your reader into what you have to share. At the same time, you often have a lot of information that needs to be conveyed up front, and nothing can deaden writing more than an “exposition dump” early on. At the core of the question of where and how to begin are the essential issues and questions of your memoir (whether it’s a personal essay or a full-length book): What is my story about? Where do I want to take the reader? How can I make my story interesting to the reader? While this workshop will explore specific techniques for beginning your memoir, we will, by the very nature of the subject, also be exploring the larger questions, purposes, and shape of your project. Students of all levels are welcome in this workshop, as are students interested in working with short personal essays, full-length memoirs, or both. The workshop will include exercises, readings, and workshopping of each other’s writing. Students can either bring previously written work for the workshop or write new material during the weekend.
Thomas K. Dean (Ph.D., The University of Iowa) is Senior Presidential Writer/Editor at The University of Iowa, where he also teaches interdisciplinary courses. He has taught writing, literature, and interdisciplinary subjects at Cardinal Stritch College (Milwaukee), Michigan State University, and Moorhead State University (Minnesota). Dean has published essays in regional and national publications. His books include The Grace of Grass and Water: Writing in Honor of Paul Gruchow (edited collection, Ice Cube Press, 2007) and Under a Midland Sky (memoir/personal essays, Ice Cube Press, 2008). His collection of essays and photographs, tentatively called Prairie Eye, with co-author Cindy Crosby is expected from Ice Cube Press in 2018.