Nonfiction | Master Class

Nonfiction Bootcamp: Writing for Performance Using the Physical Imagination

A one-day course for writers of nonfiction who are looking to explore new, productive way access the primary arc and details of story. This writing approach invites memoir writers to awaken and enliven memory through contact with the senses; we’ll rely on the body as a portal to both the events of the past and the many imaginative acts necessary to shape events into a cogent, compelling story. Though a combination of active, physical exercises and focused writing prompts, each student will unearth and transcribe key moments within a particular memory or narrative event they are working to capture. We will also discuss the art of order — how and when to reveal important information to a reader. Lastly, this class will translate, for the page, some of the most important actions of dramatic stage writing: the power of compression, resurgent image, transmittal of sensory experience and more.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Note, this is not a performance class, no acting background is necessary to partake in this safe and nonjudgmental class environment.


- Writing produced in class—in response to prompts and activities—that can act as scaffolding or cornerstone for the most significant moments within memoir.

- Practical (sometimes even physical) approaches for transcending the sense of being “stuck” on unable to write about moments of particular importance.

- Membership in a community of memoirists working hone skills for the many tricky issues that arise in crafting personal material. 

Heather Harpham

Heather Harpham is a writer, teacher and physical theater performer. Her memoirHappiness will be released in August and has been selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Series. Her writing for the stage includes six solo plays, the most recent of which, Happiness and BURNING, have toured nationally and been produced internationally. Harpham's work has been recognized with the Brenda Ueland Prose Prize, a Marin Arts Council Independent Artist Grant and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Harpham teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and SUNY Purchase.


"Recently, memoirs by such dazzling writers as Ann Patchett and Dani Shapiro have explored and illuminated happiness: what it means, how we find it, and how hard won it can sometimes be. Now add Heather Harpham and HAPPINESS to this stellar company. With intelligence and lyricism and compassion, Harpham gives us her story of the rocky road that sometimes leads right where you want it to."


"An extraordinary and bewitching book, HAPPINESS has staked a claim among the most beautiful and moving portraits of parenthood and partnership."

Susan Cheever bestselling author of TREETOPS: A MEMOIR and HOME BEFORE DARK

"At first glance, HAPPINESS is a wry, honest, captivating story about parenting a sick child and that would be enough. But it turns out that Harpham is up to something even more interesting here, exploring the complexities of love. Told with abundant charm and insight, this book is a beautifully drawn portrait of one family—its comforts, disappointments and, on the very best days, moments of grace."

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney bestselling author of THE NEST

"Heather is open to her students, passionate and brilliant. She radiates energy and fosters students' growth as creative artists and writer/thinkers. She teaches by example and fills the room with grace, humor and attentiveness."

Ara Fitzgerald Director, Dance and Theater Department, Manhattanville College

"Heather's creative intelligence shines through in the classroom; her instruction is accessible yet challenging, allowing for meaningful play and explosive discovery."

Hannah Fox Artistic Director, Big Apple Playback Theatre

"Heather brings a delicate blend of play and rigor that inspire participants to take risks, explore the edges of their own abilities, and trust each other in new ways."

Holly Cate Professor of Acting, Muhlenberg College