Writing Your Memoir – Three Months
Develop your memoir on this online course with expert teaching, tutorials and workshops from bestselling memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink.
Sept 20 2021 - Jan 3 2021
Taught via live webinars and work-sharing on our Learn platform
We'll offer places to 15 writers whose work shows promise
Course Fee £1,800
*£50 discount for former students of our online Writing a Memoir course
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 online environment, this is the course for you. Over three months, bestselling author of The Last Act of Love, Cathy Rentzenbrink will teach on key elements of memoir writing, including how to map out your story, create vibrant characters that are true to life and leap off the page, and dramatise scenes to place the reader at the heart of the action. The course will be hosted via weekly Zoom meetings/webinars for the student group and tutor, plus further work-sharing and discussion on our online Learn platform.
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 already working on a memoir and could be invaluable for those who are looking to revitalise a project or find a new way into a story they’ve been struggling to get down on paper. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by the success of Adam Kay’s bestselling This is Going to Hurt and want to write about the interesting experiences you’ve had in a particular job. Or maybe you’re exploring your cultural and personal experiences growing up and see your memoir sitting alongside Tara Westover’s Educated, Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox and Sathnam Sanghera’s The Boy with the Topknot. You might be writing to preserve your memories for family and friends or simply for your own personal fulfilment. Whatever your motivation, this course will help you make sense of your world and put yourself onto the page.
During the course, you’ll take part in a Zoom webinar with a top literary agent from Curtis Brown or C&W, during which you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about what an agent does and how to find representation as well as exploring the publishing landscape for memoir and learning what’s working well in the marketplace. You will also receive in-depth written feedback on your agent letter and elevator pitch. At the end of the course, students will be invited to share the opening of their memoirs informally with the agent teams at Curtis Brown and C&W.
‘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 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?
Practical and inspiring sessions on the craft of memoir writing
Each Monday evening Cathy will welcome the group for a 1 hour, 45-minute Zoom class. In the first 45 minutes, she will teach on a variety of topics, including finding your voice, developing a working structure, dramatising material and mastering dialogue.
Led by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Cathy will run group workshops during the final hour of her weekly Zoom sessions. Across the course, you'll get two dedicated workshops with your tutor and the group centring on material from your memoir-in-progress (up to 3,000 words each time). After these sessions, students will be invited to continue the discussion with written posts on our Learn forum.
Work closely with Cathy on your memoir
You’ll get two 30-minute one-to-one tutorials with Cathy, conducted via Zoom or phone, based on 3,000-word sections of your memoir-in-progress. These tutorials are a great opportunity to address specific concerns about your writing.
Cathy will respond directly to the writing challenges you’re facing
At two points during the course students will be invited to submit burning questions and narrative issues they’re struggling with ahead of time – and Cathy will tackle these in her teaching and respond to common pitfalls.
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 on the weekly workshops and homework tasks, and discuss teaching topics with your fellow students and tutor.
Expert critique of the dreaded synopsis
We'll draw on our agenting expertise to give you the vital ingredients of a great synopsis - then you'll write one, and get individual written feedback from an experienced member of the CBC editor team.
Agent feedback on your letter & elevator pitch
We'll give you the vital dos and don'ts of agent pitch letters and elevator pitches - you'll then write your own and get in-depth written feedback on both the letter and the short pitch from a Curtis Brown/C&W literary agent.
Webinar with a Literary Agent
Join a live video chat with a top UK literary agent
Students will take part in a special 60-minute Zoom webinar with a top Curtis Brown/C&W literary agent. They will discuss what literary agents do and answer your questions about publishing.
End of Course Submission
Share your opening with the Curtis Brown and C&W agents
At the end of the course all students will be invited to submit the 3,000-word opening of their memoir, plus a synopsis, to be shared with the agent teams at CB and C&W. This is not a formal submission to the agency but a chance to give the agents a taste of your work at this stage.
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 that tells us a bit about where your memoir is heading. It doesn’t need to be polished.
Places will be offered to the strongest applicants with promising work, as selected by the CBC team. The final deadline for applications is midnight Sunday 1 August and we will reply to all candidates by Thursday 5 August.
The course fee of £1,800 per student is payable by bank transfer or cheque. Former students of our six-week Writing a Memoir online course with Cathy Rentzenbrink will be eligible for a discounted fee of £1,750. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Tutors and Agents
Author and CBC Managing Director
CBC Senior Manager
The course will take place online and teaching will be split between our online learning platform and live Zoom discussions. Teaching begins at 7pm and will run until 8.45pm on Monday evenings. 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).
ORIENTATION AND COMMITTING: PART I
Monday 20 Sept, 7-8.45pm
Introductory session with Cathy Rentzenbrink and CBC’s Director Anna Davis. Cathy and Anna will welcome the group, explain how everything works and how to get the most out of the course. There will be an opportunity to get to know each other and discuss commitment and motivation, regular writing practice and how to get the work done. Each student will be encouraged to think about where they are in their project and where they would like to be in three months’ time.
Monday 27 Sept, 7-8.45pm
Teaching from Cathy on finding your voice, including the difference between voice and tone, how to convey emotion in your writing, and the importance of being authentic rather than trying to sound like someone else.
THE NUTS & BOLTS OF STORYTELLING
Monday 4 Oct, 7-8.45pm
Cathy will steer the students towards making key narrative decisions, including what tense to use and whose point of view to tell the story from. Opening lines will also be discussed, and how to hook the reader from the outset.
Monday 11 Oct, 7-8.45pm
How to plot and plan your memoir, including coming up with strong foundations and a working structure that will enable you to keep writing to the end.
Monday 18 Oct, 7-8.45pm
Learn how to put the reader in the room. This session will cover dramatising material vs interior monologue, and how to use description to create a strong sense of place.
Monday 25 Oct, 7-8.45pm
Students will be invited to submit burning questions and narrative issues they’re struggling with ahead of time – and Cathy will tackle these in her teaching and respond to common pitfalls.
Monday 1 Nov – Sunday 7 Nov
Students are required to post synopses on the forum by 9am, Mon 8 Nov and feedback from one of our team of editors will follow before Mon 15 Nov.
Monday 8 Nov, 7-8.45pm
How to create vibrant characters that jump off the page, plus the moral and ethical considerations of dealing with the truth and writing about real people.
DIALOGUE AND SCENES
Monday 15 Nov, 7-8.45pm
Discover how to write effective dialogue, create authentic voices, and structure scenes around key conversations to show how people react to events in the story.
Monday 22 Nov, 7-8.45pm
Cathy will help you to find the right place to conclude your memoir. Teaching will focus on why the ending matters, and how to make it relevant and emotionally impactful for the reader.
Monday 29 Nov, 7-8.45pm
Cathy will tackle the importance of redrafting, including how best to edit and at what stage, and when to step away from your manuscript.
Monday 6 Dec, 7-8.45pm
Cathy will respond to issues submitted by the group. This is an opportunity to raise any narrative thorns or problems that would benefit from further discussion and attention.
COURSE CONCLUSION & COMMITTING: PART II
Monday 13 Dec, 7-8.45pm
A chance for the group and tutor to share the discoveries made on the course and to ask final questions. Cathy will tackle next steps, the importance of resilience and perseverance, and how to create a robust plan to carry on after the course.
END OF COURSE SUBMISSION
Monday 3 Jan
Students to submit their 3,000-word opening and one-page synopsis to be read by the Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents.