All writers stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. All writers benefit when exposed to classic and groundbreaking texts ... and to careful, unexpected analysis. In this six-part, nearly one-hour course, Beth Kephart, an award-winning memoirist, teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, celebrates the form. She explores the work of Virginia Woolf, E.B. White, Annie Dillard, James Baldwin, Mary-Louise Parker, Alison Bechdel, Helen Macdonald, Maggie Nelson, and others as she defines what great memoir does and how it gets written. Each video is organized around a theme. Silence and writer's block. The art of the intimate letter. Lessons from the kitchen. Writing of loss. Writing the natural world. Memory and mortality. Each theme yields a series of writer prompts. The entire package is accompanied by a PDF writer's journal that recaps key lessons and prompts.The series is perfect for writers, of course. But it is also just right for avid memoir readers who are seeking to better understand the books they read, as well as instructors at the high school, college, and workshop level.
Thoughts on living with and moving past writer’s block. How does a memoirist begin? How does a memoirist move past the inevitable barriers that stand between her and her material.
An essay and prompts featuring Tillie Olsen, Virginia Woolf, Alison Bechdel, and Sallie Tisdale
Thoughts on writing memoir to a single reader. What do we learn from memoirs that have been written to a single person or thing? How does such single-focus writing enhance both the cogency and power of our work?
An essay and prompts featuring Maggie Nelson, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehesi Coates, and Mary-Louise Parker
Thoughts on what we learn about families through kitchen stories. What does the architecture of a kitchen tell us? What do meals tell us about the people we are and love? How do recipes carry family genes and dreams?
An essay and prompts featuring MFK Fisher, Lavinia Greenlaw, Mary Gordon, Diana Abu-Jaber, and Chang-Rae Lee.
Thoughts on writing with grace of illness and loss. How do we write of the illnesses and the losses that have threatened to overcome us? How do we carry grace to the page?
An essay and prompts featuring Sarah Manguso, Paul Kalanithi, Jenny Diski, Lucy Grealy, and Abigail Thomas
Thoughts on the writing self in the natural world. Geoff Dyer suggests that there are three ills that nature writers must avoid. Listen in to find out what they are and what the great nature writers have done to avoid them.
An essay and prompts featuring Geoff Dyer, Annie Dillard, Helen Macdonald, Angela Palm, Sy Montgomery, and Terry Tempest Williams
Thoughts on memory, time, and mortality. E.B. White, in his essay "Once More to the Lake" imagines himself wholly young again. Terrence des Pres remembers youth. How can their different approaches to managing time on the page inspire the remembering and writing that you do?
An essay and prompts featuring E.B. White and Terrence des Pres
Beth Kephart is the award-winning writer of 21 books, including six memoirs, and the author of Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, which won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational) and was named a best writing book by O Magazine and Poets and Writers. The winner of the Beltran Family Teaching Award at the University of Pennsylvania, Beth is a partner in Juncture Workshops, which offers five-day workshops on extraordinary landscapes as well as a monthly memoir newsletter. Beth writes a monthly column on memory and place for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reviews regularly for the Chicago Tribune, and has written for the New York Times, Salon.com, The Millions, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, and others.