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Biography, Autobiography, and Ghostwriting
16 March at 20:00 – 22:00 EDT
The basic tools of biography and autobiography are the same, and this workshop will show how you can write any life in a meaningful and engaging way.
The first challenge is learning how to put lives in a larger context. This means researching the times and places the subject lived in, then weaving their individual narratives with all of their complex personal relationships, into the larger world. We will learn how to do this with the use of the illuminating details that bring people and places to life.
We will also look at the sub-category of ghostwriting, where you are writing a first-person biography and, in a sense, become the person you are writing for, internalizing their thoughts and feelings as you use all of the tools at your disposal to tell their story as if was your own.
Ghostwriting also happens to be a field where a writer can make a decent living in Canada, and at the end of the course, we will look at the business side and what goes into a ghostwriting contract.
One thing you soon discover in writing biographies of any kind, including ghosting an autobiography, is the truth of the cliché that everyone has a book in them. At least in the sense that all of our stories—following our lives along the trajectories of time and space and meeting and beating challenges—are worth telling. As a writer you discover that it is a privilege to write someone else’s life.
Ideally, you will be working on biographical or autobiographical material of your own in the class, but this is not necessary. If you are working on a text now or if you are simply planning one for the future, I look forward to meeting you in the spring of 2023 and exploring the writing of lives together.
Peter McFarlane has written 4 nonfiction books of his own and five ghostwritten books, as well as more than 100 newspaper and magazine features. He has specialized in Indigenous history and politics and has worked on several CBC radio programs as a researcher and on-air contributor. He is currently completing another ghostwritten book and a new work of his own nonfiction.