Online Course

Collage in Memoir: Building a Story from Small Pieces

January 09 - February 12, 2023

Level Fundamentals

A collaged approach to memoir composes a narrative through fragments and found items, building a story from many smaller pieces.

Additional Information

This is a fundamental-level course designed for writers who are starting a memoir but are struggling with structure, daunted by form, or looking for an innovative way to tell their story. Are you wondering how you can craft a memoir from life’s twists and turns? Maybe you’ve been overwhelmed with the scope and don’t know where to begin. This class will guide you through a new way to write your story.

Over the course of 5 weeks, you’ll be introduced to the collage in memoir through written lectures and reading samples and compose your own short collaged essay. You will also receive practical guidance on establishing a writing schedule and developing your own best creative practices. You’ll have the opportunity to receive feedback from peers, as well as your instructor, that will help revise your writing and refine your project goals. At the end of the 5 weeks, you’ll have a structured plan to begin your collaged memoir!


Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction to memoir and narrative techniques

This week you’ll be introduced to memoir as a genre. We’ll explore historical as well as contemporary examples, detail keywords and definitions, and discuss length, scope, and perspective. We’ll examine traditional narrative structures including the Hero’s Journey, 3-part stories, and Freytag's pyramid.

Week 2: Where to begin, determining the shape of your story

This week we’ll focus on where to begin a memoir, and how much time to cover. We’ll detail this process of “framing” in memoir and read examples that show vastly different approaches to dealing with time. We will also discuss the concept of the voice of experience vs. the voice to innocence and how narrative tone can help a memoirist guide a reader through time. Expanding on week one, we’ll learn how to chart, draw, and visualize our storylines.

Week 3: Collage and rethinking structure

This week you’ll be introduced to the principles of collage, collection, curation, and braiding as they apply to memoir. We’ll read short examples demonstrating each approach to structure and have to opportunity to explore our own stories through a series of quick, generative prompts focused on structure. Using the frame you’ve created in Week 2, you’ll learn how to break that timeline down into smaller units including essays and flash nonfiction.

Week 4: Found items, photographs, and other forms of research

We’ll build on the principles of collage by learning how to incorporate additional material to your memoir including photographs, found items, official documents, and diary entries. You’ll be introduced to the research process including considerations of citation, ethics, and bias. We’ll read examples from memoirs that use found items, images, and research and you’ll have the chance to write your own short piece from a photo-based writing prompt.

Week 5: Outlining, planning, and creating your best writing practice

This week will prepare you to begin writing your own memoir in collage. You’ll learn practical outlining and planning techniques that will help you organize your story. We’ll define the drafting steps from brainstorming to submission and discuss small and large-scale revisions. In addition, you’ll be guided through the process of creating your own best writing practice to increase productivity, foster a writing community,  and avoid feeling “blocked”.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Instructor

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Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

Read Success Stories


I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill