Writing biography and autobiography: Frances Wilson with Alexander Masters
Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM - Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM (BST)
London, United Kingdom
This two-day masterclass is aimed at those who have a true story to tell - about themselves, someone they know, or someone they have never met – but are put off by the prospect of producing yet another misery memoir or embarking on a cradle-to-grave biography. Using as models recent genre-bending bestsellers such as Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes, and Alexander Masters's Stuart: A Life Backwards, the masterclass will consider alternative ways of telling a life story. Each candidate is required beforehand to submit a page describing his or her auto/biographical project, which can then be circulated and discussed over the weekend.
The focus of day one will be reading. Frances Wilson will introduce the possibilities of 'biographical fiction' and 'creative non-fiction', and in order to get as much out of the session as possible it is important to have read either A Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes or Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage. Alexander Masters will then talk about and answer questions on the composition of The Genius in My Basement.
Day two will concentrate on writing, in the form of exercises and workshop discussion. Sharing your own projects in intensive sessions, the group will provide mutual critiques, encouragement and warnings while pooling ideas and suggesting directions for one another's work. The aim of the day is to find each story the structure and voice, which will enable the writer to move forward. The weekend will conclude with a feedback session.
The course will be led by Frances Wilson, author of four biographies: Literary Seductions, The Courtesan's Revenge, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, and How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J Bruce Ismay.
Profile of Frances Wilson and Alexander Masters
Frances Wilson is the author of Literary Seductions, The Courtesan's Revenge, and The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth. She was an academic for 15 years before becoming a full-time writer, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was a judge on the biography panel of the Whitbread Prize in 2006, and she reviews biography for the Sunday Times.
Alexander Masters is the writer and illustrator of Stuart: A Life Backwards, the innovative and much acclaimed biography of Stuart Shorter with traced the life of a young man, somewhat disabled from birth, who became a criminal, mentally unstable and violent, living homeless on the streets of Cambridge in reverse order, inspired by Shorter himself to turn the conventional biographic form around. The book won an Arts Council Writers' Award, Guardian First Book Award and the Hawthornden Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the United States in addition to being shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2005 in the biography category. He also wrote a screenplay adaptation, filmed in 2006 for the BBC and HBO, and broadcast in September 2007. That adaptation won the Royal Television Society Award in the Single Drama category and the Reims International Television award for the Best TV Screenplay. In 2007, he collaborated with photographer Adrian Clarke on the book Gary's Friends, chronicling the lives of drug and alcohol abusers in the northeast of England. His latest book The Genius in My Basement was published in September 2011 to much critical acclaim.
When & Where
Welcome to Guardian masterclasses – a unique programme of learning embedded within one of the world's most forward-thinking media organisations.
Masterclasses offer a broad range of short and long courses across a variety of disciplines from creative writing, journalism, photography and design, film and digital media, music and cultural appreciation.
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The programme is aimed at anyone interested in personal or professional development whether that be refining your skills, focusing your ambition or simply broadening your mind and gaining inspiration.