Writing Your Memoir – Three Months
Develop your memoir on this in-person course with expert teaching, tutorials and workshops from bestselling memoirist Christie Watson.
13 Sept 2022 - 13 Dec 2022
Live teaching sessions in-person
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 Language of Kindness Christie Watson 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. This will be an intensive and immersive course with weekly teaching sessions in London on a Tuesday evening, during which Christie will lead lively, dynamic discussions as well as workshops.
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 masterclass 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.
Christie Watson, Author
Christie Watson's first non-fiction book, The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story was a number one Sunday Times bestseller. Her second, The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion was published in 2020, and her next memoir, Quilt on Fire: The Messy Magic of Midlife will be published in July. Christie has also published two novels, including the Costa First Novel Award winning Tiny Sunbirds Far Away. A registered paediatric nurse for twenty years, Christie is now patron of the Royal College of Nursing Foundation. She spent most of her career in paediatric intensive care in large NHS hospitals. Photography by Rebecca Reid.
TEACHING IN LONDON
We love the energy of our in-person courses, and so do our students. Weekly teaching sessions will be held at comfortable, spacious venues in central London (currently at Asia House) on Tuesday evenings. One-to-one tutorials will be conducted via Zoom. Masterclasses will take place in London where possible – though it may be necessary to hold some sessions on Zoom (subject also to the needs of guest speakers). Please read to the end of this course description and schedule for full details.
We are passionate about the safety and comfort of our students and continue to closely monitor the ongoing Covid-19 situation – you can read the current version of our Covid Protocol here. The protocol is reviewed, ongoing throughout the duration of the course, and our students and staff will be kept fully informed of any amendments made in their interests.
WHAT DOES THIS COURSE GIVE YOU?
Practical and inspiring sessions on the craft of memoir writing
Each Tuesday evening Christie will welcome the group for a two hour class in London. In the first half, she will teach on a variety of topics, including finding your voice, developing a working structure, dramatising material and mastering dialogue.
Led by Christie Watson
Christie will run group workshops during the final hour of her weekly 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 Christie on your memoir
You’ll get two 30-minute one-to-one tutorials with Christie, conducted via Zoom, based on 3,000-word sections of your memoir-in-progress. These tutorials are a great opportunity to address specific concerns about your writing.
Christie 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 Christie 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.
Hear from a top UK literary agent
Students will take part in a special 60-minute masterclass with a top literary agent. They will discuss the role of literary agents, the path to publication and answer your questions about the process.
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 as well as a select group of agents from other UK-based agencies. 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 30 Jan and we will reply to all candidates by Thursday 3 Feb.
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 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 email@example.com for assistance.
CBC Senior Manager
The course will take place in London and teaching begins at 7pm and will run until 9pm on Tuesday evenings, unless otherwise stated. All times listed below are UK-time. Date for the Industry Masterclass is still to be confirmed.
ORIENTATION AND COMMITTING: PART I
Tuesday 13 Sept, 7–9pm
Introductory session. Christie Watson and a senior CBC team member will welcome the group, explain how everything works . 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. We will discuss criticism, how to give and receive, in order that all writers get the most benefit from the course. Each writer will be encouraged to think about where they are in their project and where they would like to be in three months’ time.
Tuesday 20 Sept, 7–9pm
Literary agents are looking for writers with a ‘strong voice’ but what does that mean? This week we will explore style, tone and voice, the importance of authenticity, and how to find your own territory as a writer.
Workshops x 3
The Nuts & Bolts of Storytelling
Tuesday 27 Sept, 7–9pm
This session covers key narrative decisions, including what tense to use and whose point of view to tell the story from. We’ll look at bold beginnings, and and how to hook the reader from the outset.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 4 Oct, 7–9pm
Structure is vital in non-fiction and memoir. This week we will discuss the architecture of the work, coming up with strong foundations and a working structure that will enable you to keep writing to the end.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 11 Oct, 7–9pm
Sensory description can take good writing to great. This session will cover dramatising material vs interior monologue, and how to use description to create a strong sense of place. Learn how to put the reader in the room.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 18 Oct, 7–9pm
Writers will be invited to submit burning questions and narrative issues they’re struggling with ahead of time – and Christie will tackle these in her teaching and respond to common pitfalls.
Workshops x 3
Monday 24 Oct – Sunday 30 Oct (Online Teaching)
Students are required to post synopses on our online Learning forum by 9am, Monday 31 October and feedback from one of our team of editors will follow before Monday 7 November.
No in-person session on Tues 25 Oct.
Tuesday 1 Nov, 7–9pm
How to create vibrant characters that jump off the page, plus the moral and ethical – and legal – considerations of dealing with the truth and writing about real people.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 8 Nov, 7–9pm
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.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 15 Nov, 7–9pm
Finding the right place to conclude your memoir. Christie will focus on why the ending matters, and how to make it relevant and emotionally impactful for the reader.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 22 Nov, 7–8.45pm
Christie will tackle the importance of redrafting, including how best to edit and at what stage, and when to step away from your work. We will explore practical tips for improving the manuscript, and making the writing the best it can be.
Workshops x 3
Tuesday 29 Nov, 7–8.45pm
An opportunity to raise any narrative thorns or problems that would benefit from further discussion and attention.
Conclusion & Committing: Part II
Tuesday 6 Dec, 7–8.45pm
This session will be led by a CBC host/manager with Christie, and will include final thoughts on the course, e.g. what the students have achieved, last pieces of advice etc. Writers pitch their memoirs one final time and speak individually about what their most important learning from the course is, what their biggest challenge is as they settle down to finish their books, how far through their writing process they are and when they hope to finish. Writers also have an opportunity to ask final questions – anything writing or publishing related.
END OF COURSE SUBMISSION
Monday 13 Dec
Students to submit 3,000-word opening and one-page synopsis to be read by the Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents.