Find the Memoir Structure That Works for You

Whether you go plain or fancy, learn how to structure your story effectively to enhance its meaning


Lisa Cooper Ellison


Live on Nov. 17, 2021, or watch recording


First-time memoirists


Closed captions by Otter; transcript provided with recording

Stumbling in and stumbling out. Does that describe a little too accurately how your memoir begins and ends? Or perhaps you’ve been writing for a while, and you wonder if the structure you’ve chosen works. It makes sense to you, but maybe it’s a little a boring. You remember an agent panel where they discussed how publishers want not only fresh voices, but stories told in fresh ways.

Perhaps that straightforward, chronological structure you’ve chosen is not exciting enough. But if you don’t start at the beginning, where do you start?

Now you’re struggling with the following questions:

  • Am I better off with a straightforward story, or should I risk getting creative with my narrative structure?
  • If I attempt something fancy, how will I know that it’s working?
  • Do I have the storytelling skills to pull it off?

In this 75-minute webinar with editor Lisa Cooper Ellison, you’ll:

  • Explore the most common memoir structures, including the linear story, the quest, the braid, the essay collection, and the letter, as well as a few nonstandard forms.
  • Examine the relationship between structure and your story’s universal.
  • Learn the skills required to capitalize on each structure.
  • Find out what authors of the fanciest structures have to say about the choices they made.

Without a structure that works, you are more likely to endure ceaseless revisions—which include not knowing how to start and not knowing where to end. Memoirs without an effective structure lose reader interest and fail to secure publishing deals. This class will help you avoid frustrating mistakes that can plague your project for years.

Who should take this class

This class is for beginning to intermediate memoirists, including:

  • Memoirists looking for the structure that best matches their story
  • New memoirists looking for a way to start or structure their project
  • Anyone wrestling with a memoir revision
  • Memoirists who want to understand not just structure, but the skills required to nail specific structures

How do I know if this class is worth the cost?

This is an important question, and it’s a tough one to answer—especially since so much online education is available free of charge. Furthermore, every student is different, and a valuable webinar for one person can end up being a disappointment to another. For this reason, we offer full refunds if you register, attend or watch the class, and fail to get the information you were looking for.

Do I have to attend the live classes?

No. Everyone who registers will get access to the recording. However, if you’d like to attend live, keep reading.

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology. You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021
  • Time: 1:00–2:15 p.m. EST / 10:00 a.m. Pacific
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Zoom’s automated closed caption service (powered by Otter), which is about 80%+ accurate. We also use Otter AI to generate an unedited transcript, provided with the recording.

About the instructor

Lisa Ellison is an editor, writing coach, and speaker with an Ed.S in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a background in mindfulness. She has spent the last two decades helping clients and students turn difficult experiences into art and currently teaches courses in memoir, creative nonfiction, scene writing, and mindful writing practices. Her life story and essays have appeared on NPR’s With Good Reason and in Hippocampus Literary MagazineKenyon Review OnlineHuffington Post, and The Guardian, among others. 

Lisa’s course was fantastic. Thanks for making her expertise and course materials available! Everything was done at an impressive level of professionalism.

Sam Farler


Lisa is both an accomplished teacher and very talented practitioner of mindful writing. She is a very capable, empathic and insightful writing teacher, who creates and sustains a safe, warm space for students to learn and become successful writers themselves.

Rita Hart


Time flew by, an indicator that the webinar was good and on point. Thank you to Lisa for offering us a
generous amount of useful info. My questions were answered.

Gillian Foster


All students receive the following

  • Access to live class. After roughly 60 minutes, Lisa will take questions during class using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 75 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the recording and follow-up materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to access the recordings.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.

System Requirements to Join the Webinar

We will be using Zoom webinar technology.

You’ll need:

  • An internet connection: broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers: built-in, USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth

Recommended bandwidth:

  • 600kbps (down) for high-quality video and 1.2 Mbps (down) for HD video
  • If you connect through audio only: 60-80kbps (down)

Supported operating systems:

Supported tablet and mobile devices:

  • Surface PRO 2 running Win 8.1
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Blackberry devices

Supported browsers:

  • Windows: IE 11+,  Edge 12+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Mac: Safari 7+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Linux: Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+

For a detailed listing of system requirements, check Zoom’s site.