Writing True Stories: Crafting Memoir and Narrative Non-Fiction

w/ Patti Miller and guests

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.

Fridays 10am – 1pm, 2 February –  14 June 2024.

Allen & Unwin – Sydney

Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin – Sydney
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065

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$3,825 / $3251.25 alumni

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’. Over four months, you 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 two additional sessions in 2024 providing ample time 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. It will extend and challenge writers at every level of experience.


Graduates who complete Writing True Stories will have the opportunity to be published in the annual Faber Writing Anthology. The Faber Writing Anthology is distributed to publishers and literary agents across Australia and the United Kingdom.

Writers you'll be working with:

Patti Miller

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…

Course outline

18 x Friday sessions (10am – 1pm)
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

TERM ONE (2 February – 22 March 2024)

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, Research, Interview: 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. Making a Scene: The 3D world of writing. Dialogue, action, scene.

Session 4: Friday 23 February
The Narrator: Narrating position/voice/point of view. Distance / time of telling.

Session 5: Friday 1 March
Opening Out the Genre: Biography, integrating research.

Session 6: Friday 8 March
Opening Out the Genre: Travel and nature writing.

Session 7: Friday 15 March
Opening Out the Genre: The personal essay.

Session 8: Friday 22 March
How Do They Do It? Inspiration – guest writer.


TERM 2 (12 April – 14 June)

Session 9: Friday 12 April
Structure at Last: What’s it for? Organic structure, ways to structure.

Session 10: Friday 19 April
Narrative Structure: What is narrative? Desire and curiosity – how to create narrative pull.

Session 11: Friday 26 April
Intro to Pitching: How to write a winning pitch.

Session 12: Friday 3 May
The Difficulties and Ethics of Truth Telling: How to write nonfiction and survive your family and friends. Whose story is it?

Session 13: Friday 10 May
True Stories – or Lies? The borderlands between memoir and fiction. How far do you go?

Session 14: Friday 17 May
Publication – Agents: Guest Agents. What does an agent do? What are they looking for?

Session 15: Friday 24 May
Publication – Publishers and Editors: Guest publisher. What is a publisher looking for? What does an editor do?

Session 16: Friday 31 May
Avoiding Self-indulgence. What is self-indulgence in memoir?

Session 17: Friday 7 June
Structural Trouble-shooting: What is wrong with it and how to fix it.

Session 18: 14 June
Continuing On: How to keep going. Writing timetable, finishing a draft. Celebration!

Praise for this course

“A wonderfully enjoyable, challenging and life changing course. If you are serious about writing memoir or creative non-fiction there is no better place to go than to the Faber course with Patti Miller as your teacher. I met many like minded aspiring writers who have become friends.” Amanda Turnill

Writing True Stories helped me step by step in understanding the genre, the process of assembling “pieces of life” and giving me the confidence to write openly about my life – in a safe and supportive environment. Patti Miller shares all she knows, generously and critically, with never an unkind word. ” David Morris

“There was a great combination of instruction, group feedback and guest speakers. The group members were also very generous in their support of other course participants.” Colin Zuman

How to Book

Purchase Includes 10% tax

To secure your place in Writing True Stories you can chose to pay the deposit ($525/ $446.25 alumni) or the full course fee ($3,825/ $3,251.25 alumni).

If you pay the deposit only, three further payments of $1,100/ $935 alumni, will be required by 15 March, 26 April and 17 May 2024. Payment instructions will be sent closer to the time.