Autobiography and Life Writing Programme 2019-2021
(Duration: Two years. One afternoon per week for 25 weeks per year)

CWP in collaboration with New Writing South

The Autobiography and Life Writing Programme will be offered in BRIGHTON and HASTINGS in 2019. The programme has been carefully designed to develop your understanding of the craft of turning personal or researched experience into stories. It has a particular emphasis on life writing (primarily memoir and autobiography) and teaches writing techniques that can be used in both non-fiction and creative fiction. 



On the programme you will work with a small group of other writers, meeting on a weekly basis, supported through interactive course pages on our Creative Writing Programme website. You will be given the support and structure you need to push your skills to another level and to complete a planned writing project. Your course tutors will teach you the writing techniques you need, offer you focused written feedback and help you set realistic deadlines. In your final second year course you will be introduced to writers and literary agents. When you have finished the programme and are producing work to publish or perform, you will be able to join one of our Advanced Writing groups and work alongside other committed and published writers. 

In your first year you will reflect on the sources and themes of your own writing; develop a greater understanding of your own creativity and the creative process; learn how to create dynamic characters; discover ways of enhancing the dramatic impact of your writing and explore the different ways in which your stories can be told. In the second year the focus will shift from shorter scenes to longer narratives: you will reflect on the role of memory and imagination in the writing process; develop a greater understanding of plot and structure in storywriting; explore the ways in which characters evolve and stories are resolved, and gain further insights into language, technique and style.

Throughout the course you will continue to explore aspects of character and setting, learning to negotiate memory and constructs of time in relation to life writing. You will be shown ways to enhance your own creativity, hone your critical and editing skills and develop your eye for detail and for good story ideas. In the writing workshops, you will share, discuss and evaluate your work with the other writers in your writing group.

By the end of the programme you will have significantly increased your understanding of how to write well, have developed a substantial body of work and have either finished your writing project or be in a position to bring it to completion.

The programme is delivered through weekly seminars in which you will develop your writing technique through practical exercises, readings, discussion of published work and group discussions, led by your tutor, on different aspects of the writing process. All our courses are supported by interactive learning sites where you can access seminar notes and exercises as well as a Writer’s Forum in which you can contact other writers in your group, share work and information about events and contact your tutor.

Over the course of the two-year programme you will work closely with our tutors and on each course will be offered one-to-one tutorials. There will be Weekend Schools and Summer Bridging Sessions between years one and two of the programme. At the end of the programme you will be given the opportunity to discuss your work with a publishing professional.


What this programme will do for you

This programme will develop your confidence and ability as a writer. Through discussion and experimentation, in practical work guided by your tutor, you will learn how to improve the quality of your writing; develop your creative and critical skills; organise and manage your work and develop a strong individual style.

This is an ideal programme for writers who want to write memoir, autobiography or a collection of short stories based on true events or who want to explore ways in which they can use their own experience to write creatively and are looking for structure, encouragement and feedback to help them achieve this.

All you need to bring to the programme is your imagination, a love of reading, a passion to write, a commitment to your writing group and the determination to succeed.


Programme Structure

Autumn term 2019: Course One - Approaches to Life Writing

10 weeks of study with weekly two and a half hour seminars, tutorial and a Weekend School (early November)

Through workshops, practical exercises, group discussion and feedback, you will: explore the fundamental principles of life writing as storytelling and discover ways of enhancing the dramatic, sensual and visual impact of your writing; investigate your own memory and creativity and experiment with a variety of ways in which to recall and realise the dramatic potential of your material – including writing from personal artefacts, journaling, engaging with voices from the past etc. You will learn to understand the importance of the audience/reader and appreciate the application of techniques from fiction, poetry and drama to the craft of life writing. There are reading, researching and writing exercises each week, both at home and in class. At the end of the term, you will submit work for creative and critical comment from your tutor in a tutorial session in February 2020. 

Spring and summer term 2020: Course Two - Memory and Imagination

15 weeks of study with weekly two and a half hour seminars, tutorial and Summer Bridging Sessions (June and September)

You will experiment with different ways of using memory, probing the boundaries of memory and imagination and discovering how research can underpin both; you will experiment with narrative modes, tenses and viewpoints and develop a sense of the importance of theme in life writing whilst considering how to balance historical and emotional truth with the demands of story. You will compare techniques and structures used in prose fiction and creative non-fiction. You will address ethical issues raised by life writing and think about such issues in relation to the second year project. At the end of the course, you will take part in a short series of writing workshops in which you will read and discuss your own work in progress and the work of the other writers in your group. At the end of term, you will submit work for constructive appraisal from your tutor and will have a one to one tutorial with them to discuss your progress and plan your writing project for the second year.

Autumn term 2020: Course Three - Story and Form

10 weeks of study with weekly writing seminars (Autumn Term) and tutorial

In this course you will explore a number of different approaches to narrative structure for life writing and consider what might govern choice of form. You will examine classic narrative structure, beginnings, middles and endings, transitional scenes and turning points but you will also look at the particular demands of shaping ‘true’ stories – taking into account matters of authenticity, integrity and the life writer’s intent. The role of prefaces and other framing devices will be discussed. Writers will be led carefully through the process of deciding on form – each writer will consider their and/or their subject’s vulnerability, their readers’ expectations and the fulfilment of the story’s potential. You will also continue to make progress on your life writing project and will give and receive criticism of your own and other's work in progress. At the end of this term, you will submit work to your tutor for a written critical appraisal and will have a tutorial with them in February 2021.

Spring and summer terms 2021: Course 4 - Writing Workshops

15 weeks of study with weekly writing seminars, plus Agents’ Day (dates to be announced)

This part of the course is designed to offer you further insights into writing technique especially in the drafting and re-drafting of texts. It will focus on the structural editing of key scenes as well as developing your editing skills and appreciation of sentence and paragraph construction. In the second part of the course, the writing workshops, you will focus your attention on critical appraisal of the writing process, both on the level of prose and the level of story. In this final part of the programme there will be a series of writing workshops in which longer pieces of work, written by you and other writers in your group, will be read and discussed. At the end of the course you will be given the opportunity to discuss your work with literary agents and publishing professionals and submit a final piece of work to your tutor for written critical feedback.

Key facts

Programme Length: Two years
Starts: October 2019

Term Dates: Autumn: 30th to 15th December 2019. Spring: 6th January to 22nd March 2020. Summer: 20th April to 24th May 2020. (Dates for 2020-2021 will be given in the summer term of 2020)

Venues and times: The Writers’ Place, New Writing South, 9 Jew Street, Brighton. Tuesdays 10-12.30am. Sussex Coast College, Station Approach, Hastings. Wednesdays 10-12.30am (This programme can be taken either in Brighton or in Hastings)

Entry requirements: No formal qualifications required 
Programme team: Dr Mark Slater (director), Hannah Vincent, Holly Dawson, Dr John O'Donoghue
Fee: £995

For further information on this course or our other programmes contact 
Mark Slater:
e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To apply online go to:

For enrolment details contact
New Writing South
9 Jew Street, Brighton BN1 1UT
t: 01273 735353
e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You are here: Home Our Courses Autobiography & Life Writing 2019-2021