Write Your Family Memoir – In Six Months
Many people struggle to start writing a memoir. Others get started, but become overwhelmed by the seeming complexity of it all – and grind to a halt.
Some tell us when that happens they can’t bear to look at their manuscript.
Whatever your own experience, it can be difficult to make progress with no one to support and encourage you.
We’re Alice Jolly and John-Paul Flintoff.
Recently we ran a residential writing workshop together. We were teaching people how to write a memoir based on their family story.
It was a talented group, and the progress we saw over one week was astonishing.
But we have been here before.
We taught the same course a year ago. Some months later, when we got back in touch with the people on that first course, we learned that many had become blocked.
Despite making progress on the course, they’d done very little since.
So last week we sent out an email asking people who have been on our courses to help design an ongoing program to see you through to completion.
We were overwhelmed by the response, and that is why we’re writing this today.
Together, we have created a structure to provide the kind of advice and tips all writers need – and a system for mutual support.
We have created the program to last six months in order to cover the topics that we share at our residential courses:
1. “Design” your book in advance, so you know where you’re going
2. Compelling narrative
3. Character building
4. Creating scenes, with dialogue
5. Tone of voice
6. How to create a world by showing, not telling
7. Finding the right structure
Writing and sharing a memoir can be extraordinarily satisfying.
For John-Paul, it triggered a transformation in his writing career, with opportunities opening up that simply wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
You may be looking for something similar.
But for many people it’s enough to write family stories and share them privately.
There’s value in both approaches.
We have worked with many people who would not describe themselves as writers.
That said, many have written extensively in other fields – law, academia, or in the media.
We have also worked with people from the worlds of performance, or therapy/counselling.
The thing that really motivates us both is this: we love writing. And we love to share that with others.
Alice is a novelist, and her memoir Dead Babies, Seaside Towns, was published to huge acclaim – and won the major PEN Ackerley prize.
She has also written and put on plays.
For most of John-Paul’s career, writing was all he did – for some of the best English-language publications in the world.
He’s also published five books, including two memoirs and a novel, and trained and worked extensively in improvisational theatre.
So we have both been published conventionally.
But we’ve also had the rare experience of crowdfunding our books before publication, with the groundbreaking publisher Unbound, and the distribution network of Penguin Random House.
We had to find our audience, and sell our book to each reader before it was even finished.
With this experience, we have much to teach if you’re looking for sideways routes to publication.
We can help you to identify YOUR audience, and put your work before it.
Not all published authors enjoy teaching. But we love it.
And we’re quite good at it.
Here’s what one of our students wrote:
Over the last seven years John-Paul has taught thousands of people at the School of Life, in London, at the Idler Academy, through Guardian Masterclasses, and at the Arvon foundation…
Alice teaches on the Oxford University Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, and has taught extensively through the Open University.
Since we started working together, we have received so much positive feedback and had so many questions that we decided to create this ongoing program of our own.
And in the next six months we are going to go deep into the topics listed above.
We are going to hold group calls, online, for 60 minutes each month.
Every session will be recorded so that it can be shared with you even if you are unable to attend live.
We will provide exclusive content in response to requests from the group, and set you writing exercises.
We’ll provide access to a new private Facebook group exclusive to course members so you can share your questions and your moral support, and we’ll join in the discussion there.
We will provide you with your own page on this website, to upload your work and share comments on it.
We’ll put you in groups of three for mutual accountability on writing exercises. (We’ll mix up the groups every two months.)
Additionally, we will offer 50 minute individual tutorials – alternately with JP / Alice.
Each tutorial will be recorded and uploaded to your private page on the website, so you can listen again.
It’s up to you to choose whether to use the tutorial for free ranging conversation on topics like structure, or to send us your writing in advance and discuss that.
(We request that each piece of writing should be no more than 3,000 words.)
To mark the end of the course, we will meet – to share what we’ve done face-to-face.
This is most likely to take place in London or Oxford.
We’re working hard to create as much value as we possibly can for you, while keeping the price down.
We have looked around the market for writing courses and can see nothing quite like this.
We are taking account of the the Faber Academy’s six-month novel-writing course, and memoir programme (three months).
We have looked at the price of individual mentoring offered by published authors through Guardian Masterclasses.
And we have considered the price of the residential week at Arvon where we worked together – taking account of the numbers of hours of group / individual tutoring there.
We will be releasing this program very soon, so that we can get started before the Busy-ness of December gets in the way.
There are going to be a limited number of places because we want to provide the best help we possibly can.
If you are not absolutely sure you’re on our email list, and you want to hear more, you need to sign up here:
We’ll send you a message in the next few days, when we open the programme up for registration.
Please watch your inbox for details (and keep an eye on your junk / trash folder)!
JP and Alice