Allen & Unwin » Faber Writing Academy

Patti MillerWriting True Stories: Crafting Memoir and Narrative Non-Fiction
with Patti Miller and guests

14 February - 5 June 2020
Fridays, 10am - 1pm

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

Course fee: $ 3,400/ $ 2,890 alumni

This intensive course is for writers, or intending writers, who wish to concentrate on crafting memoir or narrative non-fiction. A practical craft-based course, featuring readings, discussion and exercises, Writing True Stories offers the opportunity to develop several chapters, while working towards a full manuscript, under expert guidance. This course will help 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.

In addition, each person will also have two 30-minute individual sessions with Patti Miller 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.

Writing 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 Writing True Stories course

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

Praise for Writing True Stories:

'Patti provides a brilliant mix of knowledge, skill and deep listening as part of her teaching structure. Her humour and reality based communication style only compliment her professionalism and sense of authenticity as a person." Chandu, 2019

‘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

‘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 on the syllabus for English for the VCE in Victoria. She is the author of nine books including a novel, Child, and the memoir/narrative nonfictions: The Last One Who Remembers, Whatever The Gods Do, Ransacking Paris, and in 2019, The Joy of High Places. 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.

Guests to be announced.

Course Program:

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

— Term 1: 14 February to 3 April
(Note: There is a one-week break between terms for Easter)

— Term 2: 17 April to 5 June

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.

Set Text: Writing True Stories, Patti Miller, A&U 2017


Session 1: Friday 14 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 21 February
Memory and Research: How to access memories. Introduction to research and interview.

Session 3: Friday 28 February
Going to the Well – Observation: Being Awake. Knowing what you noticed, detail. Making a Scene: The 3D world of writing. Dialogue, action, scene.

Session 4: Friday 6 March
The Narrator: Narrating position/voice/point of view. Distance / time of telling.

Session 5: Friday 13 March
Opening Out the Genre: Narrative non-fiction, travel memoir

Session 6: Friday 20 March
Opening Out the Genre:Biography, personal essay,integrating research

Session 7: Friday 27 March
How Do They Do It? Inspiration – guest writer.

Session 8: Friday 3 April
Publication – Intro to Pitching: How to write a winning pitch.

EASTER BREAK (1 WEEK) – Returning April 17 2020


Session 9: Friday 17 April
Structure at Last: What's it for? Organic structure, ways to structure.

Session 10: Friday 24 April
Narrative Structure: What is narrative? Desire and curiosity - how to create narrative pull.

Session 11: Friday 1 May
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 12: Friday 8 May
True Stories – or Lies?: The borderlands between memoir and fiction. How far do you go?

Session 13: Friday 15 May
Publication – Agents: Guest Agents – what does an agent do? What are they looking for?

Session 14: Friday 22 May
Publication – Publishers and Editors: Guest publisher – what is a publisher looking for? What does an editor do?

Session 15: Friday 29 May
Structural Trouble-shooting: What is wrong with it and how to fix it .

Session 16: Friday 5th June
Continuing On: How to keep going. Writing timetable, finishing a draft. Celebration!

Payment details

The course fee is AUD$3,400 or $2,890 for alumni. To secure your place pay the deposit of $1,000/ $850 alumni. The balance will be payable in two instalments; the first instalment of $1,200/ $ 1,025 alumni on the 6 March 2020 and the second instalment of $1,200/ $1,025 alumni on the 3 April 2020. 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.

Remember to submit, in a single document:

• A one-page project outline
• A paragraph outlining your writing experience

Send your project/writing experience outline for Writing True Stories here. Please ensure these are ready by 17 November 2019.

All Faber Writing Academy classes are limited in size for optimum teaching and class dynamic.

If you need further information please contact Faber Writing Academy by email at or call us on (02) 8425 0171.