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Memoir is not reserved only for the rich and famous. Beautiful and haunting memoirs—books and essays—can grow out of our ordinary lives, carefully observed. Both the distant past and the not-so-long ago can be mined, remembered and re-created in writing. This class is a guide to the mining and refining process.

“The gold of memoir,” says instructor Kathleen McClung, “combines the gifts of a novelist—vivid characters and settings, lively and suspenseful narration—with a poet’s introspection and close attention to language.

“In this class we’ll focus on finding and shaping evocative stories from our own lives, stories that build from our specific and unique life events and move toward resonant, universal themes. Through readings, discussions, and writing exercises, we’ll explore the basic elements of memoir: selecting key moments and passages, scene-setting and dialogue, using fresh sensory detail, reflecting and musing on the meanings of our experiences so that our work “speaks” to readers. We will find and fine-tune our own distinctive writing voices, essential for this genre.

Class participants will have opportunities to try their hand at writing and sharing short memoir pieces and will be guided in giving and receiving encouraging, constructive feedback for ways to develop/deepen the writing. Readings will include excerpts from Judith Barrington’s Writing the Memoir and Tristine Rainer’s Your Life as Story, as well as work by a variety of contemporary memoirists.”



    Kathleen McClung has mentored hundreds of writers at Skyline College, The Writing Salon, and other colleges, and she has taught/advised student teachers in the credential program at Mills College. She serves as a reviewer for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries, sponsor/judge for the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and coordinator of Women on Writing community events. Her memoir, poetry, and fiction have been published in the Healing Muse, Unsplendid, Poets 11, Spirituality & Health, Tilt-a-Whirl, Tule Review, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, and elsewhere. In 2012 Kathleen won the Rita Dove Poetry Award, and Naomi Shihab Nye selected her work as the winner of the national poetry competition sponsored by the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Almost the Rowboat, in January 2013.

  1. Saturday, November 11, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  2. Saturday, November 18, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  3. Saturday, December 2, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  4. Saturday, December 9, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  5. Saturday, December 16, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  • I just want to say what a terrific teacher Kathleen McClung is. I am still writing — not quickly, not in vast quantities, but very happily — and I continually realize anew how much I learned from Kathleen. Her clarity and her explicit instruction about the elements of memoir have all been so helpful to me. I really feel like I have come away with a grasp of what good memoir writing needs to include. Not that I can do it all the time, and not that I don’t need a constant voice in my head reminding me of what I’ve been taught! But Kathleen provided the structure and the scaffolding for me to be able to build from there.

    Sue G.


Saturday, November 11, 2017 @ 2:00 pm
Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
Event Category:


San Francisco
2042 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA United States
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Registration Deadline

Registration closes 24 hours before the start time for a class.

Refund Policy

There is a cancellation fee of 15% included in each registration. The Writing Salon will not issue a refund if a cancellation occurs within 48 hours of the class start time.

The Writing Salon cannot provide refunds, transfer payments, or offer makeup sessions for classes a student might miss, for any reason.

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