take part in a free online writing course: Capturing Your Story in Life Writing with Colin Grant


create-write-connect is Spread the Word’s campaign to offer free writing activity during these unprecedented, difficult times. As part of this, we are offering three free writing courses via email. We are thrilled that author, historian, and Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies, Colin Grant is curating and leading one of these for us, Capturing Your Story in Life Writing.

What is Capturing Your Story in Life Writing?

Everyone is unique, with a set of experiences and memories and way of recounting them that is particular to each individual.  But our memories are fragile, faulty and unreliable. The truth and the essence of an experience is elusive and slippery, difficult to convey. Perhaps you have a story to tell that frustratingly hasn’t been told in the way you hoped. Writing from your life experiences can be daunting but is always invigorating. Maybe you’ve stopped and started and stopped again? But each of us has skills of communication that can be nurtured and developed.  At our finger tips, with a bit of help, reflection and practice, we have the means to conjure the past and convey those stories and hidden worlds which may at times seem just beyond out reach.

This practical and immersive course on the art of life writing will guide you through the process of constructing your story, working out its order, narrative voice, tone, and editing, selecting what to include or let go. It will help to capture the essence of story and characters that may have proved difficult to pin down.

How do you take the raw material, interviews, memories and reflections and weave them into a plot and gripping tale? Through a mixture of suggested readings and writing exercises, you’ll discover techniques for researching and writing the lives of others, whether they’re admired cultural icons, those you are closest to, or just yourself. You’ll consider how to bring a personal perspective into biographical writing, and learn how to structure a narrative from that most intricate and compelling of subjects: the lives of real people.

About Colin Grant

Colin Grant is an author, historian, and Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies. His books include: Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey and the memoir Bageye at the Wheel, which was shortlisted for the Pen/Ackerley Prize. As a producer for the BBC, Grant’s drama-documentaries included African Man of Letters: The Life of Ignatius Sancho; and A Fountain of Tears: The Murder of Federico Garcia Lorca. Colin is an experienced tutor of life writing for Arvon, City University and Sierra Nevada College. He also writes for several publications including the Guardian, TLS, and New York Review of Books.  His latest book Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation was a radio 4 Book of the Week and Telegraph Book of the Year.

What you can expect?

By the end of the course you will feel stretched and stimulated by an experienced, sympathetic and empathetic tutor. I will guide you through the use of a number of writing tools and devices. They include: how and when to use dialogue in dramatising memoir and life writing; how to switch and incorporate different points of view; how to seed foreshadowing in your work; how to use artefacts such as letters and photos to advance storyline and change the texture of stories. You, hopefully, after just a few weeks, will have made a good start at capturing and shaping your life writing, and be prepared to continue with it thereafter.

Who is this course for?

This course is about slowing down and paying attention to the world all around you and in your head. It is a chance to explore all of your senses and to draw on your resources and experiences to tell your life stories. This is a course for all who feel they have a story to tell and a thirst to tell it, but who may need incentives and encouragement, to be shown tools and techniques which will help in the realisation of those stories.

How does it work?
You’ll receive a confirmation email once you’ve subscribed – please make sure you confirm. Each week you’ll receive an email with exercises and reading to do in your own time. Please do check your Junk mail if you haven’t received the confirmation or the emails, before getting in touch with us.

You’ll receive 7 emails, one a week, at 5pm on the dates listed below:

Weds 24 June (Intro and Guidance)

Thurs 25 June

Thurs 2 July

Thurs 9 July

Thurs 16 July

Thurs 23 July

Thurs 30 July

What if I am reading this, and want to sign up after the course has started?
If you have signed up after the course has started, you’ll receive your first email on the following Thursday. The email will have links through to the course introduction and previous course emails. Just make sure you sign up by Thursday 30 July before 5pm, to participate in the course.

Is this course really free?
Absolutely. In recognition of the financial difficulties many people are facing, and to try and offer some joy and inspiration into people’s lives, we are committed to offering these, and other activities,  for free to all writers who are unable to pay. We are asking those who are able and willing to do so to make a donation of their choice to our create-write-connect campaign. 50 % of funds raised will go to Spread the Word and 50% will go to the Trussell Trust.

I have another question

Please email us if you have another question about Capturing your story in life writing.

Sign up to take part in Capturing Your Story in Life Writing with Colin Grant

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