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Our personal histories can provide rich material for memoir, but the wide breadth of our experiences do not naturally cohere into a story. How can we arrange the disjointed details of our experience to form coherent, compelling narratives? Together we’ll look at examples of effective memoir including Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, not necessarily examples of linear storytelling or tales of transformation. We’ll discuss other essential elements as they arise, including focus, prose style, character development, and narrative structure. Students will work on beginning or existing memoirs through writing exercises; in-class critiques will help refine the work in progress.
Elissa Washuta, a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, is the author of My Body Is a Book of Rules, a memoir forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Her work has appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Third Coast. She recently received grants from Potlatch Fund, 4Culture, and Artist Trust, and she has been a Made at Hugo House Fellow. She serves as adviser and lecturer for the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington.