Online | Nonfiction | Memoir | Workshop

6-Week Online Memoir Workshop

Lyric, prosaic, linear, circular, or square, memoir comes in many forms. It also often concerns itself with transformative or traumatic events, occurrences from the writer’s life experienced as pivotal, and oftentimes painful, either retrospectively or in real-time. But how to render these traumas and transformations? How to identify the form best suited to the content at hand? How to write, but not over-write, the naturally dramatic? How to dramatize the mundane? How to treat non-fictional material with the delicacy, as well as the honesty it deserves?

In this six-week workshop we will attempt to answer these questions through online group discussion, supplemental readings, and, most importantly, active engagement with each other’s work. Writers will leave this class armed with the tools to transform their personal stories, even the most difficult ones, into clear and compelling memoir of any length. Each participant will have the opportunity to workshop twice, as well as meet once with the instructor via phone, Skype, or Gchat to discuss their work in greater detail.


- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on two memoir submissions

- One private conference (via phone, Gchat, or Skype) with the instructor to discuss your writing style, goals, and areas for improvement

- The support of a nurturing community of writers and readers and access to an engaged, passionate, mentor

- Greater familiarity with contemporary memoirs and the various craft elements employed in their writing.

- More confidence as a writer, on and off the page, and more confidence in the shape of the story you wish to tell


Week 1: Intros, scheduling, talk about writing processes, projects, and goals.

Week 2: Form and content, how to decipher the structure your story wishes to take, workshop #1.

Week 3: Inclusion, omission, and time travel; workshop #2.

Week 4: Scene; workshop #3.

Week 5: Description and sentences; workshop #4.

Week 6: Submitting, publishing, applying to MFA/residencies, and general advice; workshop #5.

Allie Rowbottom

Allie Rowbottom is the author of Jell-O Girls, a 2018 New York Times Editor's Choice.  Her essays can be found in Vanity Fair, Salon, The Florida Review, The Rumpus, No Tokens and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from Disquiet, Summer Literary Seminars, Inprint and Tin House. Allie holds a PhD from the University of Houston and an MFA from CalArts and lives in LA.


“What really worked about this workshop was the insight and monitoring of the teacher. Allie was able to ensure everyone felt comfortable sharing their work and also provided really helpful feedback. I’ve never had a teacher give such attention to my work. It was obvious she genuinely cared about our stories and our success. Best workshop ever!”

former student

“Allie is a smart reader, a tough editor, and a brilliant writer, but above all she is a kind and thoughtful teacher. She meets stories and writers where they are and guides them with grace and good humor through the wild and thorny place known as the writing process. She has an eye for what is elegant in prose, what is revealing and fresh, and she is just as bold in nurturing the seeds of what is working as she is in pulling up the weeds of what is not.”

Emily Kieman CalArts teaching colleague

“Allie is a thoughtful, compassionate, and generous educator and person. She empowers her students through a feminist pedagogy that respects difference and encourages formal experimentation and creative risk-taking. As a practiced teacher and editor and a well-read student of literature, Allie is knowledgeable of and open to a wide variety of aesthetics and styles, and she treats her students' and peers' writing with respect and care as she guides it to its full potential.”

Ashley Wurzbacher University of Houston teaching colleague

“The details in Rowbottom’s work render living worlds. This affinity for the perfect description is so vital in nonfiction. If part of the work of the genre is to make the narrator’s life wholly real to a reader, then this writer fully succeeds."

Sasha West author of FAILURE AND I BURY THE BODY

“In JELL-O GIRLS, Allie Rowbottom deftly weaves a story that’s part memoir, part family history, part cultural- and social-analysis. Through it all, the focus is largely on mothers and daughters, women and family, the things that ail us, and the mysterious ways we respond to what we sense but can’t comprehend. In leading us far beyond the story of a famous, seemingly innocuous dessert, Rowbottom encourages us to look beyond the comforting stories we tell ourselves, individually and as a society, about who we claim to be, or think we should be—not out of cynicism, but out of love, and a desire to reach a healthier, more complex, understanding.”


“Allie’s work is both lucid and actively engaging—as a reader I am constantly challenged with wild insights into the writer’s subjective experiences alongside a deep music grounded in her poetic practice.”