More than Memoir

This Summer 2014 course is now closed. Please join our mailing list to find out more about our Summer 2015 course offerings.
WRIT S4710 001
3 Points
Session I: May 27 - July 3
M, W 10 AM - 12:10 PM
Instructor: Cris Beam

Many of us want to write memoirs, but families—troubled or not—are loaded territory. Memories conflict with family lore; trauma in the past can trigger trouble in the present; and only the dead don’t mind when you spill their secrets. How do we navigate wisely, mining recollections without either slipping into solipsism or pandering to an imagined audience? In this class we’ll look at writers who have done it, such as James Baldwin, Annie Dillard, Vivian Gornick, Richard Rodriguez, and Sister Souljah, to trace their fault lines and unearth their strategies for remaining faithful to their readers while truthful to their lived experience.
This is a writing-intensive course, and students will write and workshop several family scenes. With the student work in hand, we’ll be able to explore issues of voice and point of view, and ways to gain enough emotional distance from characters to make them both believable and three-dimensional. We’ll build these scenes into a few full-length stories or, if a student wishes, chapters for a larger work.
Tuition & Fees
Most summer courses are offered at the standard Continuing Education tuition rate of $1,512 per point ($4,536 for a 3-point course and $9,072 for a six-point intensive). For more detailed information, please see "tuition and fees":
Materials fee: $20

About the Instructor

Cris Beam

Cris Beam is the author of four books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her first book, Transparent, received a Lambda Literary award and a Stonewall Honor, and her second, a young adult novel, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and named a Best Books for Teens by both the American Library Association and Kirkus. Cris’ work has also appeared on This American Life and in the Huffington Post, The Awl, Marie Claire and Out, among others. In addition to Columbia, Cris also teaches at Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility and at NYU’s Gallatin School, where she was recently named Professor of the Year. Cris Beam is the author of To the End of June (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.