Debbie Miller

Class Title: Writing About Major Life Changes
Instructor: Debbie Miller
Class Term: July 14-August 8, 2020
We are not accepting any more enrollments for Debbie's class; the class has started.


At some time or another, we will all likely go through a major life change, either something we've chosen or something out of our control: we suffer a personal illness or injury, we get separated or divorced, we get fired from our job. Either way, our world has been disrupted and we feel stress; even if the change was a positive one. In this class, we will write about these life events and what they mean to us.

Class Description

The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory lists major life events and how stressful they feel. In this class, you'll write about some of the major life events and changes that you've gone through. You'll read essays and memoir pieces written by others who've gone through similar events and see how they used writing as a way to deal with, and often heal from these changes. Through writing exercises and assignments, you'll write about events and share your writing with your classmates and the instructor through a group io that allows for discussion and interaction.

Class Goals

  • learn about major life events and lifestyle changes that other people have experienced,
  • identify major life events and changes that they themselves have experienced,
  • write about major events and changes in their lives

Instruction/Communication Method:

Every Sunday, the instructor will email a lecture, readings, and writing assignments to students. Students will have until Friday to turn in their assignments and writing exercises to the instructor and the group. Students will give feedback on their peers' written work and the instructor will give feedback to each student. Discussion and exchange of ideas is encouraged. The instructor provides all readings, lectures, and writing assignments.   


In this five-week class, we will do the following:
  • Week 1: Introduction to life changes. The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory (The Social Readjustment Rating Scale). Readings on the nature and universality of change and the Buddhist perspective on change. Two readings about change. Three writing exercises (students can do one, two, or all). Students will free-write a short essay on a topic chosen by the instructor.
  • Week 2: The various approaches to essay writing (traditional structure, an index, etc.). Two to three readings about people who have gone through major life events. Students will write two to three paragraphs about their reactions to each reading. Students will write a short essay about what change means to them.
  • Week 3: How writers can use Point of View (POV) in writing essays -- 1st person, 3rd person, or even 2nd person. Examples of readings that use POV's besides 1st person. Students will write two to three paragraphs about their reactions to the readings and will write a short essay about a major life event that was not of their choosing.
  • Week 4: Shaking things up a bit with tense: present vs. past. Two readings that combine the present and past tenses. Discussion about using the present tense when speaking about past events. Writing exercises with the present and past tenses. Students will write an essay using the present and past to flex their writing muscles.
  • Week 5: What happens when we share our life events and changes with other women? Does sharing help us heal from and make sense of the changes in our lives? The instructor shares one of her own life-change essays. Students will write two essays: the first will deal with how writing about their life-changing events has affected their writing process and how they might use this type of writing in the future. The second essay is about a time in their lives when a life-changing event was of their own choosing.

Student Skills, Equipment, and Time Required

Students should be skilled in using the computer to write and email the instructor, and in logging into and using an io Group (instructor will provide instructions).

Time Commitment:

Students should be prepared to spend 2 - 3 hours a week reading and writing.

Tuition/Fees for this course

SCN members: $192. Non-SCN members: $240.

Instructor Bio

Debbie L. Miller writes from Brooklyn, New York, where she pens plays, monologues, essays, memoir, flash fiction, short stories, speculative fiction, and humor. She's been a freelance writer since 1990 and has a background in stand-up comedy, improvisational acting, and theater. Her plays and monologues have been produced in and outside New York City and she has performed Off-Off-Broadway. She taught English as a Second Language to Brooklyn, Manhattan, and The Bronx immigrants for 14+ years. She won the 2017 Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction and she recently studied sketch comedy writing at Manhattan's Magnet Theater. She's worked as an editorial fact-checker, chicken babysitter, and she's an avid poker player and gardener. She's a native of Cleveland, but has lived in six states and traveled in 44. She can say "Hello," "Goodbye," and "Thank You" in six languages.