Allen & Unwin » Faber Writing Academy

Patti Miller

True Stories: Writing Memoir and Narrative Non-Fiction

with Patti Miller + guests

February - May
(Friday mornings)

Allen & Unwin - Sydney
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Get directions
(Please note access is via stairs)

Course fee: $3,400 / $2890 alumni

This four-month intensive course is for writers, or intending writers, who want to concentrate on memoir or narrative non-fiction. A craft-based practical course, using readings, discussion and exercises, it offers the opportunity to develop several chapters under expert guidance. It will develop skills and explore the richness of the genre along with the joys, challenges and possibilities for the writer of 'true stories'.

The course will investigate how to access memory, how to create the lived texture of experience on the page, how to find a narrating position, where to find a voice, how to structure your story, how to avoid self-indulgence, how much research to include, how far to go in the borderlands between memoir and fiction—indeed all the myriad arts and skills of writing true stories.

Beginning in February 2019, students will attend 16 weekly classes on Friday mornings with a one week break for Easter. The three-hour sessions are in the morning for creative alertness and focus. In addition, each person will also have two 30-minute individual sessions with Patti to discuss their own particular writing issues. During the course, participants will write two whole chapters at least and have them workshopped in detail, with the opportunity to discuss structural issues under Patti Miller's expert guidance.

In addition, there will be the invaluable opportunity to intimately discuss the challenges of writing with inspiring authors and experts in the publishing world. Guest writers will share the benefit of their experience. Participants will also learn how to pitch their work and the opportunity to talk to a publisher and/or agent will be offered near the end of the course.

True Stories is a practical and inspiring course for writers who are ready to commit to the process of producing a full-length work of memoir or narrative non-fiction. Apart from the writing classes and writing exercises, students will be expected to dedicate as much time as possible to writing during the week. The course is open to all levels of experience, including those starting out and those wishing to change genres, but, in all cases, a level of competence with English expression is expected and assumed. It will extend and challenge writers at every level of experience.


Patti Miller discussing her Faber Writing Academy True Stories course

Patti Miller on why her True Stories course with Faber Writing Academy is so valuable to students compared with shorter courses

Praise for True Stories:

‘Patti is the writing whisperer! She taught me how to stop daydreaming and to get writing. I couldn’t have written my memoir without her.’ - Jessica Rowe, author of Is this my beautiful life?

‘Patti has improved my writing immeasurably.’ - Rebecca Poulson, author of Killing Love

‘I’ve been writing for decades but this course has given me a whole different approach, which I totally didn’t expect… I did think “life-changing” at some point during the course and I think it has been for me.’ - Anne (2017)

About the Course Director

Patti Miller is an award-winning memoirist and nonfiction writer, whose 2012 book, The Mind of a Thief, was longlisted for the Stella Prize and the Nita Kibble Prize, shortlisted for the WA Premier's Prize for Non-Fiction, winner of the NSW Premier's Prize for History and is on the syllabus for English for the VCE in Victoria. Her most recent memoir,Ransacking Paris, was released in April 2015 to critical acclaim.She has written two other memoir/narrative nonfictions: The Last One Who Remembers and Whatever The Gods Do and a novel, Child. Her two previous writing books, Writing Your Life and The Memoir Book, have been continually in print since publication. Writing True Stories is her new complete guide to writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, biography, travel and creative nonfiction.

Patti is a highly successful life-writing teacher and mentor - 45 of ‘her’ writers have been published so far.

Guests to be announced.

Course Program

- 16 classes on a Friday (16 x 3-hour sessions: 10.00am to 1.00pm)

- Term 1: February to April

(Note: There is a one week break for Easter)

- Term 2: April to May

The content listed below is comprehensive but is still a guide only. The exact course content could be adjusted according to the experience and concerns of the group and availability of guest writers. The detail of the course is at the discretion of the course director and Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin.


Session 1
Mapping the Territory + Beginnings: Overview of the course. What is memoir? And narrative non-fiction? What do you want to write? Leaping the hurdles before you start - facing the difficulties. Beginnings - desire and curiosity.

Session 2
Memory and Research: How to access memories.Introduction to research and interview.

Session 3
Going to the Well - Observation: Being Awake. Knowing what you noticed, detail.

Session 4
Making a Scene: The 3D world of writing. Dialogue, action, scene.

Session 5
The Narrator: Narrating position/voice/point of view. Distance/ time of telling.

Session 6
Opening Out the Genre: Narrative non-fiction, travel memoir, biography, personal essay.

Session 7
How Do They Do It? Inspiration - guest writer

Session 8
The Difficulties of Truth Telling + Avoiding Self-indulgence:How to write memoir and survive your family and friends. What is self-indulgence in memoir?

Session 9
Structure at Last: What's it for? Organic structure, ways to structure.

Session 10
Narrative Structure: What is narrative? Desire and curiosity - how to create narrative pull.

Session 11
Publication -  Intro to Pitching: How to write a winning pitch.


Session 12
True Stories - or Lies?: The borderlands between memoir and fiction.How far do you go??

Session 13
Publication - Agents: Guest Agents - what does an agent do? What are they looking for?

Session 14
Publication - Publishers and Editors: Guest publisher - what is a publisher looking for? What does an editor do?

Session 15
Structural Trouble-shooting: What is wrong with it and how to fix it.

Session 16
Continuing On: How to keep going. Writing timetable, finishing a draft. Celebration!

How to Apply

Applications for True Stories are not currently open. Please check back.

N.B. You will not be charged at this stage of the application. If you are successful in securing a place on the course, we will email you a link to pay the deposit online.

When you book you will be reminded to email your one-page project outline and a paragraph outlining your writing experience to:

Payment details

The course fee is AUD$3,400 or $2890 for alumni. If you are offered a place on the course, you will be sent a link to pay the deposit of $ 500 which secures your place on the course. The balance of $2,900 will be payable in three instalments; the first instalment of $1,200 on the 1 March the second instalment of $1,200 on the 2 April and the third instalment of $ 500 due on 1 May. In the week leading up to these dates you will be sent a link for payment options. Refunds are not available for those who miss sessions or do not complete the course.

N.B. Please note that in some years we have received a greater number of applications than available places on the course. To ensure a balance of writing project topics, a final decision on students will be made and all applicants advised by 18 January 2019. All Faber Writing Academy classes are limited in size for optimum teaching and class dynamics.

For further information, contact us: or (02) 8425 0171

We are offering one free place on the True Stories course. The deadline for scholarship applications is in December and the winner is announced in January.

HOW TO APPLY: Alongside the regular requirements for applying to the course (see ‘How to Apply’ above), you need to send in a one-page statement outlining why you should be considered for the scholarship. This might include information on your financial circumstances, literary talent or merit (prizes and shortlistings). For further information, please see our terms and conditions.

Please note in the event of unforeseen circumstances, courses - including tutors and venues - may be subject to cancellation or change.


Patti Miller discussing her Faber Writing Academy True Stories course:


Patti Miller on why her four-month True Stories course with Faber Writing Academy is so valuable to students over shorter courses:


STOP PRESS - Five graduates of the True Stories course have now been published!

Renée McBryde - House of Lies
Rebecca Poulson - Killing Love
Jessica Rowe - Is This My Beautiful Life?
Jayne Newling - Missing Christopher
Alexandra Joel - Rosetta

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