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Writing: Life into Literature  

Laura Fraser This class will offer students an opportunity to turn their life experiences into personal essays or memoir material. We will discuss the basic structure of these genres, look at excellent models, do some writing exercises to get you loosened up, and talk about how to make your writing compelling for a larger audience. Students will write a short essay that they will workshop with other students during the final class. This is an introductory writing course. This course will introduce students to the varieties of writing from life experience and set them on a path of improving their own writing, whether memoir or personal essay. Week One: Getting started. In this session we will discuss the differences between journal writing, personal essays, and memoirs. We’ll discuss students’ goals for writing personal material. We will get started writing with some prompts to loosen up the writing process. Week Two: Vivid Scenes. One of the best ways to begin to write memoir material is to write down the scenes we remember most vividly, which have the greatest emotional content. The goal is not to write a completed piece, but a scene. We will discuss what makes a scene vs. summary and musing. Week Three: Making Your Writing Come Alive. In this class we will discuss techniques for better writing, including writing from the senses, strong verbs, cutting clutter, and concrete, specific descriptions. We’ll look at some models of these techniques. Week Four: The Personal Essay. We will discuss the basic structure of personal essays and look at some models of successful essays. Participants will create an outline of a personal essay. Week Five: The Memoir. We’ll talk about what goes into a good memoir, and ways to approach the material, building from vivid scenes. Week Six: Workshop. In this final session, students will share up to 1200 words of their own writing with other students for a supportive critique and advice on next steps. Laura Fraser is the New York Times-bestselling author of the memoirs An Italian Affair and All Over the Map. She is a longtime San Francisco journalist and award-winning essayist who has been published widely in national magazines.


  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University
    835 Market Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
    Phone: (415) 817-4243 Website: