University of Iowa

Advanced Memoir: The Art and Craft of the Personal Essay

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

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? Can a personal essay stand alone as a complete mini-memoir?


We’ll read and discuss personal essays by Joan Didion, Ariel Levy, Oliver Sacks, and others, to enlighten and inspire us, and engage in some on-the-spot writing. Our main focus this week will be on the single personal essay you bring, which you’ll share and receive feedback on in workshop, revise and expand, and share again. You’ll leave our week together with a piece in solid shape and resources for pursuing publication.  


Nothing to submit in advance, but so that we can hit the ground running, I do ask that you arrive with the first draft of a 500-word personal essay in hand, ready for workshop. Seasoned memoir writers aiming to publish in the short form are welcome, although previous publications aren’t required.