Barbara Youree

Class Title: Memoir with a Theme
Instructor: Barbara Youree
Class Term: July 15-August 12, 2019
We are not accepting any more enrollments for Barbara's class; the class has started.


Rather than writing a summary of your life experiences, or even unrelated events, “Memoir with a Theme” will focus on a particular part of your life, such as a significant experience, a series of related events, a specific challenge, or an activity such as sport, music, or travel. You will develop tools - fiction techniques - that will make your story come to life for family and friends and/or a wider range of readers.

Class Description

After providing examples of various kinds of theme memoir, you will decide - if you haven’t already - which part of your life you want to focus on. Beginning with a hook to grab the attention of your readers, you will receive guidance on using such fiction techniques as dialog, description of setting, point of view, and possibly even suspense to bring your story to life.

Instruction/Communication Method:

You will receive a short explanation of the Unit skill on Monday of the first week, often with examples of that skill from various published themed memoirs. You may feel free to email me with questions relating to the topic as you work on your writing. You may send me your response any time before Thursday evening of that week. I will try to return to you my comments and any suggestions by the next day - unless they all come flooding in on the same day! After receiving any suggestions from me, you may send me a rewrite if you wish. This should help you feel you are on the right track.


  • Unit 1: We will concentrate on the opening lines, the hook. This is very important, as it is what draws your reader - even your grandchild who adores you - into your story and makes him want to continue reading. You will get to read provided examples of beginning lines that pull you in, as well as ideas to help you.
  • Unit 2: Adding to the hook, you will write your beginning scene, of one to three pages. Again you will receive samples of first scenes and suggestions for your writing.
  • Unit 3: You will learn how to put the reader in a setting. A memoir isn’t all telling. Show us the weather, your feelings, what you saw, heard, and smelled. Also, this Unit will contain a point of view. It’s, of course, written in your point of view, how you perceived something, but, you can still indicate another person’s point of view.
  • Unit 4: You will discover how to use dialog to bring your story to life, enhanced with actions by those in the scene, whether the one speaking or not. Your chosen theme may or may not have an opportunity for suspense. Some topics could have suspense run throughout with resolution near the end. But more likely, the chance to have suspense will be within a particular scene or chapter - more of a surprise rather than a mystery.

Student Skills, Equipment, and Time Required

Basic writing skills for computer using Word and emails. No other equipment needed. As to writing skills, participants may be on any level - beginning, intermediate, advanced. All are welcome.

Time Commitment:

Probably 1-3 hours the first week. It’s not much to write, but it may take some rewriting. The other Units require longer writing, but it depends on each person. Probably from 2-4 hours.

Tuition/Fees for this course

SCN members: $128. Non-SCN members: $160.

Instructor Bio

Barbara Youree has served as contributing editor for an international literary magazine. Her published books consist of one YA and six children’s books, five historical novels, and a narrative non-fiction, Courageous Journey. It was named a finalist in USA’s National Best Books 2008, and has a blurb on the back cover by President Carter. Youree has been a guest speaker at conferences and civic organizations. Her most recent book, France My Way, Adventures of a Solo Traveler, is an example of a themed memoir. Her website.