Writing Spiritual Memoirs Workshops

Led by Nan Phifer

Author of Memoirs of the Soul: A Writing Guide
Published First by Writers Digest Books, Reprinted by Ingot Press

Memoirs are different from autobiographies. Autobiographies present a broad overview, while memoirs focus on the hours and minutes most keen in our lives—the times when we are fully alive, times when experiences penetrate to the quick. In these moments we define ourselves; the ways we respond reveal our souls. Our individuality emerges distinctly at such times.

Most people assume memoirs should be written chronologically, but this approach is likely to be tedious for the writer and for readers. Memoirs will be vivid and engaging when the memoirist writes about the most significant and intense memories as they are recalled and waits to order the chapters after they are written. Nan guides workshop participants in identifying the particular experiences, people, and places in their own lives that will compose the content of their individual memoirs. She demonstrates a writing process that evokes spontaneous rough drafts, elicits constructive responses from listeners, and leads to polished final drafts. Because Nan's workshops are participatory and interactive, participants experience a procedure they can continue to follow for further writing. An ideal length of time for one workshop is two hours.

Nan Phifer has served as a co-director for the Oregon Writing Project at the U. of O. and continues to contribute as a member of its Board. In addition, she presents workshops for libraries, academic conferences, retreat and renewal organizations, writers' groups, and religious organizations. Her interest in American Literature and her Master of Liberal Arts studies at The Johns Hopkins University contributed background for her present work.

Nan's workshops range from the monthly sessions in Indianapolis where she co-guided pastors in writing to explore their vocational dedication, to nation-wide, on-line teaching for Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. At The Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC, she led participants in writing to design sacred space, and on the West Coast she guided writers in exploring wilderness. At this time, she is creating a series of interfaith writing workshops.

To learn more about Nan's workshops and see her current calendar, please open www.memoirsofthesoul.com or write to her at nanphifer@mac.com.