Allen & Unwin » Faber Writing Academy

Patti Miller

True Stories:
Writing Memoir and Narrative Non-Fiction

with Patti Miller + guests

February - May 2019 (dates t.b.c.)
(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 practical course, based on 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 2018, students will attend 16 weekly classes on Friday mornings with a small 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 to discuss their own particular writing issues. During the course, participants will write 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 undertake the roles of guest tutors to 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 taught me to just get it all out on the page, as if no one else but me was going to read it, and then she also taught me how to pull it all back into shape for the reader. The Faber Writing Academy course set me on journey where the thought of NOT finishing my book wasn’t an option anymore. Just a few years after completing the course at Faber, I am lucky enough to call myself a published writer.' - Renee McBryde, author of The House of Lies. To see Renee's full blog post on the course click here.

‘Patti is the writing whisperer! She taught me how to start 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

'My untamed skills have been transformed by her patient guidance. I now have the confidence and knowledge to finally finish the book I have been trying to write for the last five years. She has renewed my passion and cured my writer's block. What more can an aspiring author ask for?'
- Antoinette

'Every now and then in life, if you're lucky, you come across a teacher like Patti. I cannot speak more highly of her teaching style, integrity and care. This has been a life changing course in many ways.'
- Kahla

'I had finished a first draft of the book and hated it. I shoved it in the drawer. When my son Nic, begged me to write about his brother Christopher I decided to give it another shot… The course was fantastic because it gave me confidence to continue. All the writers in the group were encouraging and for the first time I started to believe what I had to say was worthwhile.' - Jayne Newling, author of Missing Christopher, winner of the 2013 Human Rights Literature Award

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, won 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. 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.

Guests to be announced.

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

Course Program

- 16 classes on a Friday (14 x 3 hour sessions: 10.00am to 1.00pm)

- Term 1: 2nd February to 23 March (Note: There is a one week break for Easter)

- Term 2: 6 April to 25 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: Friday 2 February
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: Friday 9 February
Memory and Other Sources:
How to access memories
Introduction to research and interview

Session 3: Friday 16 February
Going to the Well - Observation:
Being Awake
Knowing what you noticed, detail

Session 4: Friday 23 February
Making a Scene:
The 3D world of writing
Dialogue, action, scene

Session 5: Friday 2 March
The Narrator:
Narrating position/voice/point of view
Distance/ time of telling

Session 6: Friday 9 March
Opening Out the Genre:
Narrative non-fiction, travel memoir, biography, personal essay

Session 7: Friday 16 March
How Do They Do It?
Inspiration - guest writer

Session 8: Friday 23 March
The Difficulties of Truth Telling + Avoiding Self-indulgence:
How to write memoir and survive your family and friends
What is self-indulgence in memoir?

EASTER BREAK (1 WEEK) - Return 6 April

Session 9: Friday 6 April
Structure at Last:
What's it for?
Organic structure, ways to structure

Session 10: Friday 13 April
Narrative Structure:
What is narrative?
Desire and curiosity - how to create narrative pull

Session 11: Friday 20 April
Publication -  Intro to Pitching:
How to write a winning pitch
Guest writer - former student.

Session 12: Friday 27 April
True Stories - or Lies?:
The borderlands between memoir and fiction
How far do you go??

Session 13: Friday 4 May
Publication - Agents:
Guest Agents - what does an agent do? What are they looking for?

Session 14: Friday 11 May
Publication - Publishers and Editors:
Guest publisher - what is a publisher looking for? What does an editor do?

Session 15: Friday 18 May
Structural Trouble-shooting:
What is wrong with it and how to fix it…

Session 16: Friday 25 May
Continuing On:
How to keep going
Writing timetable, finishing a draft

How to Make a Booking

Download the application form (PDF)

To secure your booking, please email your one-page project outline, a paragraph outlining your writing experience and completed application form to:

or send by post to:
Faber Writing Academy Manager
Allen & Unwin
PO Box 8500
St Leonards NSW 1590

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

Payment details
The course fee, payable by cheque, credit card or bank transfer, is AUD$3,400. Applicants will be asked to pay a non-refundable deposit of $1,000 upon registration (Faber Writing Academy alumni will pay a discounted deposit of $490). The deposit will not be debited until you have been officially accepted onto the course. The balance of $2,400 will be payable in two instalments; 1st instalment of $1,200 to be paid on 1 March 2018 and 2nd instalment of $1,200 to be paid on 1 April 2018. Refunds are not available for participants who miss sessions or do not complete the course.

N.B. In some years we have received a greater number of applications than available places on the course. In order to ensure a balance of writing project topics, a final decision on students will be made and all applicants advised by 19 January 2018. All Faber Writing Academy classes are limited in size for optimum teaching and class dynamics.

We are offering one free place on the True Stories course in 2018. The deadline for scholarship applications is midnight on Friday 15 December 2017 and the winner is announced on Tuesday 16 January 2018.

HOW TO APPLY: Alongside the regular requirements for applying to the course (see ‘How to Make a Booking’ 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 scholarships page.

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:


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