On the final evening of the 2016 Master Classes in Memoir, at the Michael King Writers Centre, I sat in the sitting room, beneath the portrait of New Zealand historian and biographer Michael King by Annette Isbey, and observed nine writers, their heads bowed in concentration, hands moving swiftly across the white page, writing with the timer on, fifteen minutes only, writing rapidly, as I have trained them to do, free of the censor judging their work, because they know that when the timer rings there will be additional time, immediately, to edit what they have just written.
The only sounds in the room were the rubbing of pens over paper and the fridge humming in the kitchen next door. Below in the garden mutabilis roses were still flowering in May amongst the pale purple and lilac velvet flowers of salvia Leucantha and the spikes of orange and pink dahlias while over the sweep of grass, above the road that winds down the volcanic cone of Takarunga, I could see the city shining across the slick of black water that is Waitemata harbour at night. Again and again I feel the magic of this special setting.
In 2015 Deborah will be offering the following memoir courses:
Life Writing with Deborah Shepard, Creative Week on Campus, University of Auckland, 9.30am - 1pm, Monday 12 January - Friday 16 January
Writing Your Heart Out with Deborah Shepard: An Introduction to Memoir, Michael King Writers' Centre, 17 March - 21 April (six week course)
Writing Your Heart Out with Deborah Shepard: The Art and Craft of Memoir Masterclasses, 29 September - 3 November (six week course)
Writing your heart out with Deborah Shepard: An Introduction to the art and craft of memoir
At the Michael King Writers' Centre in the historic and inspiring Signalman's Cottage on Takarunga/Mt Victoria in Devonport
Six Tuesdays 23 September - 28 October 6pm - 8.30pm
Over six weeks the course will cover the following topics: A definition of memoir and an introduction to the joys of life writing, establishing a reading programme and a place for writing, the writing discipline and overcoming self-doubt, crafting the writing: an editing workshop, ethical issues and a participatory model. At each session there will be writing exercises linked to the following themes: on childhood, writing directly from life: the art of journalling and observational writing, on friendship and love, on mentors, on the place where I feel most at home and alive, a self-portrait. Deborah will also share her thoughts on the wonderful new possibilities offered by an online world for sharing your work. She supplies a writer's toolkit including: a writing technique, tips on editing, style and form, research and professional presentation. and there will be an opportunity to write, craft and publish a story on the your story page of this website.
Deborah says, “Memoir is an ideal staring point to discover your writing talent because these are the stories of your life. You know them best. Working in a mutually supportive and cooperative small group setting you can begin to explore and record the important and defining stories for yourself and your family.”
“Writing memoir involves a healthy mix of self-examination, reflection, observation and empathy. The work is inward looking and contemplative but it also challenges us to look beyond ourselves to consider the people who figure in our stories and why they matter. Often people are delighted to discover universal dimensions in their writing when a story, or experience resonates with other writers." Participants on her courses speak of the sharing of the writing as one of the absolute highlights of the programme. Deborah also believes that writing memoir is consolidating and comforting and can help people work through current losses and transitions. For her the most appealing aspect of the genre comes from the act of writing itself. "It has a meditative quality offering a pause in the daily whirr to reflect upon and integrate the meaning of experience."
“On my courses we explore techniques that assist the release of memories and in the edit we learn how to strengthen and craft the raw material into compelling narratives. This happens in an atmosphere of mutual support and trust.”
Testimonials from previous workshops:
“I have gone from ambivalence and doubt to feeling confident I can do this due to Deborah’s superb teaching methods and well-structured classes.”
“Thank you for this class, and for Deborah's time and expertise in making it so challenging and enjoyable…and for the constructive way in which she provided feedback.”
“I have gained so much from Deborah’s Life Writing Classes.....her gentle encouragement, her generous affirmation...her own sharing of her writing successes and dilemmas.”
For more details please click on this link to the Michael King Writers' Centre.
8 sessions over 8 weeks, Wednesday March 19 - May 7, 2014
Writing your heart out with Deborah Shepard
The Michael King Writers’ Centre is delighted to announce a course on writing memoir to be led by author, film and art historian, and life writing mentor Deborah Shepard.
“Memoir is the best place to discover your writing talent because these are the stories of your life. You know them best,” she says.
Deborah taught memoir through the Centre for Continuing Education at The University of Auckland for eight years. She is a life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Author's Mentorship programme and is the consultant biographer for Mercy Hospice, where she facilitates training workshops on the art of recording the stories of people who are terminally ill. She runs a popular forum on her website www.deborahshepardbooks.com where life writers post their stories.
In 2010 she was author/mentor on the First Chapters writing programme in Manukau and Papakura, South Auckland, where she mentored 30 new writers and edited eleven of their life stories for the publication Translucence: Life Writing from Manukau and Papakura.
Her books include Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film (Harper Collins, 2000), Between the Lives: Partners in Art (Auckland University Press, 2005) and Her Life's Work (Auckland University Press, 2009).
She held the Autumn Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in 2013, when she worked on her new book Writing Your Heart Out: the Art and Craft of Memoir.
There will be eight master classes in the series, which will be held at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport starting in March. They will cover a short history of memoir, the nature of the creative process and unlocking the memories, writing on childhood, journalling and observational writing, overcoming self-doubt and the defining qualities of successful writers, writing on friendship and love, ethical issues and advice about going public, a writer’s toolkit including a writing technique, editing, style and form, research, professional presentation and at each session there will be writing exercises linked to each theme.
The programme of master classes is designed for people who have been published already or had some writing experience, kept a regular journal, or those who have attended a memoir course and want to take their skills to the next level. It will have an intensive small-group format.
The classes will start on March 19 and will run to May 7. They will be each Wednesday evening from 6 pm to 8.30 pm at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. The cost is $280 incl GST and the course will be limited to nine participants. Visit the Michael King Writers' centre for further details: www.writerscentre.org.nz/news_events.php
For further information, please call
Karren Beanland, Manager:
Ph/fax: 445 8451
Mobile: 021 496 488
Deborah has posted an account of a mini-memoir session, she facilitated in the new Waitati library, north of Dunedin on 1 October.
Recently Deborah conducted a mentoring session with a friend from way back, someone from boarding school years, whom she hadn’t seen in a very long time but who shares a love of writing. They met in a very beautiful setting, at the new library in the village of Waitati, twenty minutes north of Dunedin. Together they wrote down their writing goals and then in fifteen minutes wrote a short piece on the theme, selected by her friend, ‘The rivers of my life.’ This is what they wrote in a rush, what came tumbling out with the timer ticking.
In 2010 Deborah mentored new writer, Louise Inglis on the First Chapters programme, Nga Wahanga Tuatahi, held in Manukau and Papakura. Louise came to the course with the intention of acquiring the skills to help her write a book about her experience as a mother nurturing a child with Autism, profound intellectual disability and Epilepsy. She wanted to write about the first seven years of her son Kevin’s life and the overwhelming challenges facing her family as they grappled with the initial shock and grief and with the endless questions: ‘How do we maintain family life while doing the very best for Kevin?’ What does this mean for our other son? What of my marriage? My career? Can we recover a semblance of normality? What is normality?’