Craft Your Truth / Claim Your Voice

4-month Group Mentoring Program

Registration Currently Closed
If you would like information about future course offerings, send us an email and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop. In the meantime, you can find us at the Writing Out Loud Sisterhood on Facebook here. Come join us! We’d love to have you!

Where Craft Meets Consciousness

Craft Your Truth/Claim Your Voice integrates the craft skills essential to writing memoir with the consciousness work necessary to claim your voice and your story from the cultural shame and silencing that keeps so many women’s stories untold.

This holistic approach to writing memoir takes into account the history of cultural and literary silencing that continues to affect women writers today. Given this history, it’s no surprise that every time we sit down to write we bump up against internalized silencing. Why? Because the closer your writing brings you to the truth of your experience as a female, the more the internalized conditioning rears up and tries to maintain silencing.

But silencing doesn’t stand a chance when you combine elements of craft with foundations of consciousness within a community of powerful and supportive women who remind you that your voice matters and that someone in the world needs to hear the story that you need to write.

In this program, you will write brief memoir essays with an eye toward craft and submitting your work. You will also create a conscious writing practice that lays a foundation of habits, practices, and mindsets necessary to sustain future writing projects.

Together these craft and consciousness tracks, which I call Elements of Craft and Foundations of Consciousness, provide the 12 core modules of the Craft Your Truth/Claim Your Voice mentoring program.

These Craft and Consciousness modules build off of each other so that as you hone your craft skills you simultaneously create a conscious writing practice that goes against the grain of internalized silencing. Module 1 is a Craft Module, Module 2 is a Consciousness Module, Module 3 is a Craft Module, and so on.

Together the modules build your confidence in your writing AND in your identity as a woman writer whose story is worthy of literature.

Elements of Craft (6 modules)

The Craft Modules present elements of craft unique to memoir as a genre. We will practice these craft elements by reading and writing brief memoir essays. Each craft module builds on the previous craft module so that you continue to hone and expand your craft skills as the program progresses. Mastering these elements of craft in short memoir pieces will arm you with a whole new level of writing skill to take with you into future longer memoir projects. A word about structure: Because structure is integral to every writing project, we will consider the art of structure within every craft module so that you have an opportunity to put structure into practice repeatedly in your own work. Craft Modules meet via live teleconference calls within our online classroom.

Craft 1. Mining the Detail: Discovering the Emotional Truth of Your Experience

  • The truth is in the details
  • Realizing the metaphor of your experience
  • Making meaning from the details
  • The art of letting the detail tell the story
  • Trusting the image

Craft 2.   The Situation & the Story: Memoir as a Voyage of Discovery

  • What’s the real story? And why it’s so important.
  • Vertical plot vs horizontal plot (and why you need both)
  • The surface story and the deeper truth
  • Every sentence in service of the deeper story
  • What happened? It’s not what happened that’s important; it’s what we make of what happened (and how to know the difference)

Craft 3. Scene, Summary, & Reflection: The Building Blocks of Memoir

  • The purpose of scene, and how to craft one
  • When, why, and how to use summary
  • Reflection as substance and meaning (making sense of your material for your reader and for yourself)
  • Striking a balance between scene, summary, and musing

Craft 4. Voice as Craft in Memoir

  • Voice of Innocence
  • Voice of Experience
  • How to move between voice of innocence and voice of experience
  • How voice as craft “clicks” with situation and story

Craft 5.  The Art of Truth in Memoir: Truth, Memory, & Imagination

  • Emotional truth and universal truth
  • The difference between fact and truth in memoir
  • The role of imagination in personal narrative
  • How to write despite “gaps” in memory
  • Whose truth?

Craft 6. Re-visioning Your Truth: The Art of Revision in Memoir

  • Writing as rewriting and rewriting as an artistic expression
  • Getting closer to the truth
  • How to decide what to keep and what to cut
  • Make sense of your material
  • Recognize and shape the underlying patterns (themes) of your life
  • Rewriting as a bridge to emotional distance
  • In Revising our work, we revise ourselves (and what this means for your writing and for your life)

Foundations of Consciousness (6 modules)

As you hone your craft in the Elements of Craft modules, you will simultaneously create a conscious writing practice that goes against the grain of silencing. So many of the obstacles we face in reaching our writing dreams and goals are rooted in our mindsets and internalized conditioning. These limiting beliefs disempower and silence us—they are not the truth of who we are. Once we are aware of these limiting beliefs, we can shift our mindsets and really step into our writing power and claim our truth, our voice, and our vision. Drawing on Marilyn’s unique understanding of both cultural and internalized silencing and on voice as crucial to a woman’s identity, writing subject, and sense of self, the Foundations of Consciousness modules are designed to “crowd out” internalized silencing by returning you again and again to your writing truth, voice, and power. Foundations of Consciousness Modules are available as either audio or video.

Consciousness 1. Claim Your Writing Truth

Your inner critic is never the truth of who you are. In this module you will distinguish between your inner critic and the truth of who you are as a writer. You will come to understand that self-doubt is ALWAYS an offshoot of silencing. You will learn how to deliberately point yourself, again and again, in the direction of your writing truth.

  • Identify your Inner Critic as the source of silencing & writing struggle
  • Reframe your inner critic
  • Shift your relationship to silencing so that you “call the shots”
  • Define and claim your writing truth
  • Set your writing intention

Consciousness 2. Claim Your Writing Voice

Two of the things I hear most from women writers are “I don’t have a story” and “No one will want to read my story.” These are internalized cultural messages that stem from centuries of not valuing women’s experiences. One of the effects of the cultural silencing of women’s stories is an internalized pattern or mindset of not realizing we have a story to tell. As a result, we tend to look “out there” for stories to validate our own. We must turn inward to discover our stories and to claim them as worthy of literature.

  • Voice as Identity for Women Writers
  • The Relationship between your voice, your writing subject, and silencing
  • Identify your writing subject
  • Yes, you do have a story! Claim your subject as worthy of literature

Consciousness 3. Claim Your Writing Vision

So often women squeeze their writing into their life sideways as “this thing they do” rather than prioritize it as an integral part of who they are. This is understandable, given the way we learn to prioritize others’ needs and minimize our own. But realizing your writing dream is crucial to your success as a writer because it’s very difficult to succeed at something you have not taken the time to envision. And make no mistake: your writing dream is a vision.

  • Envision and clarify your writing dream
  • Establish your writing vision so that you have something tangible to work toward
  • Set writing goals that support your writing
  • Who do you want to be as a writer? Claim your identity as a writer

Consciousness 4. Claim Your Writing Time

It’s no secret that women’s time is traditionally not valued, and as a result we have learned to give our time to others rather than to ourselves. This shows up in our writing practice. Part of the insidiousness of silencing is the way it keeps us from valuing our time enough to show up for writing as a need and to claim our writing—and the time it takes to fully realize our writing dreams—as an extension of who we are.

  • Identify your relationship to time and what it means to “own” your own time
  • Value your writing time as a need (Writing time as self-care)
  • Do writing schedules work for you? Tapping into a means of productivity that aligns with your unique writing process (There is no one way to organize your writing practice, but there is your way.)
  • Experience chunks of writing time in community with others (Virtual Writing Retreats)

Consciousness 5. Claim Your Writing Space

As women, we learn early not to take up too much space. This message bleeds into everything we do, including our writing. By deliberately cultivating a relationship with your writing space, you are telling your deep wise writing self as well as the universe that you value yourself as a writer. Indeed, by claiming your writing space, you proclaim yourself a writer.

  • Writing space as embodied space: a container that holds and supports you and your writing
  • Being in your body AND in your writing space
  • Create a writing space reflects your writing dream, vision, and truth
  • Cultivate a relationship with your writing space that changes and grows as you change and grow as a writer
  • Value your writing space as sacred
  • Take up more space (both literally and metaphorically) than you ever have before

Consciousness 6. (Re)claim Your Commitment to Your Writing (and to Your Self)

Unsilencing is not a “one and done” deal. Rather, it’s like a trick candle: just when you think you’ve blown it out, it flares back to life. In order to stay in relationship to your writing from your power—your writing truth—it’s important to incorporate “recommitment” into your writing practice so that you continually sustain a thriving writing practice that empowers you in every area of your life. Just as you have to write on a regular basis to continually hone and master your writing skills, so too you must recommit to your writing on a regular basis to outwit silencing and claim your voice.

  • Understand how a commitment to your writing IS a commitment to your self
  • Create a personalized “My Commitment to My Writing and to My Self” contract to keep you writing even after this program ends
  • Utilize the power of your attention and choose where & how to use it
  • Claim your writing community: Learn how deepening your relationships within a writing community helps you to hold yourself accountable and to realize your writing dreams and goals.

Craft-based Writing Assignments

Each Craft Class includes writing assignments designed to help you practice that modules craft element and to help you generate brief memoir essays.

Craft-based Readings

Craft readings deepen your understanding of the elements of craft you are practicing in your writing, and brief memoir essays help you to see how other writers put craft elements into practice. Marilyn has hand-picked readings that will engage your writer’s mind and help you to see yourself as part of a rich literary tradition of women writers. These readings will also help you to locate your own experiences within a broader context of women’s experiences, which will help you to claim your subject as significant.

Consciousness Readings

In addition to the Consciousness exercises in each Foundations of Consciousness module, Consciousness readings are handpicked to help you see how other women writers navigate the challenges of silencing and conditioning, writing time and writing space, and stay committed and recommitted to their work in the face of busy lives and responsibilities.

Community Discussion Forum

Although writing is a solitary activity, no writer succeeds alone. Every writer needs a supportive community to help her fully realize her writing potential and to boost her up during periods of discouragement. Not to mention to share successes! Our online classroom has a private, built-in discussion forum. In this forum, we will discuss elements of craft, share our work (for those who choose to), ask questions, provide support and encouragement, strengthen our writing community, and share resources.

Introductory Workshop: Defining Memoir + Getting to Know Each Other

We’ll kick things off with an Introductory class so that we can get to know each other and address technical questions and logistics before the Modules begin. In this introduction we will explore “flash” memoir (aka “brief” memoir) as a literary art form within the broader memoir genre and how writing short memoir provides an excellent apprenticeship for writing a book-length memoir. Most importantly, though, this introductory module gives us an opportunity to connect to ourselves and to each other through the power of our own writing. After exploring the genre and addressing class “house keeping” questions, we will write together and introduce ourselves through a fun memoir writing prompt.

Recordings of all classes

All modules are recorded. Recordings will be archived in our online classroom and will also be available for you to download. This way, you can always “make up” a class that you could not attend live. Recordings also enable you to retake the class as often as you want. Why is this important? Because you are continually growing as a writer, both in craft skills and in conscious relationship to your material. Each time you revisit a class from a new place of development, you hear it anew.

Your Writing! Individual Writing Packets (6)

Your precious work! You submit to me 6 separate “writing packets” of varying word lengths (to practice using word count as a structure) that put each module’s craft element into practice. Packets range from 300 words to 1500 words in length. The focus of your packets is less on quantity than it is on practicing your craft skills and bringing your pieces of memoir writing to completion so that you position your writing for submission by the end of this 3-month program. Packets can contain either new memoir essays or revised work. I will send you a deliverables schedule that will help you to keep your productivity on track!

Marilyn’s written responses to your work (6 in-depth written responses)

I immerse myself in your submitted work and send you an in-depth written response (using Track Changes) to each packet. Each response will depend, of course, on the individual piece(s) you are working on. But I will respond with craft and structural suggestions as well as with questions that help you develop the deeper story and give shape and meaning to the universal truth emerging in your work.

45-min. Coaching Calls (2)

You and I will have 2 personalized, one-on-one coaching calls to discuss your work and to strategy next steps in your revision process. These discussions will include craft and readying your work for submission. And they will also address any internal challenges that you want to address so that nothing stops you from moving past silencing and reaching your writing goals. These calls are recorded so that you can revisit them. This allows you to review your “in the moment” insights and ahas about your work in progress and about any mindsets that you are shifting as you continue to show up for your writing and for yourself.

Bonuses (3)

Bonus 1: Virtual Writing Retreats (3)

Virtual writing retreats provide you with the opportunity to claim your writing time and recommit to your writing. We will meet from 12:00-3:00pm on three separate occasions. Writing Retreats are not a formal class. Rather, they are sacred time for you to devote to the memoir essay(s) and revisions you are working on. We will come together during the scheduled time on our teleconference platform (in our virtual classroom). I will provide space at the beginning of the retreat for you to set your writing intention. You will then have the remainder of the retreat to devote to your writing. But I will be available throughout the virtual writing retreats so that you can request support or ask questions. Writing retreats draw on the powerful group energy and are designed to remind you that, as part of a committed writing community (sisterhood!), you do not have to write alone. All virtual writing retreats are recorded so you can “make up” any retreats you are not able to attend live.

Bonus 2: Virtual Class Reading

Writing is about being seen and heard as your authentic self on the page. Yet fear of visibility keeps many women writers from sharing their work. Putting our writing out into the world puts us face-to-face with our deepest fears of being seen and heard, even though one of our basic needs is to be seen and heard for who we really are. This virtual, private open-mic night will take place at the end of the program, so you will have a wealth of new writing in your portfolio to draw from. Step into the spotlight and read your work to an audience of supportive women writers who want to hear what you have to say. This experience will grow your confidence in ways that you cannot anticipate, and you will begin to see yourself as a writer whose work is a significant contribution to the world.

Bonus 3: Submissions Mission!

One of the most powerful ways to unsilence yourself is to send your work out into the world by submitting it to literary journals and magazines. But hitting the send button can be so hard because it goes so against the grain of silence. This bonus module will walk you through the submissions process and build your confidence in submitting your work.

  • Sample cover letters to help you write your own substantive cover letters
  • Literary journals that publish “flash” memoir
  • Resources that tap you into the literary marketplace
  • Introducing Submittable, an online submissions tracker
  • How to Handle Rejection with Grace; Or, Rejection Is a Community Sport: Never never never take rejections alone