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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 is the author of three poetry collections: Temporary Kin, The Typists Play Monopoly, and Almost the Rowboat. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies including Southwest Review, Naugatuck River Review, Mezzo Cammin, The MacGuffin, Forgotten Women, Sanctuary, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. Winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, Shirley McClure, and Maria W. Faust national poetry prizes, she is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Associate director of the Soul-Making Keats literary competition, she has mentored hundreds of writers at Skyline College, The Writing Salon, and other colleges and has taught/advised student teachers in the credential program at Mills College. For ten years she has directed Women on Writing: WOW Voices Now on the Skyline campus.

  1. Saturday, February 16, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  2. Saturday, February 23, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  3. Saturday, March 9, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  4. Saturday, March 16, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  5. Saturday, March 23, 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, February 16, 2019 @ 10:00 pm PST
Saturday, March 23, 2019 @ 11:30 pm PST
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.

Cancellation Policy

10 days or more before the start date for a class, the registrant will receive a credit minus a 10% fee OR a refund minus a 20% fee.

3-9 days before the start date for a class, the registrant will receive a credit minus a 20% fee OR a refund minus a 30% fee.

2 days or less before the start date for a class, the registrant will not receive a credit or a refund.

The Writing Salon cannot offer refunds, credits, or makeup sessions for classes a student might miss.

In the event of an emergency, we may consider a refund or credit, whether partial or full. We review these requests on a case-by-case basis, and we ask that you notify us as near as possible to the start date for the class.

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