Memoir and Life Writing (Level II)
  • 7-9:30 PM BST/GMT every other Sunday
  • Sept 4/18, Oct 2/16/30, Nov 13/27, Dec 11
  • Eight sessions with a 15-min tea break midway in each class
  • Detailed and personal feedback on all writing
  • Limited to 14 people
  • Tuition: £650

“Kathryn’s workshops are absolute troves of clear, thoughtfully presented material. She seamlessly blends engaging and foundational readings, compelling lecture, and meaningful workshopping. What I was most blown away by, though, was her fierce dedication to each participant’s journey – meeting each one of us where we were and guiding us further along in our writing path. From handwritten feedback to answering questions after hours, Kathryn really went above and beyond to ensure our growth and success.”

Kimberley, Atlanta, Georgia


In this next level Memoir and Life Writing course, you have the opportunity to expand your individual works-in-progress while focusing on voice, structure, and narrative arc. You have already gained a foundation in narrative nonfiction through other courses with Kathryn Aalto. These include Memoir and Life Writing, The Art of the Personal Essay, The Art of Narrative Nonfiction, and Nature Writing.  This Level II memoir course builds on that foundation. It also provides the same accountability, feedback, and fellowship you have come to expect in Kathryn’s writing courses. You will be able to expand your projects through reading, writing, and workshopping while gaining a new and caring community of writing friends. They will help you grow. You will help them grow, too.

At this stage as a writer, you have developed your narrative nonfiction skills to include sense of place, character development, narrative presence, language, and dialogue/monologue. This course will continue helping you develop in all these ways, but voice, narrative arc, and transcendence are important in memoir.  Your voice is important. You are telling your story — no one else is. Sometimes our voices don’t emerge on the page the way we want them but voice does develop over successive drafts.  There are many ways to draw it out. We will practice these. The aim is to help you relax into your own voice through exercises, workshops, and analysis of other voices.

We will also focus on finding the most compelling structure for your memoir, and creating a satisfying narrative arc. You will play with different structures to discover the best way to tell your story. And through reordering and editing events, you will also find the most compelling narrative arc.

With this all in mind, our reading includes books and essays with very different voices, structure, and narrative arcs. See below for full list. The aim will be read, study, and discuss the voice, structure, and narrative arcs in each of these with the critical eye of a writer.

This class provides the knowledge, structure, support, and feedback you need to continue leaning into your memoir. Kathryn teaches through lectures, discussions, and workshops. Bi-weekly classes provides the pace and space to process, reflect, experiment, and grow.  Lectures are focused on particular topics or skills in writing memoir. Discussions are based on assigned readings of books and essays. Workshops provide a warm and supportive place to share your work while giving and receiving vital peer feedback.  In-class exercises are also interspersed throughout each session to help you think about your topics and gain new writing skills.

Reserve your place in Level III Memoir and Life Writing in Winter 2023.

A quick read: How to Write a Memoir


  • Read, discuss, and analyse diverse memoir
  • Continue expanding your narrative nonfiction skills and take chances as a writer
  • Experiment with different memoir form and texture
  • Find your distinctive writing voice, experiment with structure, find your arc
  • Enjoy the supportive structure of a global writing community




No matter your subject or style, you will find a great writing community in this bi-weekly course. All of Kathryn’s courses are characterised by a warm sense of community and accountability, which keep you comfortably supported and focused on your writing goals. Each session you gather with your classmates and new friends, you will learn from each other while gaining a new set of friends who share your writing aspirations and growth mind-set.


  • Brief social time (10-15 min)
  • A reading or a writing prompt (5-10 min)
  • Review of previous lessons (2-10 min)
  • Lecture (25-30 min)
  • Writing prompt (10 min)
  • Break (15 min)
  • Discussion (30 min)
  • Writing workshop* (40 min)
  • Q&A and review for next class (5 min)

*Papers are shared in a Google Drive two days before class. Students are assigned small groups of 4-5. Writing workshops are excellent opportunities to hear how your writings lands on others. While this can feel scary at first — most people are not used to hearing live and immediate feedback on their work — initial discomfort wanes. Students find this component of class exceptionally valuable.


  • Payment plans for tuition are available. Just drop a line to
  • Upon payment, you will receive two emails:1)  an automatic payment confirmation 2) a personal email with a Zoom link and course syllabus.


Read more testimonials here.

“I have been making my living with journalistic texts for four years now. Tied to my desk due to the pandemic I decided it was time to take my writing to another level and enrolled in The Art of Narrative Nonfiction. Being skeptical of virtual courses at first, I was immediately drawn into the group by her professional and yet entertaining moderation of the weekly online gatherings. With an attractive mix of lecture, discussion, workshop and personal tutoring she enabled us to not only profit from her vast experience as a writer but also to open up our pieces to our peers from various cultural backgrounds. I’ll definitely be back for more.”

Johannes, Cologne, Germany

“Margaret Atwood said ‘If you really want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something.’ Kathryn fixes those nagging fears by showing writers what we have that is already good, and what we can do better tomorrow. It’s win-win, and she remakes a traditional “class” into such an enjoyable, productive journey. I’ve also been lucky enough to experience the awe-inspiring surroundings and warm community that form the bedrock of the Rural Writing Institute. It’s not often that you can genuinely say that one long weekend shifted the way you look at the world, but the effects are still with me in my reading and writing years later.”

Caroline, Aberdeen, Scotland

“After six months of working with Kathryn–which is a bit like entering the space of a handwritten letter, what with her sharp aesthetic sense, far-ranging intelligence, wit, and curiosity–I’ve made tangible progress on an unwieldy, long-form project I was struggling to articulate. I came to her Memoir and Life Writing class for accountability, and came away having experienced the kind of support, writing insight, and real feeling of friendship that can be difficult to find in a workshop environment. Kathryn fostered a warm, charming atmosphere in class (a real feat online), allowing for life-long connections to develop among our group of writers. She cares about the arc of her student’s writing lives–a form of attention that encourages artistic growth and positive risk-taking. She not only brought her years of writing and publishing experience to class and to our bi-monthly writing assignments (her personal feedback, often handwritten, is invaluable), she also brought her unique perspective. Writer-gardener-historians are, I think, particularly adept at imagining the possibilities for a piece, no matter your subject. Kathryn pushed me to dig deeper, moving my writing in new directions. No matter where one is in their writing life, working with Kathryn will be an experience of profound joy, insight, and artistic deepening.”

Veronica, Portland, Oregon


Kathryn Aalto’s teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. At its core, she believes teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are an emerging writer or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She cultivates a mindful and supportive learning environment that fosters personal expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth in the literary arts.


Kathryn Aalto is a passionate practitioner and teacher of narrative nonfiction.  For more than twenty-five years, she has taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities including Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University and has given guest lectures at Cambridge University, Vanderbilt University, Cornell University, and more. She has a global mentoring practice and thriving online writing courses, and leads in-person retreats, courses, and workshops in the United States and United Kingdom.