Affiliate Program

Writing Our Lives: The Expanding Universe of Memoir Writing

Terrie Leigh Relf, M.A.

Course ID: LC017

Current Openings: Yes

Memoir writing is not just about the recording of personal stories to pass on to the proverbial “younger” generation. There’s also more to it than sharing life’s challenges as an example of how to triumph over adversity or to otherwise inspire people in similar circumstances.

Since it’s incredibly difficult to remain totally objective (especially with our own lives), and since many details are temporarily “misplaced”, much of memoir writing is embellished, or “re-created”, in order to tell a “better” story. This often brings it into the realm of creative non-fiction, which is a close cousin to fictional writing. There’s a fine line between the two, even when we’re being honest.

Since many fiction writers use personal experiences, observations, and insights as catalysts for their fiction, don’t be surprised if you discover you “prefer” this to “divulging all” about your personal life. There are quite a few novels and movies “based on real people and real events” that have that extra special something because we know—or believe—that they really happened. . .more or less. Belief is often suspended because these stories have that “ring of truth”. Does it really matter that they happened “just like that”? Isn’t it the message that’s more important?

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Course Type:

Intensive writing, instructor review, workshopping.


As an instructor, my objective is to facilitate the learner's process by assisting them with their own goals and objectives. Whether they're working on a series of interconnected "essays," a book-length manuscript, or would like to focus on a series of unique events, this course can be molded to fit a variety of goals.

Learner Prerequisites

Basic fiction writing skills as well as the desire to explore and express personal stories.

Start Date Ongoing, open enrollment.
Duration 6 weeks.
Limit 8 students.
Class Materials To be provided via email attachments and/or within the body of an email.
Cost $300
Tutorial Option Additional mentoring and critiquing is available from the instructor. The fee is $45 per hour. Please contact [email protected] to register.

Course Outline

Weekly assignments and exercises, including revision strategies. Learners will post work to e-mail group for work-shopping.

Lesson 1: The Personal Essay

Lesson 2: Creative Non-Fiction

Lesson 3: Fictionalizing Your Life

Lesson 4: The Vignette

Lesson 5: The Travel Log

Lesson 6: Exploring Markets

Instructor Bio

Terrie Leigh Relf, M.A. has a B.A. in Buddhist Studies/Buddhist and Western Psychology from Naropa Institute, and an M.A. in English, with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Writing, from San Diego State University. For over ten years, she has been a writing instructor, workshop facilitator and writing coach. A versatile copy editor and content provider, she has worked on a variety of manuscripts in the areas of Art and Entertainment, Business, Education, Personal Growth and Spiritual Development, Social Commentary, Sports Medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The former poetry editor and "Poet's Workshop" columnist for and WORD San, she is currently the "deputy" poetry editor for NFG-writing with attitude, and the editor for "FireWeed", MindFire's literary newsletter, and a staff writer for Writer OnLine. She also pens the monthly "Mistress of Rhetoric" column for The Espresso, an independent newspaper for café society.

With over 300 publishing credits, Relf's short stories, articles, columns, and poetry have appeared in a variety of genre and non-genre publications, both on and off-line. She has published four chapbooks: Lap Danced by the Muse (writersmonthly, 2002), Metro Madness (lucy westenra ebooks, 2003), The Ice Queen, an illustrated story book (Sam's Dot Publishing, 2003), and Jupiter's Eye (Sam's Dot Publishing, 2004).

Relf, a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, was recently nominated for a James B. Baker award for her article, "Science Fiction Zips and Zip Rengays" (Scifaikuest, a Sam's Dot Publication), as well as for two Preditors & Editors Award Categories: Best Poem for "A Poet on Board" (Illumen, a Sam's Dot Publication), and for Best Poet.

You may contact her at [email protected], or by phone: 619-234-0763.