Memoir and Life Writing

Three mature students in a classroom, listening to a talk and writing.

How can we write about our lived experience?
This course aims to encourage, support, and excite participants in engaging with creative writing in a safe and informal space. 

Memoir and Life Writing: Spring 2024

When Wednesday afternoons, 2 pm - 4 pm

8 meetings

31 January to 27 March (no class 14 February)

Where University of Bristol, Arts Complex, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1TB.
Course tutor Rachel Bentham

You will be introduced to a variety of approaches to memoir and life writing through a discussion of different texts, and we'll do writing exercises to explore your material in a confidential space. There will be opportunities to share your work and get feedback if you wish.

Every week, we'll do exercises to explore aspects of the craft of writing, including how to progress and structure your writing, how to develop an individual narrative voice, mapping your plot, and how to integrate non-fiction material. Can dialogue be included/created? What kind of source material can be used? How do we navigate the vagaries of memory and differing points of view? Do we need to get the permission of others? If you want to write about your life and engage in lively discussions with other writers, then this course is for you. 

Each term's teaching is designed anew, so that former students can continue to attend ongoing courses and find fresh stimulus. There are always different aspects and more layers of your writing to explore!

Reading List

Suggested reading:

Wild; A Journey from Lost to Found Cheryl Strayed (Atlantic Books 2012)
Educated Tara Westover (Penguin, 2018)
The Salt Path Raynor Winn (Penguin, 2019)

Further reading:

The Outrun - Amy Liptrot (Canongate, 2016)
Antigona  and Me - Kate Clanchy (Picador, 2009)
Truth and Beauty - Ann Pratchett (Fourth Estate, 2004)
H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald (Grove Press, 2016)
Dust Tracks on a Road - Zora Neale Hurston (First published 1942. Virago, 2020)
Becoming - Michelle Obama (Penguin, 2018)
How we fight for our lives - Saeed Jones (Simon and Schuster, 2019)
I love Dick - Chris Kraus (Semiotext(E), 2006)
The Situation and the Story - Vivian Gornick Farra (Straus and Giroux, 2001)
The Kiss - Kathryn Harrison (Fourth Estate, 1998)
Body Work - the radical power of personal narrative - Melissa Febos (Catapault, 2022)
Sculptor's Daughter - Tove Jansson (Sort of Books, 2013)

Course fee


Click here to book

Previous qualifications/experience No qualifications needed. Open to the public.

What our students say...

An excellent course that inspired me to start writing the book I had imagined writing for years!

Memoir & Life Writing student, Spring 2022

I am so glad I joined this course. Rachel creates a clear framework and open-minded yet rigorous atmosphere that enabled me to listen harder, reflect more honestly, and share my work more openly than I imagined possible. Most importantly, it's prompted me to write with both purpose and for the sheer joy of it.

Memoir & Life Writing student, Autumn 2022

I thought this was a great course. I learned some important skills, grew in confidence and had many opportunities to think differently. Rachel was a brilliant course leader - very open, encouraging and knowledgeable.

Memoir & Life Writing student, Autumn 2022


Please address any enquiries about the courses to:

Department of English Part-time Courses
School of Humanities
3-5 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1TB

Tel: 0117 928 8924

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