Memoir and Life Writing

It is a human trait to want to tell others about our experiences, and many people think about writing a book based on a chapter of their lives. From The Confessions of Saint Augustine in the fifth century to contemporary essays in The New Yorker by David Sedaris, memoir and life writing is a meaningful and bestselling genre. This course is for writers who want to learn techniques of narrative nonfiction to capture a life-changing event, a memorable spiritual journey, a fascinating childhood or adolescence, or a challenging ethical conflict in their lives. This is for you if feel the need to understand the patterns and ripples of your life.

Kathryn Aalto provides the guidance, knowledge, structure, and support for you to explore life writing. Meeting twice a month for five months, Kathryn teaches through lecture, discussion, and workshop. Lectures are focused on particular topics or skills in writing memoir. Discussions are based on assigned readings of books and essays. Workshops provide vital peer feedback. In-class exercises are interspersed throughout each session. Students benefit from guest authors speaking about their craft. In the past these have including Andrea Wulf, Rob Cowen, Paul Dodgson, and more.


  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Greenlights by Matthew Mcconaughey
  • On the Road Not Taken by Paul Dodgson
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury
  • Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit
  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Essays by David Sedaris, Roxane Gay, Kathryn Schulz, Ed Caesar


  • Learn to identify and practice the terms, tools, and techniques used by writers of narrative nonfiction.
  • Enjoy reading and discussing a wide range of masterful memoirs.
  • Benefit from the practices, mindset, and experiences of a professional writer.
  • Write 4-5 essays for a body of work between 4,000-20,000 words.
  • Receive detailed feedback on all writing and meet 1:1 with Kathryn to discuss your work.
  • Enjoy the supportive structure of a writing community.


  • £1000 per person (installments or receive alumni discount)
  • Ten sessions every other Saturday from January 8 – May 21
  • 5-7:30 PM GMT / 12-2:30 PM Eastern / 9-11:30 AM Pacific
  • Limited to 14 people


Kathryn’s teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction and memoir. At its core, she believe teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are emerging writers or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She creates a supportive learning environment that fosters creative expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth.


Kathryn is a New York Times bestselling author and passionate practitioner of narrative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in print, radio, TV, and digital media around the world including NPR’s “All Things Considered,” The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and People magazine as a “Best New Book Pick.”  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. She has a global mentoring practice, thriving online writing courses, and leads in-person writing and design courses throughout the United States.


Contact with questions or to request the syllabus.