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2015 Summer Writing Retreat - "The Art of Memoir: Discovering and Deepening Your Story" with Donna M. Johnson

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Sul Ross State University
Alpine, TX 79832

7/19/2015 to 7/23/2015 From 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Retreat Orientation to be held Saturday, July 18, at 6 pm -- Details will be shared with participants in advance of the retreat's start date.

with special guest instructor Kirk Wilson

NOTE: This class is sold out.
If you wish to be put on a waiting list, please call us at 512-499-8914. We also suggest that you consider our nonfiction class taught by Michael Hall. For information, visit the class page here.


$329 for Members (Please log in for member pricing)

$379 Non-Members

Please read both the credit card handling fee information and the refund policy at the bottom of this page before purchasing a ticket.

"This was the best writing workshop I have ever attended."

-- 2013 Summer Writing Retreat Attendee on Donna Johnson's Class

The task of the memoirist is to sift through memory to uncover the hidden patterns that shape a life. Or as one writer put it: It’s a way to figure out who you used to be and how you got to be who you are now. The Art of Memoir focuses on constructing and deepening personal narrative through the use of persona, character, voice and other elements of creative nonfiction. Experienced and beginning writers will find a safe, nurturing environment that encourages intimacy and risk taking.

Learning is facilitated through morning classroom instruction, outside reading, and opportunities for one-on-one consultations. Two afternoon workshops (led by the two instructors) will be offered for students who elect to participate and have submitted materials prior to June 15 (details on this afternoon workshop and the materials submission guidelines will be emailed to all class registrants).  Workshop participants will be expected to read and offer written comments on the work of fellow students prior to the start of the retreat.  If you choose not to participate in the afternoon workshops that free time will be yours to write or explore.

Class Takeaways Will Include

• Knowledge of the fundamental elements of memoir and creative nonfiction

• Methods for incorporating showing and telling into the narrative

• An understanding of story structures

• How to create scenes

• How to find audiences for your work

Who Should Attend

• Writers with memoirs in progress and those who are just beginning

• Writers with completed manuscripts looking for ways to deepen the story

• Fiction writers beginning a memoir or creative nonfiction project

• Those working on memoir as a family project

Requirements: Please bring any manuscripts, chapters, outlines or fragments of memoir you may be working on. The instructors will work with the group as a whole during the morning class sessions and afternoon workshops and, as time allows, with participants individually as needed. Peer editing and feedback will also be a part of the optional afternoon workshop, additional details will be provided to all class registrants.

About the Instructor: Donna M. Johnson is the author of Holy Ghost Girl, a critically acclaimed memoir deemed “enthralling” by the New York Times and “compulsively readable” by Texas Monthly. Oprah named the book to her Memoirs We Love list twice. Holy Ghost Girl won the Mayborn Creative Nonfiction Prize and took top honors at the Books for a Better Life Awards in Manhattan.Donna’s work had been collected in several anthologies. She has written about religion, family and culture for Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Shambhala Sun, the Psychology Today blog, the Dallas Morning News, and other publications.

About the Guest Instructor: Kirk Wilson’s memoir/essay A Brief and Necessary Madness was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013. Kirk writes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. His work has recently appeared in Confrontation, Eclipse, Folly, The Langdon Review, Meridian, Midway Journal, The New Guard Literary Review, River Teeth, Soundings East, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and The Wordstock 10 anthology. A chapbook of poetry, The Early Word, was published by Burning Deck press. Kirk’s nonfiction book Unsolved, an investigation into ten high profile murders, has been published in six editions in the US and UK. Kirk has studied with Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and Animal Crackers, and Editor of One Story magazine. Karen Russell has called Kirk “a rare talent with a gloriously expansive view.” Visit Kirk at

Note: All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee (this fee can be avoided by mailing in a check for registration with this form).


(Please read this refund policy closely before registering for the 2015 Summer Writing Retreat; no exceptions will be made):

Through May 1, 2015: 100% refund available.
May 2, 2015 - May 31, 2015: 50% refund available.

All cancellations will incur a $50 cancellation fee.

After May 31, 2015: No refunds will be made, but registrants can transfer their registration to another person as long as advance notice is given to the Writers' League of Texas. If you wish to transfer your registration, please call the WLT at 512-499-8914.

Writers' League of Texas classes and workshops are funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts - Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to