Writing Lives (Online)

Improving | Fiction
Life writing is perhaps the most exciting and broadest literary genre of our times – spend a week discovering how you can work within the form to tell your story of a life.

From bestsellers by doctors and lawyers to Norwegian experiments in autofiction, the genre of life writing is bigger and broader than ever. This course will look at the many and diverse ways you can write about your life or other people's. For example, how truthful can/should you be in presenting yourself in your writing? Should you treat yourself or others as a fictional construct? To what extent can you yourself enter into the telling of another person's life? These questions are formal as well as ethical and wide open to interpretation. Drawing on a comprehensive reading list, and putting these ideas into practice in a series of writing exercises, we will spend the week discussing and deciding on the most suitable way for you to write into this newly re-energised and vibrant form of literature.

9th - 13th August 2021

Availability: In stock

7 Places

Each day will be divided into two sessions: in the morning, the day’s theme will be introduced and then discussed as a group, followed by a writing exercise. There will be an hour’s lunch break at 1pm, followed by a second, related writing exercise and a final group discussion to end.

Monday 9 August

Non-fiction: Writing about the self

This session looks at how a person can write about their own life as a ‘confessional’ memoir or autobiography, diary or journal, including a member of their family, or expanding the book to include cultural history/myth/fables/dreams.

Key texts include The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster, Notes to Self by Emilie Pine, Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog, The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming and The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić.

Tuesday 10 August

Non-fiction: Writing about others

In this session, we’ll look at how a person can write about another person’s life or many other peoples’ lives as biography or monograph, perhaps including their own persona in the writing, or by expanding the book as a piece of narrativised social history about science, sport, nature or culture.

Key texts include Dickinson by Rebecca Swift, Proust by Edmund White, The Lives of Elsa Triolet by Lachlan Mackinnon, The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère, Written Lives by Javier Marias and The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd.

Wednesday 11 August

Guest tutor: tbc

Thursday 12 August

Editor(s) as ‘life curators’

We’ll look at how to ‘curate’ a life as a series of interviews between one artist and one interviewer, or more than one interviewer, as oral autobiography, as oral history, or as a festschrift/anthology/compendium, in which many people write about one person’s life/work.

Key texts include Conversations with Iannis Xenakis by Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Paul Bowles (ed. Gena Dagel Caponi), David Bowie: A Life (ed. Dylan Jones), Terrence Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected (eds. Carlo Hintermann & Daniele Villa), Raymond Roussell: Life, Death & Works (eds. Alastair Brotchie, Malcolm Green & Anthony Melville) and A Working Model of the Fall from Grace: Essays & Poems for David Harsent (eds. Patrick Davidson Roberts & Martha Sprackland).

Friday 13 August

Autofiction and fictional biography

In this final session, we’ll discuss how a person can write fictionally about their own life, as a roman à clef, or fictionally about another real person’s life or many peoples’ lives based closely, or loosely, on the facts of that life/lives, perhaps as literary-biographical essays about both real people & the self.

Key texts include Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi, Threshold by Rob Doyle, I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, Clara by Janice Galloway, But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer and Vertigo by WG Sebald.

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Richard Skinner is a novelist, poet and critic. His most recent book, The Mirror, was described...

Both tutors had prepared excellent reading lists and were so knowledgeable, and the content of the course was well-planned and so interesting.
  • Judy

"There's no point staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike - to get your creative muscles working you need to start writing, reviewing and sharing your work."

Helen Shipman