We will investigate a variety of forms of personal writing with the goal of transforming our lives into compellingly honest stories.

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Time: 20:00 to 22:00

Duration: 10 March, 2023

Location: Atwater Library and Computer Centre—1200 Atwater Avenue, Westmount, Quebec View map


Memoir is the art of inventing the truth.
– William Zinsser

All are welcome. Limited to 12 participants.

Philip Roth once expressed the wish that his fiction might possess the indefinable magic of reality. “If only I could invent as presumptuously as life,” he said. This aspiration will be at the heart of this workshop. We will investigate a variety of forms of personal writing with the goal of transforming our lives into compellingly honest stories. 

While there will undoubtedly be some lecturing by me as well as some discussion of class handouts, this is, first and foremost, a writing workshop. Priority will be given to a hands-on discussion of the work of the participants. There will be assignments, but participants will also be encouraged to present manuscripts they deem appropriate. For the sake of time and efficiency, limits will be put on the length of the manuscripts discussed.

Finally, if we begin with the assumption—a safe one, I’m convinced—that everyone has a story to tell, the challenge becomes to find that story and to find the best way to tell it and make it interesting to others. That said, each participant will be encouraged to tell their own stories in the way best suited to them.

Some issues covered will include:

  • defining personal writing – from creative non-fiction to the personal essay to autobiographical fiction
  • the strategic “I”
  • time travelling through memory
  • life as raw material or my “theory of stuff”
  • the art of storytelling
  • style and voice: or the art of showing off
  • humour and sentiment
  • writing as thinking or revise, revise, revise
  • marketing your work or the rule of three

Workshop leader

Joel Yanofsky has written six books and two plays. He’s a two-time winner of The QWF Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction, for Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind (2003, Red Deer Press) and Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism (2011, Penguin). Bad Animals was also short-listed for the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction and long-listed for The Charles Taylor Prize. He’s written for numerous newspapers and magazines. He’s a two-time winner of the National Magazine Award. He’s worked in a wide variety of genres—including the novel, memoir, personal essay, literary criticism, and creative nonfiction.


Registration for this workshop is now closed.

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