Basic Info
  • Nonfiction
  • Essay
  • Memoir

In an effort to answer the cardinal question of memoir—who cares?—this workshop/seminar zeroes in on what’s most compelling about our life stories. What about you is potentially interesting to others? What’s that inciting incident, organizing principle, heat-seeking moment, that could drive your memoir?

We’ll read and discuss personal essays by Joan Didion, Ariel Levy, Tony Judt and others to enlighten and inspire us, and engage in in-class writing exercises on our first full day to jump start our creative process. Then we’ll work on a single personal essay all week, which will be workshopped, revised, and workshopped again. You’ll leave our week together with a personal essay in solid shape, and the goal of getting it published; or, the piece could be an excerpt of an eventual full-length memoir.

Nothing to submit in advance, though I will ask that you read the personal essays that are up for discussion before we gather, so that we can hit the ground running. Experienced memoir writers aiming to publish (though no previous published works necessary) 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: