Australian Writers Centre

how to write a memoir

Have you ever wanted to learn how to write a memoir or to sift greater meaning from the journey of your life?

Our writing your life story classes are designed to help you express the story of your life while finding the life in your story.

Writing about life stories (the significant events of your life) has the following benefits:

  • Passing on one’s heritage
  • Creating a storehouse of material to use in other creative endeavours such as fiction writing
  • Providing a platform to connect with clients for those who are self-employed or work in fields such as social work, health and wellness
  • Facilitating catharsis and healing around loss, relational breakdown and other difficult experiences
  • Using personal experience to produce material with which to create a memoir or autobiography
  • Passing on one’s knowledge or interesting experiences. An example:

Willie Daly spent his life working as a relationship matchmaker. He used the stories of his experiences to produce the non-fiction work, The Last Matchmaker: The Heart-Warming True Story of the Man Who Brought Love to Ireland.

willie daly the last matchmaker

Willie Daly - Compiled his work experiences into a memoir

  • The satisfaction that comes from having a creative outlet
  • Helping to develop one’s writing skills which can then be transferred to vocational areas
  • Establishing credibility:

After obtaining a degree in psychology, Susan Jeffers worked in a hospital and wrote about her life. In producing her work, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, she became renowned in the field of personal growth.

susan jeffers feel the fear and do it anyway

Susan Jeffers - digested her personal struggles to launch her career as an author

  • Fosters greater self-understanding and personal development. The rise of narrative therapy is a testament to the power of life story writing.

Writing a memoir is one of the most enriching experiences you can undertake. As Patricia Hampl pointed out:

“To write one’s life is to live it twice and the second living is both spiritual and historical, for a memoir reaches deep within the personality as it seeks its narrative form.”


sydney writing courseWriting & Sharing Life Stories is a Connecting Experience

Narrative Therapy

We all have a strong need for self-understanding and self-expression. By delving into the deeper layers of our life’s journey we can do both. This writing program suits experienced writers. It also suits new writers who are self-reflective and open to exploring life events as a way of making greater sense of their passage through life.

In line with brain plasticity research, it has been proven that writing about life experiences rearranges memories to produce new perspectives in our relationship to what we see on the page. Creative nonfiction becomes more than therapeutic, it becomes transformative and empowering. Reaching into the events of your life allows you to locate deeper layers of wisdom and find the healing that can lie within them.

narrative therapy

Narrative Therapy - Recognising our stories and reframing nurtures brain plasticity

The writer Juliet Bruce suggests that “Once you understand that life is an unfolding story and that you are the storyteller who can shape and play with it on the page, then use that page as you would a roadmap, you gain tremendous power in your life."

How To Write A Memoir

For those wanting to learn about life story, the memoir writing courses are offered in a variety of ways.

The group class takes place at Camp Creative in Bellingen, suiting NSW writers. This 5 day program covers different life phases and milestone moments. Some writing techniques are explored, as is the right brained approach of incorporating archetypes in our stories for greater impact.

australian writers centre

Through small group sharing of one’s writing pieces, this writing workshop facilitates a strong sense of connection and catharsis.

Book Into The Group Life Writing Course


For those looking for a deeper dive, I offer an intensive retreat experience for an individual. Whereas the group program spends half a day on a particular life passage/archetype, the writers retreat program spends two days on each. This enables you to bath in many memoir examples, writing techniques and go into greater depth about your life phases.


Another benefit of this course is being able to receive personalised mentoring, editing and feedback on your writing.

This writing retreat takes place in an Australian Writers Centre, in the beautiful Blue Mountains of NSW.


Learn More About the 2 Day Retreat Experience

writers retreat

Lastly, there is an online option for those who are not located near Sydney or who want to work in a slower, self-paced manner.

Enquire About The Online Memoir Writing Program

Writers Retreat Australia - A Guests Experience

After taking part in the group memoir writing class, Ros developed the stories she wrote over the week long course until she had sufficient material for a book.

She brought her material to our Blue Mountains retreat and we worked together to piece the stories together and accentuate her narrative.

With some further polishing, Ros went on to publish her memoir, which you can read a sample of here.

This is how she described her experience of undertaking the intensive retreat program:

"I have just returned from a Writes of Passage Retreat run by Marcus. I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s definitely been one of the best things I’ve done.

I started out with a draft of events that made up my life story and after a few days of gentle conversation and insights shared from psychology and numerology, a whole bunch of new truths came to the fore.

I feel changed because of these discoveries and I can’t wait to write these new depths of meaning into my narrative.

Marcus’s open, unassuming yet skilful approach was just what I needed to build and strengthen the story of my life. Its been an amazing few days!

With a desire to write my life story as a gift for my children, I undertook your life story writing group and discovered that writing the story of my life might actually be achievable.

The focus on finding the bigger narrative in one’s life led to my “Eureka” moment - when all at once, I realised how I would frame my story and how each chapter would unfold.

I found that writing it up was enjoyable and cathartic and I know I have you to thank for getting me started and showing me the way.
 
When I arrived at your retreat space to work individually with you I had a draft of my story which to me seemed a little dull and probably incomplete.

Again the question of bigger narratives revealed itself as we discussed my life events and also explored other tools including the idea that we each have a life path we explore. You helped me to identify themes that I had barely thought of.

With unsurpassed patience, you read through my draft word by word and along the way you shared insights that now “must” be included in the book - they are all so vital.

Now as I look back over this week, I am in absolute awe of the themes you have highlighted. I have work to do - but I am excited and can’t wait to begin to incorporate them!
 
Marcus, you have given me such a valuable gift - I feel uplifted because of the “truths” we discovered together and emboldened by your words as I embark on this next stage.

I greatly appreciate all that you have given me and your great generosity of spirit,

Ros"

blue mountains retreats


Writing Courses in Sydney

Every Age Is A Good Age To Be Life Story Writing

Our school educations start out full of creative and reflective writing only to fade away as dry, essay writing gains dominance.

As educationalist Ken Robinson argued, we become educated away from our passions.

If the art of writing colours our working life it tends to be formal, technical writing or else composing mundane emails.

Often it is not until the retirement years that people rediscover the pleasure of creative writing while chronicling their life as a legacy gift to their family. As Anaïs Nin quipped:

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."


writing different ages

We're never too young, nor too old to release the power of life writing

But we needn’t wait until the twilight years to savour our experiences. Some memoir writers produce their books during their teenage years.

    • As Anne Frank showed as a 13-year-old, writing about our life can nurture us through the most challenging circumstances. Nearing a century on, The Diary of a Young Girl, continues to intrigue readers.

 anne frank

Life writing not only helped Anne Frank endure the horrors of the holocaust, it allowed her to influence millions of people

    • Author Erin Vincent began writing her memoir, Grief Girl, when she was 14 and trying to come to terms with the tragedy of her parents dying in a car accident.

 

    • High school teacher Erin Gruwell captured just how much teenagers can derive from writing about events in their lives, turning the experience into a memoir of her own, The Freedom Writers Diary.

 the freedom writers

Writing about their lives helped students to move from paralysis to empowerment

 

  • At 22, Helen Keller wrote her autobiography, The Story of My Life, about her triumph over blindness and deafness.

Our 20’s are regarded as the phase of life when we break away from our roots to find our identity and place in the world. Tara Westover, Cheryl Strayed, Henry David Thoreau and Chris McCandless are just a handful of people who combined life story writing with this period of self-discovery.

It’s never too soon to experience the rewards of life writing.

Writing about our experiences can help us make sense of our past but it can also help us gain clarity as to our future, recognising recurring themes and callings.

Our writing courses in Sydney are offered from our Blue Mountains retreat space.


Read A Blog Piece about Creative Writing & the Mythic Imagination

archetypes

 

Writing Workshops - Participants Feedback

 

I loved this course! I loved that you shared your personal journey & I loved all the info about the lives of others. It was all really inspiring & interesting.  This was the best workshop I’ve ever been to. So glad I came. Thank you Marcus!  - Jo

I arrived on the Monday morning with not really any idea what was in store. Nothing could have prepared me for such an unexpectedly amazing journey. - Neil

Marcus brought such extraordinary depth, breadth and variety from his sources and references. Of all the excellent courses I’ve done at Camp Creative in six or seven years, this has been the most fulfilling, expanding, funny - and creative! - Michael

A lovely deep-dive into ourselves and each other - our commonality - our individual magic. - Anon
It gave me wings. It gave me belief. It made me think. It helped me to understand myself & how life has shaped me. I felt like I was given the pegs to guide me through this vast & complex topic. Thank you for being the perfect facilitator. - Ingrid

I came with a list of memories in chronological order & I am leaving with a clear sense of how these memories might be gathered together & “formed” in such a way that rather than just a string of events - my life becomes a story with a plot & a theme, a beginning & an end. Loved the Hero’s journey overlay with the archetypes - great lens thru which I can shape the story of my life. - Ros

Very pleased that I made the effort to come to the course. You provided me with so much information and gentle guidance, allowing and trusting me to find my own voice & stories. I enjoyed it all. A wonderful course. Highly recommended & well delivered. Thank you for all the time & care you put into preparing & delivering it. - Sarah

Marcus is so well read and a pleasure to listen to. The framework given, the gentle and varied suggestions on subject matter and the time to write was invaluable. - Suzanne

The structure of the course is beautifully architected. An example for many to follow. Very rich insight and wonderful notes/handouts. - Eddie

You’ve got it in you. You have. Marcus will help you put it on paper, he’ll help you move into your best self. - Amanda

I found the structure really conducive to being able to write quickly and efficiently. I thought it was amazing. The course run by Marcus was a gift. To be guided so gently and expertly to write one’s story has been a highlight of my life. - Anon

 

writers retreat australia award

 

 

What Course Participants Say

  • I loved this course! I loved that you shared your personal journey & I loved all the info about the lives of others. It was all really inspiring & interesting. This was the best workshop I’ve ever been to. So glad I came. Thank you Marcus! - Jo

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