Introduction and course Goals

Our greatest desire, greater even than the desire for happiness, Is that our lives mean something. This desire for meaning is the originating impulse of story.

~ Daniel Taylor ~


I believe that everyone’s lives, however “ordinary,” are filled with meaningful experiences that speak to universal human experience and are therefore interesting to other people. This course, “From Memories to Memoirs: Leaving a Legacy of Story,” is based on Bill Roorbach’s book, Writing Life Stories and is designed to help students convert memories into compelling narrative prose.

Using a variety of memory-triggering and writing exercises, we will explore the stories that our memories have to tell and learn writing techniques to help tell them most effectively.

Note: If you do not yet have a copy of the book, you’ll want to get it before you start the class. I’ve provided a link to the Amazon store (above), but it is also available at most local bookstores and libraries.

Course Goals

  1. Learn techniques to trigger memories and challenge their limits.
  2. Explore and discuss the nature of memory.
  3. Explore how different types of research can enhance memories and writing about them.
  4. Write scenes that incorporate elements of creative writing while remaining true to the remembered facts.
  5. Understand the differences between scene, summary, and exposition and when to use them.
  6. Learn how to develop true-to-life characters on the page.
  7. At a minimum, complete a first draft of a 1,500-2,000 word memoir or narrative essay.

How it Works

Each week, I’ll provide a schedule of reading, discussion questions, and exercises for you to explore. I will also post a PDF version of each week’s lesson on the bottom of page 1 of that week’s unit, so you can download the materials and work offline.

You will interact with other students and me by posting discussion comments via the private comments areas for this class. Completed exercises may be posted in the body of forum messages or as attachments to messages, depending upon the exercises and your preferences.

You will get the most out of this course if you spend 30-45 minutes per day on the reading and writing exercises (rather than several hours all at once). Time spent responding and/or interacting with other students online is additional. If you want to complete one unit each week, you can expect to spend a minimum of five hours per week.


Along with each lesson, I'll ask some questions and invite you to share your writing as well as your experiences of the writing activities. Again, how much or little you choose to share is completely up to you. We can learn a lot from each other and interacting with others in the class may enhance your learning process, so I do encourage you to read and respond to others as you are able.

Next Up

Introduce yourself in the next lesson. It's also a good place to ask any questions you have about the course or course format.

Complete and Continue