Life/Story is a workshop for writers who are working on a memoir or have a project in mind. Every Sunday for six weeks, five writers get together with Ansary to discuss their work. Each writer submits a piece by email beforehand. Writers can share excerpts from a work-in-progress, stand-alone narrative pieces, outlines, and ruminations on the structure of their intended work. Whatever they submit will be workshopped at the following session: that is, the group will discuss it, offer suggestions and analysis, and give productive feedback. Memoir is the intersection between memory and story, and in this workshop the emphasis is equally on story–the “what-happened”–and on writing–the “how-it’s-told”. The workshop costs $350 for a six-week session.
Life/Story is founded on the premise that every life not only teems with stories but is a story. No one really knows what their story is until they look for it; the trick is not merely to remember what happened but to find the story (or stories) in it. A memoir can be about sensational experiences that depart radically from the byways of normal life, but it doesn’t have to be. Anything you might find in a novel, you might find in a life–and therefore in a memoir. The riveting Russian novel Oblomov is about a guy who never gets out of bed. The novel Mrs Dalloway is about a woman who takes a walk in her garden. It’s safe to say that most people have as much to write about as Oblomov or Mrs. Dalloway.
For further thoughts on the art of memoir, read Ansary’s interview with David Henry Sterry.
Next workshop: Sometime in July. For information, contact:
Ansary, a long-time author, editor, and teacher, has written three book-length memoirs: West of Kabul, East of New York is his bestselling literary memoir about his own bicultural life. The Other Side of the Sky, an as-told-to memoir about land-mine victim Farah Ahmadi, made the New York Times extended bestseller list . He has just published a third memoir, Road Trips, which portrays the story-like arc of one-whole-life by recounting five iconic journeys. In 2008-09, he developed a workshop to help young Afghan-Americans tell their stories, and it resulted in an anthology called Snapshots: This Afghan-American Life, featuring stories by 15 young writers. For 22 years, as leader of the San Francisco Writers Workshop, he worked with dozens of writers crafting memoirs, many of which ended up as succesful published books, such as David Sterry’s bestelling Chicken: Self Portrait of a Young Man for Rent and Michael Chorost’s PEN-award winning Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. Ansary has also taught week-long memoir workshops at Reed College and at Taheima Resort in Puerto Vallerta .