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Intensive Five-Day Memoir Writing Course

Learn about the craft of memoir writing on this short, intensive course with bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink.

COURSE DATES

Oct 19 2020 - Oct 23 2020

Online

Taught via live webinars and workshopping on our Learn platform

Selective Entry

We'll offer places to 15 writers whose work shows promise

Course Fee £450

*£50 discount for former students of our online Writing a Memoir course

Overview

We’re thrilled to launch our first-ever intensive five-day memoir course with bestselling author of The Last Act of Love, Cathy Rentzenbrink. The online course will take place from Monday 19 October to Friday 23 October, and will be hosted through a combination of live Zoom meetings/webinars for the student group and tutor, plus writing and workshopping time on our online Learn platform, and ending with a Zoom Q&A with two of our agents. If you’re looking to turn your life experiences into a compelling narrative and would like to hone your writing skills in an inspiring and supportive environment, this is the course for you.

Over the five days, Cathy will lead teaching sessions on aspects of memoir writing, such as how to organise and structure your memories, dramatise scenes, write dialogue and bring characters to vivid life on the page. Cathy will set exercises to help you practise and refine your craft and run writing workshops – with each of the 15 students receiving dedicated feedback on 3,000 words from their memoir-in-progress during the course. You will also get a one-to-one tutorial with Cathy, a chance for in-depth discussion about how you plan to develop and structure your story, and to talk about any difficulties you’re having with your writing. On the final afternoon of the course, literary agents Lucy Morris (Curtis Brown) and Emma Finn (C&W) will join the group on Zoom to talk about the agent’s role and offer insights into the publishing market for memoir. There will be an opportunity to talk to them about your own memoir in a friendly group setting, and to ask them questions.

It will be an intensive and immersive course with a lively group vibe and dynamic discussions over Zoom. For those not familiar with Zoom, it’s a video conferencing technology that enables you to meet up virtually with others. By using video and audio, you’ll be able to connect with your class and experience Cathy’s teaching live as if you were all in the same room. You’ll be able to ask questions and give your thoughts, ensuring the natural back-and-forth you’d encounter in the classroom. It’s easy to use – we’ll send you a link to join the sessions by email – and the CBC team will be on hand to help if you have any problems. The course will also provide an opportunity for in-depth interaction and sharing of work across the week on our bespoke learning platform, which we have designed exclusively for our students.

The course is the ideal next step for those who have taken CBC’s six-week online Writing a Memoir course – though you don’t need to have taken that course to join this one. It’s particularly suitable for people who are at an early stage in their project and are exploring how best to develop their work with the support of an expert tutor and enthusiastic group. You could also use this course to kickstart a project that’s become stale and to find a new way in to a story you’ve been struggling to get down on paper. Whether you’d love your memoir to join the ranks of bestsellers such as Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt, Tara Westover’s Educated or Sathnam Sanghera’s The Boy with the Topknot or are writing to preserve your memories for family and friends or simply for your own personal fulfilment, this course is designed to help you make sense of your world and put yourself onto the page.

‘Not only is Cathy incredibly honest and open in how she describes her own writing life from the practical/technical side, she’s also been frank about the emotional and psychological elements … A wonderful generous experience!’ Imogen Morizet, Writing a Memoir student 2019

Cathy Rentzenbrink, Author

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love which was a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize. She followed it with A Manual for Heartache and her next book Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books will be published in 2020Cathy regularly chairs literary events, interviews authors, reviews books and runs creative writing workshops. In previous lives, Cathy worked for Waterstones for ten years, ran the literacy charity Quick Reads, and was Books Editor at The Bookseller.

WHAT DOES THIS COURSE GIVE YOU?

Teaching Sessions

Practical and inspiring sessions on the craft of memoir writing

Cathy will teach on a variety of topics, such as how to mine your experiences and memories for story, how to find a structure to your memoir, and how to turn the real people, places and experiences from your life into characters, settings and scenes on the page.

Curtis Brown Creative learning platform forum

Student Forum

The hub of our online courses - find your writing community

We have developed a bespoke learning platform exclusively for our students. Here you can give and receive feedback, and discuss teaching topics with your fellow students and tutor.

Writing Workshops

Led by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Cathy will lead group workshops during Zoom feedback sessions. Each student will be asked to share a 3,000-word extract for critique. These sessions are designed to help you to develop your self-editing skills as well as giving you useful editorial feedback on your work.

One-to-One Tutorial

Work closely with Cathy on your memoir

You’ll get a 30-minute one-to-one tutorial with Cathy via Zoom either before or after class. This will give you the chance to talk about your story and structure, as well as to address any problems you're having in the writing of your memoir.

Lucy Morris, literary agent

Meet the Agents Webinar

Get expert feedback from Lucy Morris (CB) and Emma Finn (C&W)

Lucy and Emma will talk about the role of an agent and what they look for in a memoir. They will give you hints and tips on pitching and the chance to talk about your own work during the session. CBC's Jennifer Kerslake, formerly an editor at the Orion Publishing Group, will host.

Course Round-Up and Q&A

Take the next step in your writing journey

Cathy will provide helpful pointers and encouragement for the path ahead, to enable you to end the course on a sure footing, energised and ready to continue writing your memoir with confidence.

Application Process

Our application form asks some questions about you and your writing – and it also asks you to send us the first 3,000 words of the memoir you’re working on and a one-page synopsis. Don’t worry about the synopsis – we’re just looking for a page which tells us a bit about where your story is heading. It doesn’t need to be polished.

For this course we will be responding to entries throughout the application period. We will be working to select 15 writers whose work we consider has the potential to really benefit from this course – but, mindful of the fact that people might need to book annual leave – we will not be waiting until the closing date to read applications and offer places. We therefore advise people who are keen to join this course to apply early.

The final deadline for applications is midnight on Sunday 6 September, and we will reply to all candidates who haven’t already heard back from us by Thursday 10 September.

The course fee of £450 per student is payable by bank transfer or cheque. Former students of our Writing a Memoir online course with Cathy Rentzenbrink will be eligible for a discounted fee of £400. Funds must reach our bank account before the course begins.

Please upload your application via the form at the end of this page. If you encounter any problems during the application process, or have any questions about the course, please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk for assistance.

Tutors and Agents

We’re so thrilled to have the wonderful Cathy Rentzenbrink coming to teach this course. And we’re delighted that Lucy Morris (CB) and Emma Finn (C&W) will be running a session on how to talk about and pitch your memoir. They will deliver verbal feedback to the group and answer any questions you may have on finding an agent and publisher for your memoir.


Course Schedule

The course will take place online and teaching will be split between our online learning platform and live Zoom discussions. Teaching begins at 10am and will run until 5/5.30pm on each of the five days, with tutorials happening in between teaching sessions or at the start and end of the days. All times listed below are UK-time. This is a course that happens live, with specific timings (in the same way that it would happen in our offices).

Day 1

Monday 19 October

10am11am – Zoom classroom session: Course welcome, with Cathy, Anna Davis and Jennifer Kerslake. Introduction to course + students will introduce themselves and their memoirs one by one. Cathy then introduces an icebreaker writing exercise for the students to complete on the Learn platform.

11am – Students work on their icebreaker writing exercise and post it up on the Learn platform. They will also post up their introductions to themselves and their memoirs so everyone can refer back across the week. Students are encouraged to comment on each other’s work and chat online on the platform.

12.30pm–1pm Cathy and the group reconvene on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise.

2pm3pm – Cathy and students reconvene on Zoom for workshops. Cathy leads the discussion and gives her thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

3pm – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform. Students are invited to post comments and any notes they have made on the pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students – 30 minutes each, by Zoom: these will be set at agreed times across the day or before/after the day’s teaching.

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Day 2

Tuesday 20 October

10am–11am – Cathy and students join Zoom for workshops. Cathy leads the discussion and gives her thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

11am – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform. Students are invited to post comments and any notes they have made on the pieces of work.

2pm–2.45pm – Zoom classroom session: Cathy introduces topic of the day with some teaching on Zoom – then sets a writing exercise.

3pm – Writing exercise uploaded to Learn platform (along with any notes/resources on the teaching topic). Students post their exercise when complete and engage in discussion on each other’s work.

4.30pm–5pm Cathy and the group meet on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise and any thoughts/issues arising from it.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students – 30 minutes each, by zoom: these will be set at agreed times across the day or before/after the day’s teaching.

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Day 3

Wednesday 21 October

10am–11am – Cathy and students join Zoom for workshops. Cathy leads the discussion and gives her thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

11am – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform. Students are invited to post comments and any notes they have made on the pieces of work.

2pm–2.45pm – Zoom classroom session: Cathy introduces topic of the day with some teaching on Zoom – then sets a writing exercise.

3pm – Writing exercise uploaded to Learn platform (along with any notes/resources on the teaching topic). Students post their exercise when complete and engage in discussion on each other’s work.

4.30pm–5pm Cathy and the group meet on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise and any thoughts/issues arising from it.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students – 30 minutes each, by zoom: these will be set at agreed times across the day or before/after the day’s teaching.

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Day 4

Thursday 22 October

10am–11am – Cathy and students join Zoom for workshops. Cathy leads the discussion and gives her thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

11am – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform. Students are invited to post comments and any notes they have made on the pieces of work.

2pm–2.45pm – Zoom classroom session: Cathy introduces topic of the day with some teaching on Zoom – then sets a writing exercise.

3pm – Writing exercise uploaded to Learn platform (along with any notes/resources on the teaching topic). Students post their exercise when complete and engage in discussion on each other’s work.

4.30pm–5pm Cathy and the group meet on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise and any thoughts/issues arising from it.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students – 30 minutes each, by zoom: these will be set at agreed times across the day or before/after the day’s teaching.

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Day 5

Friday 23 October

10am – CBC team opens up forum thread on Learn platform to ask students to post short paragraphs about their work for the agents to see. The agents will comment on these during the day.

10am–11am – Cathy and students join Zoom for workshops. Cathy leads the discussion and gives her thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

11am  – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform. Students are invited to post comments and any notes they made on the three pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students – 30 minutes each, by zoom: to take place during the morning

2.45pm–3.45pm –Meet the Agents: Lucy Morris (CB) and Emma Finn (C&W) will talk to the group about what they look for in a memoir and answer questions on the agent’s role and the publishing landscape. They will give each student the chance to talk about their work and give verbal feedback in a supportive environment. Hosted by Jennifer Kerslake.

4pm–4.45pm – Cathy runs conclusions session on Zoom – round-up of the course and Q&As

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Ready to apply?

Please apply with the first 3,000 words of the memoir you’d like to work on during the course, and a synopsis of no more than a page (both need to be in the same document, as you can only upload ONE file in the application below). The CBC team will screen applicants based on the quality of the writing sample provided. The deadline for applications is midnight, end of day Sunday 6 September August, and we will respond to applicants by Thursday 10 September.

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