Cat offers workshops on writing memoir, the personal essay, and creative nonfiction. Please contact her through this website if interested in having Cat provide one of her popular writing workshops.

Memories to Memoir: How to Write Your Life Stories

We all have fascinating stories to tell about our lives, and it all begins with our memories. In this workshop, I’ll show you how to dig deep for those memories to help you learn who you are and how you survived and lived. While crafting these short pieces, you’ll tease out themes and ideas to eventually shape your writing into larger pieces or a book. Be prepared to explore your life stories to discover how intriguing and engaging they are. Writing prompts, examples, tips and techniques will be offered so you can begin this new journey.  

Scene and Reflection

Scene and reflection are common elements to use in writing memoir. The scene is where you show what happened during an event and the reflection is where you think about that event and what it meant to you. Such scenes are planted throughout a memoir to help propel the story forward and to help the reader understand what the event meant to you. Scene and reflection are sometimes called the “heart” of a memoir.

Now What? . . . How do I continue and deepen my memoir?

If you’ve begun a memoir, this is a fair question that most of us have to ask ourselves. We capture some stories, but what do we have? Whether you want to continue one piece or a book, the question is valuable to ask and to discover the answer. There are ways . . .

Journey from Night into Day: Beginning, Continuing and Deepening Your Memoir

Many know how to begin a memoir, but sometimes we ask ourselves what comes next? How do we continue? We keep writing, but eventually we want to know how to deepen the story so that we recognize themes, ideas, and universality to enrich our own life story and to reach out to our readers. In this workshop, attendees will write to prompts to begin the journey, and then further an idea to the next level of development and then finally finding within the piece a spark of light that allows us to follow it home. 

Writing Family and Personal Stories

We now know that stories are how we understand events that happen to us; stories promote our growth as humans by helping us appreciate where we’ve been, who we are, and maybe where we’re headed; stories can help us not only understand our positions within our families, but also our position in the world. Sometimes, stories can heal.

In this workshop, our focus will be to understand what stories are, how they’re constructed and their function in our lives. We will read selected pieces to use as models to write our own stories and that of our families.

WORK! How to Think and Write about the Jobs/Work that Define our Lives

Work takes up a significant portion of our lives. The work that we do plays a role in how we define ourselves and our own personal happiness. It’s something that we often don’t stop to think about deeply. Here’s our chance! In this workshop, we’ll think about and write about work, what it means to us, to others, how it defines us, sometimes destroys us, makes us stronger and happier. What does it mean to work all our lives or just some of it? What kind of work really helps us be safe and secure? What does work mean to you?

Jiffy Quick Mini Memoirs of Great Meaning

At the end of the day, if we think back upon what happened, many mini moments pop up that we can write about. From these small moments, the possibility exists to create memoirs short or long. Another way to think of it is: meaningful moments to build a memoir.

Writing the Hard Stuff: Gutsy Memoir and Personal Essay

It’s common for authors to write about difficult subjects in their memoirs and they’ve learned how to delicately, but truthfully, write about tough situations and people. In this workshop, we will explore how to write the hard stuff with respect, dignity, and integrity. Be prepared to write those hard times in your life so that they become revelations, moments of growth, and turning points in your life and writing. 

Novelistic Techniques in Memoir

While many writers eagerly plunge into novel drafts, memoir writers can take heart. The best memoirs read like fiction; that is, the fictional techniques of scene, dialog, sensory detail, narrative, and character development all have their places in good memoir. In this workshop, we’ll work on short memoir pieces practicing fictional elements to create standout pieces of personal story. Examples and exercises will be provided. Be prepared to write!

Smile!: Using Photographs to Write Memoir

Photographs are a great way to write about your life or the lives of others. Studying photos can spark creative and innovative responses. In this workshop, attendees may use a photograph of their own—a print copy or one from an I-phone/I-Pad—or a photo of the teacher’s, to learn how to respond to and write about images. Attendees will be encouraged to consider photos in ways they may never have considered to open up the creative mind and discover more of those “thousand” words in each photograph.

What kind of photograph? Any will do, but often the best kind is one of several people in a particular stetting, or an individual in a familiar or unfamiliar place, photos that depict action, and travel photos, or any time period. Black and white or color, old or new will all work as great prompts for writing.

To Thine Own Selfie Be True

It’s who we are now: the self-referenced, the well-documented, well, self. We take photos with our phones at every instant, whether anything’s happening or not. So, why not make it a reason to write about yourself or something else in the photo—the possibilities are endless and you’ll be prompted with plenty of ideas. It’s a good time to describe, to observe, to create a story, to polish a thought, to let yourself behave in some new way, to imagine. Come to this class for fun and for expression and to shape a story of, what else! The self. (No smart phone? Not to worry—we’ll help you out with that).