We are Our Stories: An Introduction to Memoir Writing

We are Our Stories: An Introduction to Memoir Writing

Your life is a rich collections of stories: stories about your past and your present, stories about your relationships – with other humans, with animals, with nature, with places – stories about your successes and disappointments, stories about boredom, about loyalty and betrayal, stories about love, about routine, about deep personal discovery.

You have this urge, this itch, to write your stories down. You want to share them. Maybe you want to record stories for your children or grandchildren. Maybe you want to publish personal essays or articles or even a full-length book.


But where to begin?


You may have jotted down memories or played with them in your journal, or maybe you’re just trying to store memories and story ideas in your head.

You may have tried outlining but then realized you weren’t sure what you should include. And then you weren’t sure how to move from the outline to the actual writing.

You may have written a draft of a personal story ( a short piece or a longer one) but then decided that it wasn’t very interesting, that something important was missing.

You may have just frozen when you tried to write your personal stories, even though you can tell them with ease.


All of this is completely normal.


Sometimes people (ahem . . . especially aspiring writers) expect a bit too much of themselves. They expect to be able to do something with ease, and to do it well – even though they’ve never learned how, have never asked for any guidance or support.

Read about the workshop schedule Here.


In this six-week, live, online workshop,

You will get that guidance and support.

You will build a foundation for discovering, exploring, and shaping your stories.

And you will get acquainted (or reacquainted) with your writer self.


Here is what we will be doing when we meet:


Week One: What is memoir?

Week Two: Describing Place (setting)

Week Three: Describing People (more than physical descriptions!)

Week Four: People Talking (direct and indirect dialog)

Week Five: Managing Time (summary &. scene)

Week Six: Moving Forward with your writing

Each week, we will open with a warm-up writing prompt that will ease you into the session and get your writing juices flowing. (This exercise is just for you. You won’t be asked to share it.)

Then I will  introduce the week’s topic and read samples from the work of several published memoir writers.


And then . . . we will write!


I will share two writing prompts during the session. The prompts are meant to be fun, meant to help you dig more deeply into your memories, to see the setting, to hear the people, to remember more clearly . . . and begin to discover your writing voice.

While you will be asked to share your work, you don’t need to worry about it being handled roughly. The atmosphere will be friendly and open, and will nurture your creative spirit. (And if you don’t want to share, you don’t have to.)

Each session will end with writing ideas for you to play with during the coming week.


Will I be expected to complete a piece of writing?

I’ve been assisting writers for many years – as in instructor, editor, and coach – and I’m a writer myself. What I’ve learned is that one of the most counterproductive things a creative writer can do is to focus on the end product too soon.

Writing is a process, not only a process of getting the story down on paper, but a process of discovery. If we skip the discovery part, if we jump right into organizing (organizing what?), we risk becoming frustrated and creating flat, uninteresting work.

So, no, you won’t be asked to complete a piece of writing in this introductory workshop. Instead, the in-class writing exercises will help you to explore your memories, introduce (or re-introduce) you to the practice of writing; and encourage you to play with the basic components of memoir writing (as outlined in the weekly schedule).

After this introductory workshop, you will be invited to sign up for my ongoing workshop (eight weeks at a time), where you will be able to share your work in progress – a paragraph, a page, up to 10 pages at a time – for constructive feedback, and guidance and support as you move forward.


Will this be a big, impersonal workshop?

Not at all! I’ve taught these workshops for many years – in bookstores and in the living room of my Chicago apartment. I had a big basket of herbal tea on the kitchen counter and cans of sparkling water in the refrigerator. We’d sip and talk and write and share – and form a supportive writing community.

My aim is to create the same inviting, supportive atmosphere in my online workshops.

We meet via Zoom, where we can see and hear each other. This setting allows a writing community to grow. You will have the opportunity to join the meeting a few minutes before it starts if you like, and to talk among yourselves – just like in my living room. (But you will have to bring your own beverage!)

I’ve limited the enrollment to 12 people. Everyone will be heard; no one will be lost in the crowd.

Are you shy? Don’t worry. Many writers are. I promise you that my workshops are safe spaces for everyone.


When? Where? How Much?

Read about the workshop schedule Here.

The day before each session, I will send you a link to our Zoom meeting room.
(Don’t worry about the technology. You just click on it, and you’re there.)


The workshop will be recorded,

but if you anticipate missing more than two live sessions,

it would be best if you took the workshop at another time.


You will have the opportunity to interact with other participants in real time, to share ideas and ask questions. This is so much better than receiving a recording that somehow you can never find the time to watch. And if everyone is working on their own, well, there’s no workshop.


Workshop Fee


for 12 hours (two hours each week)

in a small, face-to-face group (limit 10 participants).


Who is leading the workshop?

Me!  My name is Pam Sourelis.

I’m a published writer (both fiction and non-fiction) and an experienced writing instructor and workshop leader. I’ve taught for DePaul and Loyola universities in Chicago, the Illinois Writing Project, Ragdale Foundation (a non-profit artists’ community), and the Masters in Writing Program of Southern New Hampshire University. I’ve independently taught writing workshops for adults for over 20 years.

I’m also a writing coach/mentor, a developmental editor, and an animal communicator.

If you like, you can check out my credentials, and testimonials from clients and former students here on my website.


What Former Participants Say about My Workshops

I’ve wanted to write memoirs for my children for almost fifteen years but never knew how to approach such a daunting project. This past fall I joined a memoir workshop with Pam. Under her fine tutelage and a supportive class dynamic, I am learning and writing. Thanks to Pam I have some stories to share as gifts at Christmas this year.
– Catherine C.

Pam’s writing group is the highlight of my week, as it has been for the past five years. When I started, I had a vague idea for a book. And now, with the help of Pam’s impeccable guidance and the feedback of the smart, kind and dedicated writers who comprise the small group, I have finished a draft of a novel and have started another.

Each week, without fail, I take away something new, whether it be about the writing process, story development or about myself as a writer. I consider myself lucky to have found this special group of people.
– Francie A.

I initially was looking for structure for the process of writing memoir.  Pam provided that and the overriding mandate to write on a regular basis. Perhaps the biggest assist Pam shared was that writing memoirs is not linear – like a life story starting at birth up to the present. The big surprise is that there is always something to write about. My list of potential topics keeps getting longer, no matter how much I write.
  – Jim W.



Need to ask a few more questions? You can contact me HERE.


You’ve wanted to do this for a long time.

How about now?


Not  sure about signing up but want to stay in touch?

You can sign up for my weekly, mini-newsletter, “Something to Consider,” HERE.