Jane Friedman

A New Memoir Class Starting April 17: Perfect for Beginners

Memoir, as William Dean Howells said, is the “most democratic province of the republic of letters.” Indeed, the genre is evidence that every person in the world has a worthy story to tell, that it’s not what the story is but how it’s told that engages a reader.

Professor Nell Boeschenstein has designed a new, five-week online course that introduces writers to this generous genre and to start them down the path of putting their own stories to paper. You’ll explore everything from how to select a subject and structure to the pivotal role of narrative voice, the impact of pacing, and the benefits of research.

The course will also discuss ethical questions: What does it mean to write about one’s family? How does one approach inevitable lapses in memory? Whose truth is being told? Why write memoir to begin with? Along the way, you’ll read excerpts from full-length memoirs and be given a list of further reading recommendations, as well as writing exercises and assignments designed to inspire your own projects.

By the end of the five weeks, you will have a solid grasp of memoir’s basics and be well on your way to having a story that has long been in your heads emerging onto the page. Learn more.

About the Instructor

Nell Boeschenstein has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University and a BA in English from Dartmouth College. She currently teaches essay, memoir, personal essay, and feature writing at Sweet Briar College.

Prior to Sweet Briar, she taught writing for two years at Columbia, and before she began teaching, Nell worked as a producer for the public radio programs Fresh Air with Terry Gross and BackStory with the American History Guys, and as a writer and editor for weeklies and magazines.

Her work has appeared The Guardian, Ecotone, Newsweek, The Believer, The Rumpus, The Millions, Guernica, and The Morning News, where she is a contributing writer, among other places, and her essays have been featured by Longreads and Longform.

Her writing has been anthologized in Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living and The Rumpus Women, Vol. 1 and her radio work has been featured on 99% Invisible. She has received residency fellowships from the Ucross Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Albee Foundation, as well as numerous college grants. She is at work on a collection of essays—personal, reported, and lyric—themed to the idea of “lost colonies.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the course and register.

Have questions? Leave a comment or email Jane.