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Cullman Center Institute for Teachers: Memoir: Turning Your Life into a Story


This seminar is during spring break


How exactly do you take those raw, unwieldy—often embarrassing—personal experiences (also known as your life) and fashion a compelling narrative? By studying the various strategies that established writers such as Tobias Wolff and A. M. Homes have employed in writing memoir, we will explore the genre in relation to traditional storytelling—character, plot, arc, and resolution. And we’ll ask the essential question: does everyone have a story worth writing about? In the afternoon, participants will take part in a memoir-writing exercise.

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh won a Whiting award for his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free. His short stories and personal essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney's, and The New York Times Magazine. His first book of short stories will be published this spring. At the Cullman Center, he is working on a book of stories based on the New York City draft riots of 1863.