Autobiography & Life Writing Programme

Enrolment for this course will open in spring 2019. Join the mailing list for updates.

Programme length
Two years

Dates
October 2019 – June 2020

Venue
The Writers’ Place, 9 Jew Street, Brighton BN1 1UT
Sussex Coast College, Station Approach, Hastings TN34 1BA

Entry requirements
No formal qualifications required.

Programme tutors
Dr Mark Slater (programme director), Hannah Vincent, Holly Dawson, Dr John Donoghue

Fee
£995 per annum

Course Overview

The aim of the programme is to help you understand how to write compelling narrative that draws your reader into the world you have created, to have a good working understanding of the different forms of life writing and to be familiar and comfortable with the ethical and personal considerations at the heart of all good biographical and autobiographical writing.

On the programme you will work with a small group of other writers, meeting on a weekly basis, with one-to-one tutorials and occasional Weekend Schools, all supported through interactive course pages on our Creative Writing Programme website. You will be given the support and structure you need to push your skills to another level and to complete a planned writing project. Your course tutors will teach you the writing techniques you need, offer you focused written feedback and help you set realistic deadlines. When you have finished the programme and are producing work to publish or perform, you will have the opportunity to join one of our Advanced Writing groups and work alongside other committed and published writers.In your first year you will reflect on the sources and themes of your own writing; develop a greater understanding of your own creativity and the creative process; learn how to create dynamic characters; discover ways of enhancing the dramatic impact of your writing and explore the different ways in which life stories can be told. In the second year the focus will shift from shorter scenes to longer narratives: you will delve into the meaning of memory and imagination; explore complex matters of form and authenticity; develop your understanding of life writing structure, and gain further insights into language, technique and style.

Throughout the course you will continue to explore aspects of character and setting, learning to negotiate memory and constructs of time in relation to life writing. You will be shown ways to enhance your own creativity, hone your critical and editing skills and develop your eye for good life writing. In the writing workshops, you will share, discuss and evaluate your work with the other writers in your writing group.

By the end of the programme you will have significantly increased your understanding of how to write well, have developed a substantial body of work and have either finished your life writing project or be in a position to bring it to completion.

The programme is delivered through weekly seminars in which you will develop your writing technique through practical exercises, readings, discussion of published work and group discussions led by your tutor on different aspects of the writing process. All our courses are supported by interactive learning sites where you can access seminar notes and exercises as well as a Writer’s Forum in which you can contact other writers in your group, share work and information about events and contact your tutor.

Over the course of the two-year programme you will work closely with two of our tutors. On each course you will be offered one-to-one tutorials and a Weekend School and at the end of the programme you will be given the opportunity to discuss your work with a publishing professional.

What this programme will do for you

This programme will develop your confidence and ability as a writer. Through discussion and experimentation, in practical work guided by your tutor, you will learn how to improve the quality of your writing; develop your creative and critical skills; organise and manage your work and develop a strong individual style.

This is an ideal programme for writers who want to write a memoir, autobiography or collection of short stories based on true events or who want to create an experimental piece of imaginative life writing and are looking for structure, encouragement and feedback to help them achieve this.

All you need to bring to the programme is your imagination, a love of reading, a passion to write and the determination to succeed.

What is required of me?

You will need to make a two-year commitment both to your own individual development and to the group you are working with. You will be working closely with other writers and reading and commenting on other people’s work is essential to your own self-development. You will also be required to read short pieces of published work in preparation for in-class discussion around different aspects of the writing process. The sharing of life stories is integral to the teaching on the programme and you will be encouraged to write from personal and researched experience, but the sharing of work is not seen as an end in itself. The emphasis will always be on improving the quality of your writing and of understanding the complex process of narrative construction and this will become significantly more important in the second year of the programme.

Over these two years you will need to organise a minimum of twelve hours per week for reading and the development of writing activities and exercises: this includes seminar time, writing time and reading time. You will also need to have access to a computer with email and an internet connection as the programme uses an internet learning site to allow students to keep in touch outside of the taught sessions. Reading, writing and researching exercises will be regularly set outside of seminar time.

How are seminars structured?

Each weekly writing seminar runs for two and a half hours. Seminars will include a mix of practical writing exercises, discussion of work written in the seminar and discussion of published texts, group work, tutor led feedback and taught sessions.

Programme Structure

1. Approaches to Life Writing
Through workshops, practical exercises, group discussion and feedback, you will: explore the fundamental principles of life writing as storytelling and discover ways of enhancing the dramatic, sensual and visual impact of your writing; investigate your own memory and creativity and experiment with a variety of ways in which to recall and realise the dramatic potential of your material – including writing from personal artefacts, journaling, engaging with voices from the past etc. You will learn to understand the importance of the audience/reader and appreciate the application of techniques from fiction, poetry and drama to the craft of life writing. There are reading, researching and writing exercises each week, both at home and in class. At the end of the term, you will submit a portfolio of short pieces of writing for creative and critical comment from your tutor in a tutorial session in February 2019.

2. Memory and Imagination
You will experiment with different ways of using memory, probing the boundaries of memory and imagination and discovering how research can underpin both; you will experiment with narrative modes, tenses and viewpoints and develop a sense of the importance of theme in life writing whilst considering how to balance historical and emotional truth with the demands of story. You will compare techniques and structures used in prose fiction and creative non-fiction. You will address ethical issues raised by life writing and think about such issues in relation to the 2nd year project. At the end of the course, you will take part in a short series of writing workshops in which you will read and discuss your own work in progress and the work of the other writers in your group. At the end of term, you will submit work for constructive appraisal from your tutor and will have a one to one tutorial with them to discuss your progress and plan your writing project for the second year.

3. Authenticity and Form
In this course you will explore a number of different approaches to narrative structure for life writing and consider what might govern choice of form. You will examine classic narrative structure, beginnings, middles and endings, transitional scenes and turning points but you will also look at the particular demands of shaping ‘true’ stories – taking into account matters of authenticity, integrity and the life writer’s intent. The role of prefaces and other framing devices will be discussed. Writers will be led carefully through the process of deciding on form – each writer will consider their and/or their subject’s vulnerability, their readers’ expectations and the fulfilment of the story’s potential. You will also continue to make progress on your life writing project and will give and receive criticism of your own and other’s work in progress. At the end of this term, you will submit work to your tutor for a written critical appraisal and will have a tutorial with them in February 2020.

4. Life Writing Workshops
This part of the course is designed to offer you further insights into writing technique especially in the drafting and re-drafting of texts. It will focus on the structural editing of key scenes as well as developing your editing skills and appreciation of sentence and paragraph construction. In the second part of the course, the writing workshops, you will focus your attention on critical appraisal of the writing process, both on the level of prose and the level of story. In this final part of the programme there will be a series of writing workshops in which longer pieces of work, written by you and other writers in your group, will be read and discussed. At the end of the course you will prepare an extract of your work to discuss with a visiting literary agent and submit a final piece of work to your tutor for written critical feedback.

Enrolment for this course will open in spring 2019. Join the mailing list for updates.

Location: The Writers’ Place, 9 Jew Street, Brighton BN1 1UT

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Information

Date/Time:
1 October 2019 - 1 June 2021

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