Fall 2018


Story Catching: Mining Memories Through Guided Autobiography

Need a writing kick-start? Guided Autobiography provides a gently structured nudge to help you recall, write about and share meaningful and engaging memories. Originally developed as a method to enhance life review, Guided Autobiography leaves you with five short legacy stories and insights into who you are and the life you’ve led.

Each week we’ll explore a common theme, such as family, health or work. Between classes you’ll write roughly two pages about your experience of the theme, then share this aloud with your small group in the next session. We share only what is comfortable to share.

Note: Classes are offered at set times, with everyone meeting online together. All you need is a quiet space and a computer with a camera and microphone.

To see what it's like to participate in this live and interactive online course, click here.

A $62 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Students meet online 9:30–11:30 a.m. on Thursdays.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Online Orienation

This orientation is to make sure you are connected, as we run through how this live and interactive "meeting" forum works, and talk about what you can expect in this course in the coming weeks. 

Week 2: Branching Points

We’ll learn about guided autobiography and review guidelines on confidentiality and providing feedback. We’ll discuss this week’s theme, Branching Points, and how to plot those pivotal events on a life graph. We’ll also be introduced to the basics of story structure and get a taste of writing and sharing.

Week 3: My Family, My Self

No matter what kind of family we come from, we can’t escape their influence. This week’s writing homework will be to write a short story that illustrates how you have been influenced by your family or a family member. Visual and clustering exercises help trigger these memories, as do sensitizing questions. We’ll share our Branching Points stories in small groups.

Week 4: My Life’s Work

“Show Don’t Tell” is a mantra for writers, but what does it really mean? We’ll talk about ways to “show” through sensory details and devices like metaphor, then turn our thoughts to this week’s theme—your life’s work, whatever it may have been for you. We’ll end by sharing our stories about how growing up in our family may have shaped the person we’ve become.

Week 5: My Body, My Health

This week, our writing theme encourages us to write about an aspect of our physical self that played a role in our personal development and life decisions. We’ll explore concepts of self, and comfort levels in self-disclosure. Must memoir be factual? We look at ways in which memoir borrows from fiction, as well as key ways in which it differs, and share our stories of our life’s work and what that has meant for us.

Week 6: Coming of Age

Getting older is about more than just the physical changes that happen in our bodies. It’s about how we think and feel about life and others. What have we learned? What do we want next? This week, our learning and writing addresses thoughts about aging, and we share what we wrote about how our health or body image may have influenced our attitudes and behaviour in the past, and now.

Week 7: Next Steps

In this final session, we’ll take stock of the attributes we have, their origin, and how we may be passing our own values onto others. We’ll share our stories about aging, and consider where we want to take our writing from here, including various presentation formats.

How will I learn?

  • Online, small-group instruction, using Zoom video-conferencing software
  • Interactive online discussion, using Zoom
  • Writing and sharing of writing with peers
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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