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Who is this program for?

The Memoir Writing Project is designed for advanced writers. This is a broad and malleable description. However, here are some questions for consideration:

For the participant:

  • How much time have I spent reading and writing? If you’re considering this course, you ought to have spent countless hours working on your craft, which includes both reading and writing. Memoirs take many shapes, so a participant should be open to the varied approaches available. The best qualified candidates will likely have advanced command of sentences and paragraphs and have written lengthy projects before. HOWEVER, there are those rare exceptions of writers who have not spent years honing their craft who would still qualify for this course. If you have questions about your ability, please contact the teaching artist or The Loft for advice.

  • How committed am I to this idea? By far and away the most important quality of the prospective student is this: How hard are you willing to work? If the answer to this question is: As hard as I have to in order to finish a memoir in the next year, then you’re probably the right candidate for the course.

General program questions and answers:

  • How will the variances in abilities in the class be accounted for? What if I’m by far the best or worst writer to sign up, won’t that put me at an advantage or disadvantage? As in any writing endeavor or workshop environment, there are going to be students who are further advanced or more naturally gifted than others. This is inevitable. But one of the great gifts of the workshop environment is that there’s room for everyone. In fact, having writers with a range of skill and experience actually enhances the workshop by making it more dynamic. Don’t worry about being the best or worst writer. Everyone will be treated with the same respect and given the same attention as everyone else.

  • How much time should I plan on spending on this project? Most everyone will be balancing many aspects of life. Work, family, hobbies, travel...everyone’s busy. And the prospect of enrolling in such a time consuming project can naturally seem daunting. I wish I could say how much time will be required of each student, but people write and read at much different speeds. Here’s roughly what you can expect in terms of page production, first as writing, then as reading.

    • Writing In order to complete a memoir (roughly 250 pages), the student should expect to write about eight to ten pages per week. This means that in 30 weeks, the student will have a first draft, one that can be revised and edited over the last 20 weeks of the year.
    • Reading We’ll be reading four memoirs and parts of one writing guide over the course of the first half of the course. They are relatively short, and any can be read before the class starts. On top of the memoirs we’ll read, we’ll also be reading each other’s work. On average, you’ll be asked to read between 2 and 5 hours per week over the course of the Memoir Writing Project. Consider this as you remember you’ll be attending class once per week for 3 hours each night in the winter/spring, once per month for a full Saturday in June, July, and August, and again once per week for 12 weeks, 3 hours a night in fall/winter, in addition to the 4 one to one meetings with Nicole.
  • What if I’ve already written a memoir and would like to have it workshopped? Will this class still work for me? Yes.

  • I’m writing a memoir that I’m thinking of self-publishing. Is this class still a good fit for me? Again, yes. Though most of our participants will likely be focusing on literary memoir and be seeking traditional publishing, we’re open to helping independent authors shape their best manuscript possible. In fact, one of our visiting authors began his career as a self-published author and then went on to traditional publishing and the New York Times bestseller’s list.  

  • This sounds like a major commitment. Will The Loft or the teaching artist ensure publication of my memoir at the end of it? It is an enormous commitment, and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. But there’s no such thing as a guarantee in this business, and so of course neither The Loft nor the teaching artist will ensure publication. We will, however, commit to arming you with the knowledge of how to navigate the publishing world once your project is complete. We will also commit to a dogged curriculum in the craft of writing. If you commit in turn, when you are finished with this course, you will be world’s wiser in the art and craft of the memoir, and ready to take your book to market.

  • Who’s teaching this course, and what credentials does she have? The teaching artist has an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato and has taught writing for more than ten years. She has also edited countless manuscripts and has helped clients secure agents and editors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of a new publishing company, Minneopa Valley Press. Nicole Helget’s books include the memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways, which People magazine selected as a “Critic’s Choice.” She is also the author of The Turtle Catcher and Stillwater (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and three novels for children, the last of which, The End of the Wild, earned three starred reviews and was selected as an “Editor’s Choice” in the New York Times. Her new memoir, Requiem: A Woman’s Life on the Prairie, comes out next year.

  • It looks like there’s a pretty stellar line-up of visiting writers and publishing professionals. What’s their function in the course? The teaching artist has worked hard at procuring a list of distinguished class visitors. The function of their visit is to provide alternative perspectives on everything from craft to practice to experience in the publishing world. They will be eager to offer their expertise in whatever field they come from. Please, don’t ever use their visits as an opportunity to promote your own work.

  • Am I required to attend one of the information sessions in the fall before registering? No, you are not required to attend; they are simply a chance for people to ask individual questions of Nicole Helget and Loft education staff, should the information here not be sufficient.

  • I know I can’t expect to be published by participating in the Memoir Writing Project at the Loft; but what can I expect? Many different experiences make up the Memoir Writing Project over the course of the year; it’s a class, a cohort, a workshop, a networking opportunity, a mentorship, dedicated writing time and space, an online support community, and an opportunity to develop community with other dedicated writers all supporting each other while pursuing the same goal.

If you have additional questions that haven’t been covered here, please contact the Loft education department at 612-379-8999.