Nonfiction | Master Class

2-Week Memoir Master Class: From Idea to Proposal

“Vivian Lee is the best editor a writer could wish for.” - Matthew Salesses, author of The Hundred-Year Flood

In this two week intensive master class, we will shape your idea into a proposal and discuss what an editor/agent looks for in a good memoir. This course will be half craft-focused, half business-focused.

Before your first session, students will bring a scene they are working on and a “thesis statement” of sorts of what they would like their memoir to be about.

In our first session, we will be focusing on scene-building, character development, and finding your voice and lens. We will be workshopping your scenes, which will become part of the writing sample of a proposal you would send to an agent. We will end the session looking at real-life examples of nonfiction proposals from the industry.

Students will submit their proposals via email one week later and we will discuss it in our final session.

In this second session, we will discuss the business side of getting your memoir ready for an agent or editor and look at how to write a strong proposal. We will look and workshop each proposal by talking about comps and finessing your “thesis”.


- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on scene/proposal submission

- One private conference (via phone) with the instructor to discuss your writing style, goals, and areas for improvement after the two-week course

- Gain greater confidence on structuring a memoir proposal to have it agent-ready

- A behind-the-curtain look at the publishing industry

- Everyone has a story to tell. This master class will make sure your story stands out.


Week 1: Intros, writing goals, workshopping scenes, building out a proposal

[Before Week 2, Vivian will read proposals]

Week 2: Workshopping proposal, Q&A on pitching, queries, agents, publishing advice, etc. 

Vivian Lee

Vivian Lee is an editor at Little A, Amazon Publishing's literary fiction and narrative nonfiction imprint. Her list includes Matthew Salesses' The Hundred-Year Flood (A Millions Most Anticipated Book of 2015), Viet Dinh's After Disasters (PEN/Faulkner Finalist), and Kimberly Rae Miller's Beautiful Bodies: A Memoir (Booklist, Starred review and Best of the Month in People, New York Post, Elle Magazine, PureWow). She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a BA in Literary Journalism and from the New School University in New York with a MFA in Creative Writing (Non-Fiction).


“Ms. Lee should have been a gemcutter in Antwerp, because she was able to take my rough-hewn manuscript and help me polish it into a multi-faceted gem of clarity and beauty.”

Viet Dinh author of AFTER DISASTERS

“Vivian has the professionalism, vision, kindness, and generosity of an editor who understands nonfiction work and nonfiction writers. She knows that our content is as fragile as us, but she also knows that we are more powerful than we admit or let on, and so she never shies from opportunities to challenge or inspire. She directs, but doesn't hand-hold. Asks, but never demands. Balanced in all her ways, there's nothing more I could ask from a memoir editor.”

Cinelle Barnes author of MONSOON MANSION

“Vivian Lee is the kind of editor every writer hopes to have in his or her corner. She cares deeply about the work, both respecting your voice as an author while meticulously addressing the areas of your work that need strengthening. I will always be thankful for her keen insights (and the very detailed diagram she created) for how to restructure my memoir and weave two competing storylines together in a way that flowed seamlessly in the end—it was all her.”

Kimberly Rae Miller author of COMING CLEAN and BEAUTIFUL BODIES

“Vivian Lee is the best editor a writer could wish for. Her editorial suggestions reveal the potential already in the work and encourage questions of the manuscript and its author. A true advocate and hero in publishing, Vivian understands her writers and their audiences, and edits with generosity and vision.”

Matthew Salesses author of THE HUNDRED-YEAR FLOOD

“In my forty-year career as a published author, I’ve had many editors, but none that I have been happier with than Ms. Lee. A writer herself, she is wonderfully sensitive to matters of style and structure and has helped me enormously in shaping, sharpening, and in all ways improving the manuscripts I’ve turned in to her. In addition to her sophisticated understanding of exactly what makes a piece of narrative nonfiction work, she has an exceptional ability to communicate her insights. A thoroughgoing professional, she is also a warm and engaging personality. I have absolute confidence that she’ll be a terrific instructor.”

Harold Schechter author of HELL'S PRINCESS, MAN-EATER, and THE MAD SCULPTOR