This workshop on memoir is designed for people who already have some experience of workshop settings and would like to embark or have already begun to embark on a memoir project of their own

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Time: 18:00 to 20:00

Duration: 21 March, 2023

Location: QWF Office—1200 Atwater Avenue, Room 3, Westmount, QC View map


APPLICATIONS ARE CLOSED FOR THIS WORKSHOP. This page is for those who received an official acceptance email from QWF to confirm their spots. Please note that any orders not from accepted participants will be cancelled.

Memoir, a sub-specialty of autobiography, is a hugely popular form of personal writing. Whereas autobiography is the preserve of celebrities and public figures, memoir usually highlights one period or theme from the life of an ordinary individual, someone with little or no claim to fame. Its special currency is the universality of human experience; its value is what may be learned from a so-called ordinary person.

This workshop on memoir is designed for people who already have some experience of workshop settings and would like to embark or have already begun to embark on a memoir project of their own. Don’t be daunted by the “intermediate” label: you need not necessarily be working on a book-length narrative. If you’re open to learning from a professional practitioner of the genre as well as from your peers, you will almost certainly find this workshop helpful and motivating.

As in any workshop, there is a great emphasis on student input. Participants will not only be presenting their own work to the group but will also be expected to give careful reading of each other’s pieces in order to provide vital critical feedback. This element of the program is equally important to the writing. About half of each session will be devoted to in-class exercises and discussion of selected material from the text named below. The rest of the time will be spent discussing participants’ submissions.

The text for the course is This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, a work that operates both as a how-to book on writing and as an exemplary series of linked memoirs/personal essays. I expect you to have purchased it ahead of time and to come to the first session prepared to discuss “Nonfiction, an Introduction,” and “How to Read a Christmas Story,” the first two chapters. 

I also encourage participants to buy my Bible of clear writing: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, to which I refer all the time.

To apply, please send an email with the following components to no later than February 24, 2022:

1)      a 3-5-page double-spaced writing sample (non-fiction or fiction) that you feel is representative of your abilities.

2)      a paragraph introducing yourself and your writing history.

 The subject line of the message should read “For Elaine Kalman Naves.”

QWF will notify you whether you’ve been accepted into the workshop the week of March 7. No payment is required to apply, but those who get accepted would pay $195 (regular)/$170 (member)/$98 (student) once the results have been announced.

Important Note: This workshop will start online. If conditions continue to improve, it may be possible to switch to a hybrid delivery system later this spring if the workshop leader and participants wish to do so.

Workshop leader

Credit: Studio Iris

Elaine Kalman Naves is a long-time literary journalist and the author of seven non-fiction titles, and of a novel.  She is a two-time recipient of the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction, the winner of two Canadian Jewish Book Awards, and of a Canadian Literary Award for Personal Essay. Her memoir Journey to Vaja: Reconstructing the World of a Hungarian-Jewish Family has been made into a documentary film. Elaine’s novel, The Book of Faith, was nominated for the Leacock Prize for Humour. She has led workshops at the QWF since their inception in 1998.  


Registration for this workshop is now closed.

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