Course overview



We all have a story to tell and this is where you'll learn how to write it. Memoirs enable us to examine and articulate the memorable moments and events of our lives. Through writing and constructive feedback this course explores how to give form and shape to our major stories and turning points. In supportive sessions we will form a tight-knit group, exploring the nuances of life writing as a genre, examining the ethical implications, and gaining an understanding of the contemporary field.

Anna has this amazing ability to offer students insight to the greater implications of writing and to provide us with knowledge which can be applied far beyond the classroom - knowledge which may very well allow for the rewiring of your view of the past and thus the rewriting of your future. Her passion for her subject matter is evident and her sincere and captivating teaching style makes it inevitable that this passion is then transferred onto you and reflected in your work.

Nazia, 2016

Writing about the living or recently dead raises some tricky issues: how will family and friends be affected? how much honesty can you get away with? whose life is it anyway? This course provides an ideal space to think about such questions.

Blake Morrison, Author and Convenor of MA Life-Writing at Goldsmiths

Maya Angelou once wrote, "there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." The writing of your story can be cathartic, joyful or simply words well-written for public or personal benefit. Through inspiring and engaging workshops, we will explore how you can write your untold stories. You’ll learn more about yourself while practicing the creative techniques of fiction to frame your life story – from structure to voice and dialogue. We will also discuss how to write about others ethically, ideally with the consent of your subject(s). You’ll hear about the latest trends in memoir publishing and study contemporary writers such as Sigrid Rausing, Terese Marie Mailhot and Karl Ove Knausgaard. You will also learn how to read as a writer and to give and receive constructive criticism. You will be writing and reading between classes, when you will receive feedback from the tutor and the group. 

We will form a strong group bond in which our individual writing can flourish. Group participation provides an atmosphere in which listening to and learning from others is integral. Within this mutually-supportive writing community, anything shared within the group is confidential. We’ll explore how to give non-judgmental, analytical feedback on the writing, not the writer. We’ll use a variety of techniques to get you started: writing exercises, group feedback, group and pair work, informal discussions, lecture-led discussion, reading lists, whiteboard and powerpoint activities and online resources, where appropriate. The course is adapted each term to meet your diverse needs as writers. You’ll come away with writing to work on for yourself, whether you want to build a portfolio for further study, enter competitions, or develop ideas as a foundation for a short or longer memoir.

Why Study this Course

  • Learn more about memoir and life writing as a genre, including the current trends within the field
  • Become part of a vibrant and diverse community of writers 
  • Understand how to read like a writer and write like you’ve never written before
  • Develop your self-awareness and self-evaluation as a writer, through listening to and giving constructive feedback on writing
  • Find out more about publishing and trends in creative nonfiction
  • Develop your awareness and critical understanding of the ethical issues surrounding memoir and life writing
  • Consolidate your learning with peer feedback on yours and others’ writing



Booking information

Disability Support

We are committed to providing reasonable teaching adjustments for students with disabilities that may impact on their learning experience. If you require adjustments, please complete the relevant section on the booking form and also contact us at so we can respond to your requests as soon as possible. 

Please note our short courses sell-out quickly, so early booking is advisable.


If you have any questions about this course please contact shortcourses (

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Tutor information

a road with looming clouds overhead, grass either side and a sign post pointing in different directions

Dr Anna Derrig

Anna is a writer, tutor and researcher who works in the evolving field of ethics and contemporary life writing. Anna worked on her PhD, under the supervision of Professor Blake Morrison and Professor Francis Spufford, at Goldsmiths in our Department of English and Comparative Literature. This is the first UK course of its kind with a close examination of life writing ethics, so this is a unique opportunity.


Course structure

Week 1 - Introductions 

In our first workshop we’ll begin by getting to know the group, outlining the structure of the course and the expectations. We’ll explore learning to listen actively, how to build your confidence, as well how to access your imagination. We will also discuss the reading listing and how you can read like a writer. 

Week 2 - Creative styles - writing and re-writing. Life writing and ethics. 

This week will examine different creative styles. There will be student readings and feedback (for this and the next two weeks), a writing exercise and we’ll focus on the skill of writing as re-writing. We will also explore life writing as a genre with its particular ethical implications.

Week 3 - Structure, voice and voices. Point of view. 

We will look at recently published books and how contemporary authors frame their stories. We will explore your voice and other voices , using writing exercises to practice  different points of view.

Week 4 - Memory, truth and recall. Life mapping.

In our final session, we’ll explore the lines between memoir and fiction – asking to what  extent we can fictionalise a story without losing the essence of memoir. We will also reflect on our own lives through a life mapping exercise, as well as questioning the pros and cons of publishing and looking at the contemporary market for memoirs. 

About the department

Our Department of English and Comparative Literature is one of the largest and most dynamic in the University. We offer a dynamic range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, retaining a strong research focus in our postdoctoral community of academics. Whether you are interested in classical literature and/or linguistics, creative writing and contemporary fiction, this wide-ranging and interdisciplinary department has something to offer for all. We host exciting research centres, which host regular events such as the Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, as well as the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, as well having launched the Goldsmiths Prize in 2013, which celebrates fiction at its most novel.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course you will have:

  • Increased confidence in and understanding of, yourself as a writer
  • A piece of writing you can work on for your memoir and to apply for competitions, other courses and for personal satisfaction
  • The ability to practice a range of life writing skills and styles, as well as feedback on your writing from a range of viewpoints
  • An awareness of the pitfalls and opportunities of an ethical approach
  • Knowledge of contemporary memoirs, current life writing trends and the changing nature of life writing

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