The University of Iowa

Get Over Yourself! A Personal Piece a Day

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020

Crucial rule of thumb for memoirists: Profound and meaningful to you doesn’t automatically mean profound and meaningful to others—it’s not the whole lump of clay of your experience but the sculpture that you create with it that is potentially compelling.


Part workshop, part seminar, this course is organized tasting-menu-with-wine-pairing style: Each meeting we’ll get a prompt for a short personal piece to write—experimenting with memory-mining, perspective, and voice. We’ll also look at a published piece of writing to energize and inspire us—by Junot Diaz, Ariel Levy, Tara Westover, and others. The following day, we’ll share and workshop our pieces on the spot, discuss the reading, and examine such concepts as subjectivity/multiple “truths,” the politics of writing about loved ones, and the distinction between journal writing and crafted storytelling, and then move on to the next pairing.


The goals here are to take creative risks, to write precisely and originally in order to make our stories come alive on the page—even just one page—and as ever, to ask the who cares? question early and often, in our quest to entertain and enlighten our readers.


Nothing to submit in advance, as we’ll generate all new work during our time together. Open-minded introspectives with a desire to communicate, at all levels of writing experience, are welcome.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.