So where do you start? How do you actually write that memoir?
And how do you get your story to come to life on the page? How do you navigate the craft and technique of writing your story?
And what do you do when you get stuck?
Hi, I'm Tanja Pajevic, author of The Secret Life of Grief, winner of the Nautilus Silver Book Award in memoir.
For the past 20 years, I've been helping others write their stories and I want to help you write yours. In those years, I’ve learned one lesson over and over again: there’s incredible power in telling your story.
Your story matters. Let’s get it into the world!
Why memoir? Why now?
Because true stories are powerful. They inspire us on a deeply personal level. As Brene Brown says, we’re hardwired for story. It’s how we learn.
As a writer, teacher and long-time reader of memoir, I can tell you that the freedom that comes from telling your story is like no other.
A memoir allows you to share your wisdom, absolutely. The actual process of writing that memoir, though, also expands the constraints of what you thought was possible for yourself. I’ve seen this over and over again with my clients: writing your memoir allows you to move into a deeper, more authentic sense of self.
That’s an incredibly rewarding journey. At times, it can also be challenging.
And trying to write a memoir without support can feel like wrestling an octopus. Where do you start? How do you narrow down your story, much less shape it? What do you do when the initial excitement wears off and you find yourself in the mucky middle? And how do you navigate the emotional terrain of delving into the heart of who you are?
In this clear, easy-to-follow, 8-week online course, I’ll walk you through the craft and technique of writing memoir, show you how to set up a consistent writing schedule, and help you navigate the sticky points that come with writing your life story.
Your story matters. And the world needs your gifts, perhaps now more than ever.
How Write a Compelling Memoir
In this comprehensive 8-week course, you’ll go from feeling alone, confused and overwhelmed to feeling excited and supported in the power of your story, clear in its scope, and confident in the craft and technique of creating a compelling memoir.
With 6 online modules, 3 live coaching calls and 2 group writing sessions, you’ll get plenty of support and accountability as well as laser-focused coaching within a wonderfully supportive community. You’ll leave this course with a strong foundation for your memoir as well as a clear set of next steps.
How it Works
The keys to writing memoir are getting the right structure, accountability, encouragement and support. That's why I’ve built the following pieces into this course:
• 2 "on-ramp" bonus trainings to help you get your (mindset) game on and set up a writing schedule you can adhere to.
• 6 online modules covering craft and technique as well as weekly mindset tips. Each module is broken into bite-sized steps, with downloadable video trainings and supporting PDFs accessible to you for the lifetime of the course.
• 3 live coaching calls with feedback on 2 short pieces (3-5 pages) of writing.
• 2 online group writing sessions.
• Secret Facebook forum for coaching, Q&A, support and accountability.
• 4 "lift-off" bonus interviews with authors, editors and book reviewers to clarify next steps.
In this first module, we’ll get clear on why you’re writing this book and what it is you want to accomplish. We’ll clarify your book’s specific audience as well as your goals.
From there, we’ll craft your book’s mission statement—a tool you’ll use throughout the writing process. We’ll also delve into the power of the shitty first draft, show you how to set realistic writing goals, and bring your inner critic into the light so that she can’t sabotage you.
Last—but not least—we’ll start writing!
In Module 2, we’ll talk about the importance of tension and conflict in your story. From there, we’ll clarify your narrative arc and get clear on the parameter of your story. We’ll identify the key scenes of your book and get clear on what to include, as well as what to leave out.
We’ll also delve into the importance of sensory detail and show you how to use that concept to round out your characters as you start building your story. When you’re writing about real people, it can be tough to fully capture them on the page. I’ll show you how to fill out your characters so they’re living, breathing people that your reader cares about.
Finally, we’ll revisit the importance of momentum and provide you with tips to keep you moving forward in your writing.
One of the common challenge writers face is figuring out how to place their story within a particular world. In this module, I’ll teach you how to ground your story in a specific place and time. We’ll delve into the craft and technique of those concepts, as well as apply them to the revision process.
We’ll also delve into the issue of safety and the self-care necessary for writing memoir. Since personal stories bring up all sorts of emotions, we’ll mine the internal landscape of the inner critic so that we can show you how to contain your story and make the writing process kinder as well as gentler.
In this module, we'll teach you the craft and technique of scene v. summary. You’ll learn how (and when) to summarize events, as well as when to unpack them in real-time on the page.
From there, we’ll dive into dialogue, since capturing dialogue on the page can be one of the biggest challenges facing most writers. In this module, I’ll teach you my tips and tricks for creating effective, realistic, and life-like dialogue on the page.
We’ll wrap up by revisiting that pesky inner critic and give you specific, concrete tools for mining her true wisdom so that she doesn’t derail your writing.
In this module, we’ll show you how to enhance the larger meaning behind your memoir so that your reader connects deeply to your message. We’ll also fill out the minor themes of your narrative in order to add additional layers of complexity, subtlety and meaning to your story.
From there, we’ll magnify your story by showing you how to weave together the craft and technique teachings we’ve discussed so far.
Finally, I’ll give you one of my most powerful tools to help keep your writing exciting and relevant.
We’ll wrap up our final module by identifying your goals and next steps. We’ll identify concrete, specific steps for moving forward, as well as teach you powerful tools for staying on track. We’ll also identify the places where you might get stuck (including writer’s block), then show you how to get past them.
Finally, we’ll explore your book’s larger vision as well as plant the seeds for bringing your book into the world. And I’ll send you off with resources to keep you inspired, motivated and on track for moving forward!
• What will my mother say when she reads this?
• Can my ex sue me?
• Does my—gulp—story even matter?!
These are some of the common concerns we all face when writing memoir, so let’s get to the heart of these issues now, deflating them of their soul-sucking power. By tackling these questions from the get-go, we’ll also free up extra time and energy you can funnel into your writing.
In this training, we’ll identify some of the common saboteurs that keep folks from writing, then we’ll set you up for success by creating a writing schedule you can realistically adhere to with everything else you have going on in your life.
Since memoir tends to bring up a lot of emotion for most folks, I’ll also give you some of my best tips and tricks to make the writing process more safe. We’ll discuss the importance of creating a writing ritual, as well as ways to anchor the habit of writing into your body so that you can create consistency and momentum—key to completing any writing project.
Gail D. Storey is the author of I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award, Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year Award, Nautilus Silver Award, the Colorado Book Award, and the Barbara Savage Award. I Promise Not to Suffer was praised by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, as “Witty, wise, and full of heart…as inspiring as it is hilarious, as poignant as it is smart.”
Gail’s first novel, The Lord’s Motel, was praised by the New York Times Book Review as “a tale of unwise judgments and wise humor.” Her second novel, God’s Country Club, was a Barnes &Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection.
Her website, including the book trailer for I Promise Not to Suffer, is gailstorey.com.
She is married to Dr. Porter Storey, a national leader in hospice and palliative medicine. They live in Boulder, Colorado. A former administrative director of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, Gail now meditates, jumps out of cakes, and writes a blog at gailstorey.com, not necessarily all at the same time.
Her literary papers are archived at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.
Melanie Mulhall, founder of Dragonheart Writing and Editing, helps writers manifest their dreams through writing coaching, editing, and shepherding projects to produce words that sing, dance, and get attention. Her work is about fostering a working relationship of trust, understanding, and fun with the writer. It is maintaining the author`s voice in a way that makes them say, "That sounds just like me, only better!" It is about honoring the book and honoring the process.
Melanie has been awarded four First Place (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013), two Second Place (2014, 2017), two Third Place (2009, 2016), and a fistful of Merit EVVY Awards in the Technical Category of Editing.
Nancy Saltzman is a frequently sought after inspirational speaker nationwide. She also is the author of the best selling memoir Radical Survivor, a love story filled with hope following the death of her husband and two sons in a small plane crash. Shari Caudron, award-winning author wrote, “Saltzman’s story, told with honesty, insight and laugh-out-loud flashes of humor, teaches us that it is possible to embrace life in the wake of tragedy”. Radical Survivor received recognition as Shelf Unbound’s Notable Indie in 2015 and E-lit’s Silver (2nd) place winner for memoirs published in 2012.
Dr. Saltzman grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, and moved to Colorado Springs in 1970 to attend Colorado College. After graduation she began a 32 year career in education as a teacher and administrator, and retired in 2006 to write her memoir, Radical Survivor. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver. During her career Saltzman received the prestigious Milken Family Foundation Award for her work in education, was recognized as a Colorado National Distinguished Principal, and awarded the American Cancer Society’s Sword of Hope.
Patti Thorn is a co-founder of BlueInk Review, a service that offers professional book reviews of independently published titles. Since its inception, BlueInk has reviewed more than 7,000 titles from across the globe. Thorn also served for 28 years as a writer and editor at the Rocky Mountain News, which had a daily circulation of 300,000 at the time of its closing in February, 2009. She spent the last 12 years of her tenure as chief book critic and editor of the book review pages. The section earned acclaim for its incisive and timely reviews, as well as for Thorn’s weekly column about books and the publishing industry. Thorn is the three-time recipient of first place awards for Arts and Entertainment Criticism from the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists. In addition, she is the co-author of Fun Places to Go with Children in Colorado, published by Chronicle Books. The book has enjoyed two printings and sold over 20,000 copies. She has also served as an independent editor for both fiction and nonfiction.
We Start Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Join us!
$125 per month for 3 months
$199 per month for 3 months
$259 per month for 3 months
Working with Tanja was an inspiring, empowering experience! She is the kind of mentor that makes you feel not only supported and encouraged in your writing endeavors, but also in life’s challenges. –Sherrie Scott
Thank you sooo much for this class!!! You've provided me with answers to questions I did not even know I needed to ask. I feel what I learned from you on the very fist module was worth the price of the entirety of the course. –Marcella Moy
I am so grateful to work with Tanja ... she reignited a light in me that believes not only in achieving this project, but making it successful. Much gratitude for the brilliant support. – Patrice Bazile
My book has sat on a shelf for literally years. Tanja has given me the support, confidence and, especially, the information I need to get it out into the world... the course has helped incredibly! –Jennifer Hinton
Tanja has the amazing talent of creating a totally positive and magical environment where writers can feel comfortable and confident enough to share their most intimate work while giving deeply reflective and creative feedback. –S.S.
Tanja is more a "book therapist" than coach because she's experienced firsthand a writer's inner critic saying, "No one wants to hear your story." Offering the perfect balance of "Do better" with "You can do it," she's capable of simply getting authors to sit butt in chair and write. Even as a professional writer myself, I couldn't have committed to my memoir without her compassionate guidance. --Heather Mundt
Tanja’s class has helped me jumpstart my ‘book,” the one that’s been lying around in my office on sticky notes and scraps of paper for 22 years. She’s a master at conveying the process of writing, how to focus and what to do when you’re starting to go in circles and feel overwhelmed. I’ve gotten perfect coaching and great tools to stay on task, but more than that, insights into both the mechanics and heart of writing that bring me wholeheartedly into the process. -- Kim Mooney
Tanja’s course has given me the inside track on what it really takes to get a book into the world ... Her course is incredibly robust yet broken into digestible, well-organized modules with concrete take-always and follow-up exercises. She leaves no stone uncovered and makes sure everyone feels confident in the responses she provides. I’m so happy I was able to take this class! –Sarah Boyd
If for any reason you feel like this course isn't a good fit for you, I'll refund your tuition 100% within the first 10 days. No hoops! Just email me.
Q: Who is this course for?
A: This course is for beginners, intermediate and advanced writers interested in writing personal essays or book-length memoirs. (The main difference between personal essays and memoirs is manuscript length--both use the same craft and technique. If you're not sure whether your story is better suited for a personal essay or memoir, we'll help you decide.)
If you haven’t started your memoir yet, this course covers the craft and technique you need to create a powerful, moving memoir.
If you’ve started your memoir, this course will still be beneficial for you. You’ll get an eagle-eyed view of what’s working as well as what’s not working--helping you fix and tighten up your manuscript before submitting it to an editor, saving you time, money and frustration.
Q: How will the content be delivered and what will it include?
A: Each week you’ll get an email from Ruzuku, our learning platform. When you log in to the dashboard, you’ll see the material for that week’s lesson--a mix of downloadable videos, audios and supporting PDFs. Your materials will be available to you to access whenever and wherever it's convenient for you. You'll receive one new module each week.
Coaching in the secret FB group for the Supported and Strategic level will be available from M-F.
The live coaching calls for the Supported and Strategic level of the course will be recorded and available to you to access at a later date if you're unable to attend live.
Q: What's the schedule for the trainings?
A: Each Tuesday, you'll receive access to a new module. The schedule is as follows:
For those of you choosing the Supported or Strategic level of this course, our 3 live calls and 2 group online writing sessions are currently scheduled to alternate between
Since I anticipate this first round to be a small group, we'll update the schedule if need be. Remember, all the coaching calls and group writing sessions will be recorded if you're unable to access them live.
Q: How much support is *really* included?
A: If you join the Standard level of this course, you’ll be navigating the materials on your own.
If you join the Supported or Strategic level, you'll also receive access to our private, secret Facebook group after you register, where I'l be coaching you every day during the week--and by that I mean real coaching, not just "nice work!" You'll also get support from the rest of our fabulous community. Plus, you'll also get access to our 3 live group coaching calls (which will be recorded in case you can't make it live) as well as the 2 online group writing sessions.
Those of you choosing the Strategic option will also receive a 30 page developmental manuscript review with a full editorial letter from Tanja (a $75 savings).
Q: How much time do I need for this course?
A: I’d suggest setting aside 1-2 hours a week to watch the videos, do the homework and get feedback from your fellow writers.
From there, it depends on how often you choose to write and how quickly you want to go with your manuscript. My recommendation is to set aside 5 hours a week to write. If you can only write 2-3 hours a week, then start there. Remember: the key is consistency.
Q: I already know I have a schedule conflict. What if I miss a week or fall behind? How long will I be able to access the course?
A: No problem! You can take this course at your own speed--there's no rush to get to the finish line. All of the teachings and modules will remain available to you for the lifetime of the course.
If you’re taking the Supported or Strategic level of the course, you'll be able to send in your questions in advance if you can't make a call. The live calls will be recorded and available to you to access at a time that's right for you.
Q: I'm having technical troubles signing up.
A: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you set up. (If you don’t hear from me within 48 hours, please check that my response isn't trapped in your spam filter.)
Q: Any other questions?
Email me at email@example.com and I'l get back to you as soon as I can!
Q: What if this course brings up a lot of big life stuff?
A: That’s a common occurrence while writing memoir, and one of the reasons I recommend reaching out to a therapist if you find yourself needing additional support.
Although I can give you lots of tips and techniques to help make this a safe process, please remember that I’m a writer and teacher, not a trained therapist.
Because the world needs your gifts, perhaps now more than ever.
Your story matters.