Introduction to Memoir Writing

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Event Category

Arts & DIY

Note: This is a multi-session event series. By purchasing the event package, you acknowledge that you can attend all event dates included below.
Event Overview

This 4-part memoir-writing workshop is designed for the beginning to advanced writer. You don't need any experience to complete this course; but if you are experienced, neither will you feel bored or unchallenged. Each module centers around a new and exciting component of memoir writing. 

Thursdays | 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Bring a sack lunch.

Coffee, water, dark chocolate, and all handouts provided.


Testimonial from previous class attendee: "I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much the writing workshops have meant to me. It is difficult to express their value as I have been searching for a way forward for many years. Thanks for your always-to-the-point comments and for creating a supportive atmosphere in which one can thrive. I now look at the stacks of books, records, boxes of photographs, previous family research, family trees, and the like with less puzzlement and more professional enlightenment. With sincere gratitude..." R.T.


Module One: Contemporary Memoir Writing | Thursday, October 11, 2018

To contribute to the larger literary conversation, you first have to know what the wider world is talking about. What does memoir writing look like today? What types of stories become best sellers and why? How have these authors structured their stories to greatest effect?

We’ll survey two popular memoirs written in the past five years, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, isolate their major themes, explore their subtext, and map their narrative arcs—so that you can then apply the same techniques to your memoir.

  • One-hour lecture/discussion facilitated by Jess Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories

  • 30-minute guest speaker: bestselling Texas memoirist Juli Berwald

  • One-hour in-class exercise: writing/workshopping scenes inspired by the books we’ve just studied

Juli Berwald is the author of the bestselling memoir/science mashup Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone (Penguin/Random House 2017). Marine invertebrates stole her heart on her first snorkel in the Red Sea during college. Hoping to study the ocean forever, Juli spent seven years building mathematical algorithms to interpret satellite imagery of the ocean, receiving a Ph.D. in ocean science. Her husband stole her heart next, and she drifted away from the ocean to Austin, Texas to be with him. Landlocked, she wrote textbooks and popular science articles for National Geographic MagazineThe New York TimesNature, and before the story of jellyfish led her back to the sea.


Module Two: Your Life Story | Thursday, October 18, 2018

The best memoirs don't begin on the day you were born—but in the middle of the action, with a description of the inciting incident. In this class we'll break down the desire line: the through-line that determines where your story begins and ends, and which turns everything in-between into one cohesive and engaging narrative.

Additional topics include: genealogical and historical research tips and resources.

  • One-hour lecture/discussion facilitated by Jess Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories

  • 30-minute guest speaker: Texas State Library & Archives Commission

  • One-hour in-class exercise: Mapping your desire line, then writing/workshopping the inciting incident.

Research specialists Richard Gilreath (Reference Archivist) and Taylor Fox (Reference Librarian) will provide “Research 101” with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and give glimpses into historical treasures available.


Module Three: Material Conservation | Thursday, October 25, 2018

Once the words are written, how can you make sure they stand the test of time? What recording equipment and word-processing softwares are the most user-friendly and immune to technological obsolescence? (R.I.P cassette tapes.) If you want to include photos, letters, and documents, what's the best way to digitize them?

You'll also learn how to preserve the original artifacts using museum-grade tools available to the public at large.

  • One-hour lecture/discussion facilitated by Jess Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories

  • 30-minute guest speaker: Mike O’Krent of Life Stories Alive

  • One-hour in-class exercise: Group workshop (bring the scenes you’ve been working on)

Mike O’Krent is the founder of LifeStories Alive, LLC, and specializes in making personal history videos for families. In a life-changing experience, from 1996 through 2000, Mike interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, now the USC Shoah Foundation. It was through that experience he discovered the significance and technique of recording the life stories of loved ones. Since founding the business in 2006, LifeStories Alive has filmed legacy videos for hundreds of client families and non-profit organizations.


Module Four: Editing, Layout, and Self-Publication | Thursday, November 1, 2018

Congrats! You've completed a rough draft of your memoir. Now it’s time to clean it up. Many writers choose to hire a professional editor, but if you want to do it yourself, there are a couple things to look for. The way you lay out your book before publication will also influence its overall tone and presentation, so Jess will highlight a few important considerations.

Then, you'll get all your questions about self-publishing in Austin answered by the Director of Custom Publishing at Forty Acres Press.

  • One-hour lecture/discussion facilitated by Jess Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories

  • 30-minute guest speaker: Brandon Bross of Forty Acres Press

  • One-hour in-class exercise: Brainstorming cover designs and sharing marketing resources.

Brandon Bross is the Director of Custom Publishing at Forty Acres Press. Forty Acres Press (named for the original 40 acres granted for the University of Texas campus), specializes in printing academic works that support the University's educational mission. They also work with educators, writers, and hobbyists in Central Texas to make published works available for distribution and purchase.



All ticket sales are final. However, if you can't make class for any reason, feel free to transfer the ticket's value to a friend. Simply email Jess at to let her know the name of the person attending in your stead.

What to Bring

Notebook and pen; sack lunch

Minimum age

All ages welcome

What's Provided

Handouts, coffee, dark chocolate

Cancellation Policy

There are currently no upcoming dates scheduled for this Dabble. Log in to an account message the host or add to your bucket list to be automatically notified when new dates are posted.


Jess Hagemann is an award-winning author and accomplished biographer. She owns and operates a ghostwriting business in Austin called Cider Spoon Stories, through which she helps seniors, veterans, small business owners, and others write the books they've always wanted to.

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