Basic Info
  • Nonfiction
  • Memoir

A novelist has it easy—her characters, sprung from her imagination, don’t talk back when they’re not happy about the way they’re depicted on the page. But what if your character is your ex-husband, your twin brother, your mother? Are familial loyalty and literary integrity necessarily at odds? How can we most effectively navigate this touchy terrain, to maintain our real-life relationships without compromising the stories we need to tell?

Our weekend together will begin with discussion, which will prompt our writing exercises. Whether you’re already in the midst of a memoir project or are contemplating one and scared off by this very conflict, this workshop can be useful in grappling with such issues as: the possibility of multiple “truths”; altering identifying characteristics; inviting loved ones into your writing process (or not); the pros and cons of allowing relatives to read your manuscript, and how much to revise per their comments, if at all; determining if what could hurt others truly advances the story. Our exercises, addressing specific concerns of the group, will give us the opportunity to convey especially sensitive material in various ways, in an effort to find a form of expression that you can stand behind both as an author and as a brother/daughter/friend.

Nothing to submit in advance, as we’ll generate new work during our time together, though I will send along a couple of relevant pieces to read/listen to in preparation. Generous-minded writers of all levels of experience (including none), are welcome.

Sarah Saffian


Sarah Saffian (M.F.A., Columbia) is the author of Ithaka, her memoir of being an adoptee who was found by her birth family. She also teaches memoir at Sarah Lawrence and works individually as a writing coach. Formerly a journalism professor at NYU and the New School, Sarah has written for publications including The New York Times, Smithsonian, and Yoga Journal, and has been a writer-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Millay Colony. Also a therapist (LMSW, NYU), Sarah counsels individuals and groups with empathy, clarity, and humor, and blends her areas of interest and expertise in the Therapeutic Writing technique, using memoir prompts as a tool for encouraging reflection, processing, and discovery. This is Sarah’s tenth summer at the Festival. Do come visit: