Advanced Memoir Workshop is a Community of Writers

By Colton Gigot • In Colton, Interviews, The Writing LifeNo Comments

our chicagoOne of our favorite parts of doing what we do is cheering on our students when they meet their writing goals. Of course, writers are mostly solitary creatures, so when we do see our students succeed, it’s usually on the individual level—finishing a piece, getting one published, winning a contest, landing a book deal.

Much rarer are the occasions when students actually join forces to create something as a group. A few months back, for example, several former StoryStudio students put together the Live Lit series “Is This a Thing?”

More recently, our Advanced Memoir writers teamed up with instructor Annette Gendler to publish Our Chicago, an anthology of “list essays” on the city and community we all live, work, and write in.

What’s a List Essay?

Annette described the project in a post on her blog:

Our Chicago is not a tourist guide, nor is it meant to be a comprehensive portrait of Chicago. Rather, it captures each writer’s individual take on this city…There are some similarities, of course, proscribed by the sheer physicality of the streets’ grid system, the lakefront’s wide open horizon, or the architecture’s stunning beauty. However, even when writing in the same form, and about the same place, the eleven writers featured in this book created eleven different essays.        

annetteandstudentWhenever the common threads in a project are writing and Chicago, we’re obviously bound to approve, but we’re also proud this book for another reason. On top documenting the experiences of eleven writers in the community of Chicago, this book was also the product of another, smaller community, which is our Advanced Memoir Workshop.

While all of our courses develop their own identities over time, the Advanced Memoir Workshop stands out for just how close, comfortable, and familiar its regulars have gotten with one another. Annette, who has taught the class since 2006, says that “while workshop members sometimes leave, sometimes return, or new writers join, for the most part we all know each other well.”

Stephanie Springsteen, a long time student of the workshop agrees:

One of the most unexpected gifts of the class has been the feeling of community among the writers.  We are all sharing intimate and sometimes painful details of our lives.  Annette has fostered in our group a deep sense of respect for each other and for the craft.  No one comes to class looking to rip someone else’s writing apart.  Rather, we all root each other on.  But the class is not just a feel-good love fest.  We work towards literary excellence in the context of our personal stories.  Many of Annette’s students have gone from beginners to being published. It’s amazing.

Strength in Numbers

As writing instructors and, more importantly, as writers ourselves, we’re so happy to be able to foster an environment where we and our students can work with, rely on, and learn from one another.  

As for the bookOur Chicago: Eleven Writers on their City is available on Blurb for $15.95. Order a couple and support your StoryStudio peers.


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