University of Iowa

The Story beneath Your Story: A Memoir-in-Progress Workshop

Weeklong June 09 to June 14 2019

Memoirists face two important tasks: First, to tell the plotted story of action, and second, to tell the story of one’s own change and growth over time. That second story, the emotional arc, conveys the author’s larger message, elevating one person’s experience from the unique and personal to the universal and shared. It reveals what your story is truly about. But how do we extract that deeper message from a story, and articulate it to readers in a meaningful way? And how can we expect to achieve this, if we haven’t yet discovered what that larger message is?


As Vivian Gornick emphasizes, what happened to an author is not what matters. What matters is what the author makes of those experiences. This class will help you discover what you make of your own story, and give you tools for sharing these insights with readers. Together, we’ll identify the underlying themes and archetypes of your nonfiction narrative. We’ll also create passages of reflection and analysis that will resonate deeply with readers. Come to this workshop with pages you’ve already polished, or first-draft work. Plan to share what you write during the week, and to give to other students as much as you’ll receive in return.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our week.