Memoir | Nonfiction | Workshop

10-Week Memoir Proposal Generator

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To apply for this class you must submit a nonfiction writing sample (1,000-2500 words) from the memoir you will be developing a proposal for. Writers will be notified of their acceptance on a rolling basis, and no later than September 4th.

Literary agents increasingly prefer to submit memoirs to publishers on proposal (rather than completed manuscript) and this 10-week workshop and craft class is designed to help memoirists develop a strong proposal that is ready for agent attention. This course will be most helpful for those who already have a concrete idea for a book-length work and are eager to begin creating the scaffolding for a formal proposal.

The class will alternate between craft and student workshops. For the first few weeks, we will primarily focus on what goes into a book proposal. Students will study sample proposals that led to book deals and hear from guest speakers from the publishing industry, as they learn the components of a successful proposal. We will also work on refining the ideas for our books, testing our preconceived notions about the limitations and scope of our projects and hopefully expanding our sense of what these ideas might mature into. In this phase of the class, writers will develop a detailed chapter outline for their nonfiction projects, as well as a comprehensive proposal overview; both the outline and overview will be submitted to the group for peer and instructor feedback.

In the second phase of the class, writers will have the opportunity to submit a sample chapter or chapters (6,000-8,000 words) for workshop. These submissions will be workshopped as well, with special attention paid to how sample material will fit into the larger framework of the proposal and articulate its goals, as well as what the submissions reveal about the writer’s style, mission, and their book’s narrative arc.

Writers will graduate this class with a thorough understanding of what a persuasive book proposal looks like, and several components of their own book proposal written and workshopped, including sample chapters.

Students in this class will be invited to a private fall reception with leading literary agents. 


- Writers will write and workshop: 1) one sample chapter (or 6,000-8,000 words) of their memoir (fine if sample material has been drafted prior to the start of the course); 2) a comprehensive memoir proposal overview; and 3) a detailed chapter outline for their memoir.

- In addition to in-line comments on each submission, writers will receive a detailed editorial letter from the instructor at the end of both of their workshops, summing up thoughts and offering suggestions for how to improve the work moving forward.

- Thorough feedback on every submission from a motivated group of peers.

- A more complete understanding of what goes into a nonfiction proposal, and how to craft your own.

- Clear and concrete information about the publishing industry and how to navigate it as an aspiring writer.


Week 1: Overview of publishing industry and what sells memoir in a competitive market

Week 2: What goes into a book proposal? Breaking down the structure

Week 3: Writing your proposal overview, with guest speaker

Week 4: Chapter outlines & Sample chapter(s)

Week 5: Publicity, Marketing, and Platform, with guest speaker

Week 6: Workshop: proposal overview & chapter outline

Week 7: Workshop: proposal overview & chapter outline

Week 8: Workshop: sample chapters

Week 9: Workshop: sample chapters

Week 10: Taking the next steps toward publication

Please note that the course overview is just an outline, and is subject to change prior to the class start date.

*no class on October 8th or November 12th

Leigh Stein

Leigh Stein is the author of four books, including the satirical novel Self Care, forthcoming from Penguin in 2020, and the memoir Land of Enchantment. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, ELLE, Allure, BuzzFeed, Slate, and Poets & Writers


"Leigh Stein’s LAND OF ENCHANTMENT is a thoughtful and compelling elegy to a troubled man, a broken love, and a broken dream of the west. It’s about loss, wonder, and the vexed grip of attachment. It grieves by way of admitting complexity—by answering the late-night knock of unfinished business—and its spell is immersive: Once I’d picked it up, I did not set it down again until I’d finished it."

Leslie Jamison NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of THE EMPATHY EXAMS

"One of the most compelling memoirs I’ve ever read. A mesmerizing requiem on loss and love, Stein’s intelligent ode to adolescent obsession is unflinching in its honest portrayal of what it means to give ourselves over to the dark side of love. This is a glittering gem of a book."

Claire Bidwell Smith author of THE RULES OF INHERITANCE

"Leigh Stein is proof that we write because we must. And when you answer that call, Leigh helps the words arrive and find the best place on the page. You learn to challenge yourself, through image, metaphor, and all the tools in Leigh’s bag until the work is done."

Cynthia Manick author of BLUE HALLELUJAHS

"Leigh is such a wonderful teacher. She considered the work of each student so carefully and drew on her incredible editing skills as well as her vast knowledge of multiple writing fields and styles to provide perceptive, detailed feedback and advice specific to each of us. In the energizing environment of her class, we were encouraged to learn from each other, to think of our work in the context of the larger literary community, to aim high and to get there. Leigh’s remarkable accomplishments are matched only by her generosity. I feel very lucky to have taken a class from her."

former student

"Not only is Leigh a sympathetic reader, an excellent and super fast editor, but she also has great ideas about where your work could find a good home and shine there. She is happy to give you the benefit of her vast contemporary reading and enormous network of fellow writers. I learned more from her in 9 months than from all my previous teachers. I only wish I could take more classes from her. See you in class?"

former student