Writing a Memoir
Bestselling memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink shows you how to bring your real life stories to the page.
May 27 2021 - Jul 08 2021
Write a memoir based on your experiences
Hosted on our bespoke learning platform
+ £125 for a 500-word report
Are you thinking about writing a book based on an aspect of your life? Maybe it’s the story of a life-changing event, a difficult childhood, a fascinating job, an epic journey, a deeply felt conviction, an important friendship … There are so many rich possibilities for compelling narratives based on our true stories – and including lives and experiences that might seem very ordinary until they’re held up to the light. On this brand new six-week online course, bestselling memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink will take you on an in-depth exploration of your memories, showing you how to find your focus and construct a plan.
Week by week, using teaching videos, notes, writing tasks and resources, Cathy teaches the techniques you’ll need to sharpen your prose style and convert your lived experience into a readable and lively story – whether tragic, comic or anything in between; and offering a clear pathway through the maze of issues that might be stopping you from writing. And in addition to the videos, materials and exercises set by Cathy, all students will receive a short piece of written feedback on one writing task from an expert editor at some stage of the course.
By the end of the course, you should have written at least the first 3,000 words of your memoir and developed a clear idea of how you will continue on to the end of your draft. You’ll also have the chance to sign up for a written report on your opening material from one of our team of expert editors.
If you want to write a memoir and don’t know how to get going – or if you’re already at work on one and want to get some guidance to help you, then this course is for you. With memoirs frequently ranking high on bestseller lists, there has never been a better time to write the real-life story that you feel people will want to read. But just as valid is the idea of writing your story for yourself or your loved ones rather than for publication. And Cathy’s teaching material is rich, accessible and full of useful tips that should be equally helpful to you as a beginner writer or as someone with lots of writing experience.
This course – like all of our online courses – is designed for flexible study. You can take part at times to suit you and from wherever in the world you are.
‘Cathy Rentzenbrink has found a way to express the things that all of us wrestle with at times’
Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist
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 Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books. Cathy 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?
Weekly Teaching Modules
Clear steps from mining your memories to writing your story with confidence
Work through six weekly modules comprising teaching videos, substantial notes and tasks. Cathy Rentzenbrink sees memoir-writing as being like 'octopus wrestling': The strands of your life experience are like the wriggling tentacles ... Through the course Cathy helps you explore those unruly tentacles and then tame them onto the page.
Dedicated Teaching Videos
Bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink guides you through the course
Watch specially filmed, informative teaching videos, presented by Cathy Rentzenbrink, offering a practical and friendly approach to writing about your life - and helping you to overcome difficulties such as how to deal with writing about the real people in your life; and how to decide what to include and what to leave out of your story.
Resources & Notes
Comprehensive teaching notes and reference materials which are yours to keep
You’ll get access to plentiful notes and teaching resources - including extracts from early drafts of Cathy's bestselling book The Last Act of Love - with analysis, to illustrate by practical example how to solve some of the writing problems discussed
The hub of our online courses - find your writing community
Upload your completed tasks, give and receive feedback, and discuss the week’s topics with your fellow students and the CBC team.
Tailor-made tasks help you put the lessons into practice
Work your way through Cathy's weekly tasks, including how to create mindmaps of 'the story of your life' and use them in the planning of your memoir; how to turn important themes in your story into scenes in your book; and even how an egg-timer can help you find a great title!
Get feedback from your peers and an expert CBC editor
Sharpen your editorial eye through offering comment on other students' work and get their feedback on yours. An expert CBC editor will give brief written comments on several of the students' practical assignments each week, with all students receiving feedback on a task at some stage of the course.
You can follow the course at your own pace, but to get the best out of it, allow plenty of time each week to watch the videos, read and reflect on the notes and resources, complete the writing tasks, and take part in discussions in the forum. We encourage all students to offer positive, constructive feedback to each other in the forum as the course progresses.
It’s also important to be working on your memoir throughout the six weeks. At the end of the course, we invite students to share the opening 3,000 words plus a one-page synopsis (written with the help of the course) to give an overview of the story. This is not a submission to the agency but an opportunity to get peer feedback.
(NB: if you’re looking for one-to-one tutorials and tutor-led writing workshops as part of a writing course, do take a look at our longer, selective writing courses – these aren’t included in this course).
In addition to the feedback you’ll be given on a writing task by an expert author-editor during the course, you also have the option to purchase the following additional services.
- CBC report: For an additional fee of £125, you can obtain a detailed 500-word report on your work (of up to 3,000 words) from one of our CBC tutor/editors (a published author with relevant teaching/editorial experience).
- CBC report + tutorial: For an additional fee of £200, you can obtain a 500-word report from one of our CBC tutor/editors and have a 30-minute video or telephone tutorial with them to discuss your work.
Each week students will gain access to a new module packed with practical advice for how to plan and write your memoir. Our bespoke learning platform features separate forum spaces for all six teaching modules, arranged in a clear structure that’s easy to use. Our online learning space allows students to quickly find and take part in discussions and to easily locate task materials they’d like to refer back to.
Mining the Self
Discover ‘memoirs that matter’ and delve into your memories to make a mind-map of ‘the story of my life’ as the first stage in exploring your subject matter.
Memory and Truth
Learn about the relevance of Literal Truth and Essential Truth for the memoirist, and consider what should be included and what should be set aside.
Planning and Structure
Cathy helps you lay foundations and make strong progress through working out the shape and structure for your story, and choosing your point of view and tense.
Tools for Storytelling
Discover how the memoirist needs to deploy many of the techniques novelists use, including dramatising material as scenes and writing effective dialogue
Building a Memoir
Develop a working plan, learn what makes a great opening, and look ahead to the middle and end of the story. ‘Find the skewer’ that holds your story together.
Looking to the Future
Cathy tackles next steps – including how to finish a first draft; how to edit your complete draft and how to pitch your memoir to agents and publishers.